A Black Cat of Revolting Proportions

These words were so unexpected and so absurd that Stepa decided he had not heard them. In utter bewilderment he bounded back into the bedroom and froze on the threshold. His hair rose and a mild sweat broke out on his forehead.

The visitor was no longer alone in the bedroom. The second armchair was now occupied by the creature who had materialised in the hall. He was now to be seen quite plainly – feathery moustache, one lens of his pince-nez glittering, the other missing. But worst of all was the third invader: a black cat of revolting proportions sprawled in a nonchalant attitude on the pouffe, a glass of vodka in one paw and a fork, on which he had just speared a pickled mushroom, in the other.

Stepa felt the light in the bedroom, already weak enough, begin to fade. ‘This must be what it’s like to go mad….’ he thought, clutching the doorpost.

‘You seem slightly astonished, my dear Stepan Bogdanovich,’ said Woland. Stepa’s teeth were chattering. ‘But I assure you there is nothing to be surprised at. These are my assistants.’

Here the cat drank its vodka and Stepa’s hand dropped from the doorpost.

‘And my assistants need a place to stay,’ went on Woland, ‘so it seems there’s one two many of us in this flat. That one, I rather think, is you.’

‘Yes, that’s them!’ said the tall man in a goatish voice, speaking of Stepa in the plural. ‘They’ve been behaving disgustingly lately. Getting drunk, carrying on with women, trading on their position and not doing a stroke of work – not that they could do anything even if they tried because they’re completely incompetent. Pulling the wool over the boss’s eyes, that’s what they’ve been doing!’

‘Drives round in a free car!’ said the cat slanderously, chewing a mushroom.

Then occurred the fourth and last phenomenon at which Stepa collapsed entirely, his weakened hand scraping down the doorpost as he slid to the floor.

Straight from the full-length mirror stepped a short but unusally broad-shouldered man with a bowler hat on his head. A fang protruding from his mouth disfigured an already hideous physiognomy that was topped with fiery red hair.

‘I cannot’, put in the new arrival, ‘understand how he ever came to be manager’ – his voice grew more and more nasal – ‘he’s as much a manager as I am a bishop’.

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov

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