Publications in December

Publications in December:

December 1stAn American expat writer observes how Russians morph into ‘winter mode’ – An article on life and Russians in winter published in Russia Beyond.

*Link: https://www.rbth.com/lifestyle/329593-american-observes-russian-winter

December 9thHow Russia Inspired a Year of Daily Art and Stories – A guest post on Nesie’s place about the project Flash-365 and The King of FU.

*Link: https://nesiesplace.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/guestblog-benjamin-davis-author-of-the-king-of-fu/

December 10th

The Exceptional Uselessness of Cats (but I love them anyways) – A story published on Medium that I just happen to be fond of but was not submitted to publications.

*Link: https://medium.com/@benjamindaviswriter/the-exceptional-uselessness-of-cats-4f917808038d

December 25thContemplating Gender Roles while Following my Wife around Marshalls – a story published in The Junction, based on true events.

*Link: https://medium.com/the-junction/contemplating-gender-roles-while-following-my-wife-around-marshalls-e7a5b7e5bc63

Other News:

Video Interview I did in Saint Petersburg about my past and future projects:

Interview with Benjamin Davis from Alena Koleso on Vimeo.

 

 

DEATH at a Preschool Christmas Party

DEATH

In the mirror, I attach the fake ears and tug the hat onto my head.

“It’s the wealthiest Preschool in St. Peter,” K had said, “they’ll pay you a boatload to just stand around as an elf for their Christmas party.”

I sigh now, as I did then, resigned.

I wash my hands and step out into the hall. The Babushka rolls up to me. Her rock-face is polished. Her eyes are onyx.

She points. I nod. I follow her directions to a door inundated with Christmas joy. I go through.

The room is vast, a gymnasium almost. It is crowded with all manner of Christmas. Bells float through the air, jingling. Ropes of ornament-covered pine snake along the walls. A fat tree absorbs the center of it all.

Children wander about the place. None are more than five or six years old. They are dressed almost exclusively in argyle. A snowman in the corner is telling a story as a small blonde girl discreetly stuffs bits of his backside into her mouth. On the other side of the room, Santa Claus is red-faced as he picks up a small boy. A red-nosed reindeer stands calmly next to him, chewing on the inside of its own mouth.

Santa places the boy on the red-nosed reindeer. The boy begins to wail. A woman in a black sweater runs over and pulls the child down. The boy runs off across the room. I see him slide on his belly down a thin layer of ice. A young woman in a blue dress stands beside it. She claps.

A fair-haired little girl walks up to me. Not dressed like the rest. A simple black dress.

“You got a cigarette?” she asks.

“Huh?”

She sighs, “you got a cigarette?”

“Uh…”

“I’m not a child.”

“Oh…are you a midg—uh I mean– a dwarf?”

She giggles.

“I’m DEATH. And, I want a cigarette.”

I’m not sure whether or not to laugh.

“What do you mean you’re DEATH?”

“I’m not sure what else I could mean. That polished rock turd out there hired me to be here so…”

DEATH shrugged, “I’m often in Russia this time of year anyway.”

I continue to stare at the frail-looking girl. She winks. “Just between you and me,” she lowers her voice, “I never go anywhere I’m not needed. Even for the kind of scratch, this place shells out.”

“Right,” I manage.

“So, you got a cigarette or not?”

I nod.

“Let’s go have one then. Take my hand, everyone thinks I’m a child anyways. Pretend you’re taking me to the bathroom.”

She holds out her hand. I take it hesitantly. Suddenly she grabs it tight, very tight.

“Your time has come!” DEATH says, her eyes go black. I panic and jerk my hand away. My heart stops.

She bursts out laughing. She holds her stomach and bends over, a joyful tear falling from her eye. “You should see your face,” she gasps.

I feel like vomiting.

“Oh, that never gets old,” she says, catching her breath, “but, seriously, let’s go.” She holds out her hand again, her eyes back to blue. I don’t take it. She steps forward and grabs my hand anyway.

“Don’t be a pansy,” she says. She leads me out the door.

The fear in my legs has subsided by the time we get to our destination, a closet. Inside I light up two cigarettes. She takes one. She smokes through her nose. I can’t wipe the frown off my face. It’s beginning to hurt.

“So, what are you doing here?” DEATH says through the cloud that’s sprouted up between us.

“Uh, I am an actor.”

She snorts. “Bummer.”

“Mm.”

We finish our cigarettes in silence.

“We better go back,” DEATH says, holding out her hand again.

I take it this time, apprehensively. Before we leave, I can’t help asking,

“What did you mean that you never go anywhere you’re not needed?”

DEATH smiles up at me and shrugs, innocently.

Continue the story at https://deathatapreschool.com/

Why Following Babushkas Around the Streets of Saint Petersburg is like Watching a Bag of Popcorn in the Microwave

photo_2018-12-09_17-58-22

It is common knowledge amongst young residents of Russian cities that Babushkas [older Russian women] do not like to be followed. If you tread, especially at night, too close behind a babushka, she will turn, check to see if you are a murderer or a thief, then pause and let you pass.

This is normal.

The trouble began afterward. I stopped in a store for a pack of cigarettes. I came back out, lit one, and continued my journey home only to find myself, again, treading a little too closely behind that exact same Babushka. She stopped quicker this time, turned faster, she scowled and hugged her purse a little closer and so I nodded as if to say, “I’m sorry,” to which she read, “I’ll get to you in a minute.”

The first few kernels had popped. I walked on.

A little further down the road, I bumped into my friend, Ivan. I stopped to chat. I couldn’t help but notice the babushka passed yet again. I tried to smile in the least creepy, I-am-going-to-find-you-and-steal-your-bread, possible way. She was puffier, redder, expanding.

But it is no use. I vowed to take a good long while with Ivan, who turned out to be in a rush. He left. But, for good measure, I stood and finished my cigarette. I looked up and found the babushka was nowhere to be seen, so I trekked home.

I came up to the end of the alley into my courtyard and–oh dear god. There she was, she had stopped to feed the homeless ginger cat that lives behind the dumpster. She saw me. There was a panic in her face and she was popping at full speed now, backing away. I could almost see the fluffy pops of panic flying out of her brain, accumulating beneath her bonnet. It was tense.

I held up my hands, “I am sorry! I live just there.”

Then something happened. She frowned. Her whole demeanor changed, and I could almost hear her thoughts as she shrugged and went back to feeding the ginger cat: 

Oh, he’s American. I could take him.

Why Russia: Cats and Cockroaches

I drink a glass of water before bed. I stand and watch my cats try to eat the cockroaches sprawling over my cutting board. Those damn cockroaches. The first time I saw them, I went numb behind the ears and almost puked. Six cans of Raid, a dozen roach-traps, a kitchen full of containers full dried goods and one month later, I just watch them. There are hundreds more now, many of them are babies. Someone has been getting their freak on.

Good for them.

In the morning, reality knows only two things; the roaches have fled into the cutlery drawer, or the dish-rack, the microwave, the cabinet beneath the sink, a crack in the walls, above the shelves, beneath the floorboards, behind the toilet, under the bath, or in some other dark nook cranny or crevice inside this apartment of seemingly endless dark nooks, crannies, and crevices, also the cats are hungry.

I am truly grateful that they are so fat and sweet, those cats, and they cuddle.

But hell, what good are they.

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Why Russia: Cancel Monday and Fuck off.

IMG_3101.jpgI live with my friend ‘D’ in Saint Petersburg, Russia. The man, Olek, who works in the shop where we buy our morning coffee sometimes calls D, “Bob–something.”

Once, we asked why and Olek said, “He black–you black. He big–you big.”

Olek is a delicate man.

This morning, his shirt said, “CANCEL MONDAY”

And, in case you didn’t get the point, just below it read, “FUCK OFF.”

It is Thursday.

He smiled when we walked in, “Tyson!” he cried at D. We all shook hands.

“You–” he clapped me on the arm. “Every morning you come in here and you look like–” he finished with a Russian word. He frowned. I frowned. D frowned. The old lady standing at the counter behind him waiting to get served, frowned.

I shrugged. He said, “one moment.”

As he served the old woman, he looked up something on his phone. When the old lady finally left, he came out to stand beside us and together, we read his phone.

“like a junkie going through withdrawal.”

He sounds it out slower. He points at me as he does.

“You…look…like..junkie…going…through…withdrawal–hah! Yes?”

“Yes.”

“Yes?”

“Yes.”

We get our coffee and leave. When we arrive back in the courtyard to our apartment and round the dumpster, we find a crouching skull-capped man with a large zit on his nose taking a shit on a pile of old wall art that had been there since yesterday. There were bunnies on it if I remember correctly.

The man-made eyes at me, then at D. He had a cigarette hanging from the corner of his mouth. He nodded. We nodded.

“Excuse me,” he said.

We waved our hands to him in the same way you might tell someone, “don’t worry, no one was going to eat that last cookie anyways.”

 

*If you guys would like to check out D’s blog, he writes stories about life here in Russia as well as a bunch of other great stuff: https://dantonlamar.wordpress.com/

Well–That was new.

The security guard in my building is old. He doesn’t smoke. He used to smoke, but not anymore; he tells me every day. His English is not very good. Now that winter is dead, he spends more time outside. He finds me there and he says, “I used to smoke, but I don’t, now.”

Then, yesterday he came to me. He said, “I remember a story. There was a smoker, a soldier. And, he was smoking. The colonel. Colonel, you know?”

I nodded, took a drag.

“Yes. A colonel, he saw a soldier smoke. And the soldier saw the colonel and he threw the cigarette away. So, the colonel comes to the soldier and he picks up the lit cigarette and he, asks ‘is this yours?’ And the soldier says, no. And the colonel says, ‘no, it is yours, I saw you.’ And the soldier denies it and tells the colonel maybe it was his but before anything a sniper shoots the colonel right in the head.”

He made a pfft sound and poked himself in the head.

“Oh,” I said. I held my cigarette at my side. The security guard pointed at it and nodded.

“So,” he said, knowingly.

I nodded. “So.” I walked and put the cigarette in the ash tray. He nodded.

“To your health,” he told me and held the door for me to go back inside.