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The Life and Times of Dmitri Kulikov

Story by Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf (Read author interview) July 26, 2010

art by Bill Ripley

“Same, Same, Different”

I teach to you tonight, old Russian writing trick to make better your situations. You have something, a good line or situation, little funny, at beginning you add “the first time,” at ending you add “was accident.”

You have situation, “Dmitri’s penis is stuck in bottle.” Is ok, not great, so you say “the first time Dmitri’s penis stuck in bottle, was accident.” You see why works? Implies second time, and implies second time was not accident. Better funny than before.

You have situation, “Dmitri has sex with sister in hot air balloon.” Is ok. Now say, “the first time Dmitri has sex with sister in hot air balloon is accident.” Is better, no?

You have situation, “Dmitri was shot into space because of malfunction toaster.” No, you are wrong, I set you up. I not say “first time” because can only be shot into space once, then you are dead. Is good trick, but cannot abuse. Can only say, “Dmitri shot into space because of malfunction toaster, was terrible accident.”

#

“What a Clean Old Man”

In the days following, Svetlana was moved out of the house by a cousin she had never met, who arrived with the right papers and the right connections, and the right way of arching his eyebrows and tilting his head, making of strangers, accomplices, and of doubters, believers. He moved her out, to anywhere, just out, with just a tenth of her things. A man in the bar gave a lecture about decimation—it means a tenth, he said, it’s a Roman word, it’s what they’d do to rebellious armies, kill every tenth man, ten percent, decimation. Not so bad really, not as bad as people use it. This place or that place was decimated. If only they’d suffered so slightly!

I was in that house, between the time when Svetlana moved out and the cousin moved in. I was there for the plumbing. The house was a mess, and the mess in the house was telling, as are all messes in all houses. But the piles blocking the bathroom door and the bedroom door were the most so. It had been a house without need of closed doors. A house without guests.

#

“Coffee, Pavement, a Wisp of Smoke, a Broad, a Fella, an Envelope, and Two Weeks Paid Leave”

My cheap headphones were building up static as I pounded the pavement, discharging every few steps, shocking my ears. But it was nothing compared to the shock from my afternoon cocktail. I used to drink whiskey and Coke, but one day I ran out of Coke, so I cut the whiskey with gin. It was a disgusting combination, but hey, it’s a disgusting world.

Speaking of disgusting, my new client, Svetlana, was no prize. She’d come to me earlier that morning. Said she was worried about her brother. He was missing. She said they had a “special relationship.” She asked me to find him. “Sure,” I said, “I can find anyone—for a price.” She leaned her pock marks across my desk and said, “I can pay, mister.” I hoped she meant with money. I asked for the rundown. “Tell me what you know,” I said. She did. I could tell it would be a tough case. My only clues? A missing toaster, and a man-shaped hole in the ceiling. But I’d find Dmitri. I can find anyone.

About the Author

Tobias Amadon Bengelsdorf’s first story collection, An Implausibility of Gnus, was published in 2009 by Another New Calligraphy. His fiction has appeared in elimae, Pure Francis, and as a FeatherProof Minibook. He is the editor of Fiction at Work, and the Quickies! Mascot. He lives in Chicago.

About the Artist

Bill Ripley does not care too much for your nonsense.

This story appeared in Issue Twenty-Eight of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Eight
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