Written by Dany Tanner
Fake passport in hand, Bobby “Nikolai” Petrov made his way to customs, sweat beginning to form on his hairline. Do I look nervous? He wondered. OMG, I’m starting to sweat! I’m probably turning red! I look suspicious, and this is the country that tried to kill Putin’s most prominent rival – that Navalny guy – by poisoning his underwear! Is my underwear poisoned?! I’m next; I’m going to die! However, the bored customs attendant waved for Bobby to go through. After running to the bathroom and cleaning himself up, Bobby left the airport and entered Mother Russia.
Bobby didn’t know what exactly October Dreipantz wanted him to accomplish, so he hailed a taxi, pretending to look Russian. It was scary being in a foreign country, unable to speak the language, with no idea what he was doing or how he should start a new political party. Luckily, Obe Dreipantz had provided him with a generous bank account and a contact name in Saratov, a city in southwestern Russia. Bobby was never good at geography, so he thought a short drive to a foreign city would be enough. After telling his driver where he wanted to go, the driver shrugged his shoulders and said: “You pay, I drive.” A mere eight hours and over 700 kilometers later, Bobby stood near the Volga River as his medicated taxi driver gunned the engine back towards Moscow.
The highway to Saratov was not like other highways. There were cracks in the road not far from the city repaired with – if Bobby saw right – giant band-aids laid across them. The vehicles were also…unusual. Bobby felt nauseous and exhausted from the flight, but he spent half the drive southward with his jaw hanging open. For example, he saw a guy on a snowmobile. That adventurous man drove parked on the roof of a station wagon, whose driver had apparently not received the message that a snowmobile inexplicably sat on the roof.
In Saratov, dogs hunted garbage. Men hunted dogs. Women hunted men. Without thinking, Bobby collected all these experiences, not knowing yet what he might do with them. By the time he stood staring at the Volga in Saratov, the details of a bold plan had materialized.
Samson Samsonov from Saratov was a chain-smoking dandy in an authentic swamp rat fur coat. His evil bushy mustache and curly hair did not inspire confidence. He also showed up two hours after Bobby texted him with a woman named Alyona, who was sleeping with her head out the car window. Alyona wore a traditional white rubashka, a homespun striped shirt, under her red sarafan dress. When Bobby opened the door to say hello, she finally woke up and fell out of the passenger seat onto the parking lot.
After administering some white-smelling salts to Alyona, Samson explained to Bobby that she had recently been “kicked in the head by a mule” and wasn’t feeling herself. After the salts, Alyona popped to her feet as if lightning had struck her and mumbled something about “being ready and thirsty.” The three of them headed towards a nearby bar Chudo Yudo to talk business and quench their parched throats.
An hour later, Bobby lay under the table, pleading with the contents of his stomach to stay down. Samson and Alyona argued over whether the film Dersu Uzala (1975) was an example of cultural appropriation or not. During a pause, Alyona noticed Bobby was missing and started the search. After finding him under the bar table, she laughed: “Hell-llo, Captain!” In the movie, this was what the title character, a wild man from Siberia, called his traveling companion, Captain Arsenyev: about 42 million times. Naturally, this was a hit with Samsonov, and Bobby was never called by his name again after that.
Bobby Petrov had always believed he could handle his alcohol, but the Russian pair must have downed four bottles of vodka to go with their dozen pivos, which made the table look like a porcupine. Although Samson was thin and of medium height, he dragged Bobby out from under the table and propped him up like a rag doll. A waitress brought a large cup of espresso. Bobby drank it greedily, which was a mistake. He stumbled to the bathroom to vomit and returned soggy – having washed his face clumsily – and disheveled. When he got back to the table, his companions began to discuss their plans.
Bobby told them what the United Pants of Growth Party was and how it would dismantle the Russian oligarchy, restoring a worldwide balance of power within the calendar year. Samson and Alyona stared at him for a few moments, then burst out laughing. They raised their glasses, “Na Zdorovie!!” Alyona then laid her head on the table for a short nap.
“I have the perfect person to lead your party, Captain,” whispered Samson in Bobby’s ear.
“Really?” asked Bobby. “Who?”
“Who else?” the snazzy man replied. He grabbed a fistful of Alyona’s hair, lifted her head, and planted a kiss on her lips.
“She doesn’t seem to be very qualified. Or sober…” Bobby mumbled.
Alyona roused herself and shouted across the bar, “We, The United Pants of Growth Party, are looking forward to creating a world founded upon five human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere. The second is the freedom of every person to worship their God or Goddess in their own way – everywhere. The third is the freedom to grow – under one consecrated banner of United Pants – everywhere. The fourth is freedom from fear – everywhere, which means each person may have the courage to stand up and be themselves. And the fifth is vodka for everyone and everywhere! Na Zdorovie!!”
“Da!” yelled Samson. “Clever girl, she can have my vote!”
Bobby looked over the crowd in the bar and watched them sound their loud applause. He listened to their ‘hoorahs’ that went on for fifteen minutes, and thought: Hm, this might just work…
To be continued…
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