‘The Story of a Painter’ by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya
From The New Yorker:
There once lived a painter so destitute that he couldn’t afford a single crayon, let alone brushes and paints. He tried to draw on the pavement with pieces of brick, but janitors and patrolmen didn’t appreciate such art. He would have painted on walls or on fences, but every wall and fence belonged to someone. Besides, brick doesn’t really draw on walls; it only scratches.
At least the painter had a roof over his head—sort of. The janitor in the apartment building where the painter had once owned a unit partitioned off the dark corner under the stairs, where he kept his brooms, shovels, and work clothes, and advertised the makeshift cupboard as a “Private Apartment for Rent—No Running Water.” This was where our painter slept: on the floor, with his coat for a blanket, happy nevertheless that he wasn’t sleeping in the street.
How the painter had come to rent this closet is a long story. We’ll just say that he was one of the many gullible souls who were promised a fortune for their little apartments, their only property, and who woke up the next morning on a bench in a park, trying to remember what had happened and why their apartments were sporting new locks and curtains.