At the sunset hour of one warm spring day two men were to be seen at Patriarch's Ponds. The first of them--aged about forty, dressed in a greyish summer suit--was short, dark-haired, well-fed and bald. He carried his decorous pork-pie hat by the brim and his neatly shaven face was embellished by black hornrimmed spectacles of preternatural dimensions. The other, a broad-shouldered young man with curly reddish hair and a check cap pushed back to the nape of his neck, was wearing a tartan shirt, chewed white trousers and black sneakers.
The first was none other than Mikhail Alexandrovich Berlioz, editor of a highbrow literary magazine and chairman of the management cofnmittee of one of the biggest Moscow literary clubs, known by its abbreviation as massolit; his young companion was the poet Ivan Nikolayich Poniryov who wrote under the pseudonym of Bezdomny.
Reaching the shade of the budding lime trees, the two writers went straight to a gaily-painted kiosk labelled'Beer and Minerals'. There was an oddness about that terrible day in May which is worth recording : not only at the kiosk but along the whole avenue parallel to Malaya Bronnaya Street there was not a person to be seen. It was the hour of the day when people feel too exhausted to breathe, when Moscow glows in a dry haze as the sun disappears behind the Sadovaya Boulevard--yet no one had come out for a walk under the limes, no one was sitting on a bench, the avenue was empty.