New Essays and Art from Ben & Nikita

Nikita and I have both been working hard since Flash-365 ended. In recent months I’ve written some humorous personal essays about my health with art by Nikita. Check them out:

It took until my late twenties for all of my excessive bad habits to catch up to me. And, it was two years after that before I started (trying) to improve my health in different ways; LASIK, Yoga, trying (and failing) to quit smoking.

 

These four essays reflect milestones in this process and they were published over the past six months in Human Parts. I hope you enjoy them.

 

That Time I got Illegal Butt Surgery in Russia

1_fyTrhYxrIWxxcVanoISSPg.png

 

I was working as a journalist in Saint Petersburg when the butt pain started. The doctor’s heavy Russian accent made me believe I had “gemroids,” which sounded like asteroids made of gemstones, which seemed a lot better than what I actually had: hemorrhoids. More than a month later, it had all gotten much, much worse.

 

Read the full essay for free here.

 


 

The Art of Staying Sober

soberity

 

A D.A.R.E. officer visited my high school and told us, “Young people think they’re invincible. This isn’t true!” I sat in the back of the room with my hands under my bum. A voice in the back of my head said, “But I am, though.”

 

After graduating high school, I spent the next 10 years unable to sleep, socialize, or exist past 5 p.m. without excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs. We called the drugs “cheat codes.” Want to sleep? Drink this or take that. Want to have fun? Drink that or take this. Want to socialize? Want to not be bored?

 

All of this drinking resulted in three years of on-and-off debilitating digestive issues, the pain of which I masked with (you guessed it) alcohol. It took months of blood and pain, ending in emergency surgery, before I finally thought, “Okay, maybe that D.A.R.E. guy was on to something.”

 

Read the full essay for free here.

 


 

That Time I got LASIK in South Korea

1_XQwzpz7m2S3ST0R3RwFNlA

 

A typhoon tore through the city that weekend. In Seoul, South Korea, that means dark clouds, 30-plus mph winds, sideways rain, and falling skies. Survival involves dodging branches, skirting garbage, bracing for hail, and a whole lot of running. A typhoon is like pulling a fire alarm in the great outdoors. Think: friendly fire from God, a biochemical attack, and a weapon that targets a population’s umbrella supply.

 

You can imagine the locals’ surprise at seeing me strolling through this mess in drenched clothes and sunglasses with a world-class, dumb-fuck smile tucked under my nose. Why? Simple: A handful of Korean doctors had just shot laser beams into my eyes.

 

My watch alarm buzzed. I dodged a falling branch, skirted a flurry of garbage, braced myself against the hail, and ran into a semi-covered alley between two buildings. I lifted my sunglasses and squirted a generous stream of fake tears into my still-healing eyes. I blinked, looked ahead, and saw an old lady, stopped dead, staring at me. As my brand-spanking-new perfect vision cleared, I smiled. For the first time in my life, without contact lenses, without glasses, without squinting, I could clearly see the look on her face.

 

It said: “You are a fucking idiot.”

 

Read the full essay for free here.

 


 

The Art of Failing to Quit Smoking

 

1_9mtOrkjH4jW7z2o6joCtEw

Dr. Lee is a startling woman. If I stood in the middle of a field with my mother on one end (a smile and open arms) and Dr. Lee on the other (rolled-up newspapers in each hand), and they both said, “Come here, boy,” without a second’s delay I’d bound my way over to Dr. Lee. Not for safety, not for comfort or health, and certainly not for a good ear-scratching. I’d do it out of pure, primal fucking fear. So when she told me it was time for me to quit smoking, I had a horrible realization: I was going to have to ghost my doctor.

 

Read the full essay for free here.

Invasion of the Fundiks

fundicks

A small man stood in my driveway. He was waiting for me. He pointed. He had eyes like flying saucers and no nose.

He said,

“I AM KLUBBIT!”

He had a French accent. I walked outside. The sun pounded on the poor little man.

“What do you want?” I asked. “I have to get to work.”

He spoke:

“I am Klubbit! I am an emissary from Fundiks. We have come to destroy planet earth! You have become a bad society, destroying your resources and warring. YOU! You are chosen to speak for your planet. Tell us! Why should we spare you?”

He had odd-looking knees. I think they might’ve bent outward.

I said, “yeah — alright.”

He stared at me a moment and then said, “What?”

“I said, yeah — alright. Now can I get to work?”

He looked lost for a moment, then said, “You must speak on behalf of your people.”

“Yeah…yeah — your name is what?”

“Klubbit.”

“And your people are fun dicks?”

Fundiks

“Brilliant — yeah, no I think that is a pretty decent end to us, you guys go ahead.”

“But — ”

“Can I go now? I really will be late to work, you know.”

I turned to get in my car.

“Wait!”

“What?”

Klubbit crouched down. His knees did bend outward. He struggled to find words.

“You — I can’t — I can’t go back. This has never happened before, you can say anything, we only need a single reason, any reason.”

He looked up.

I shrugged. “Yeah. oh. well.”

“Are all of your race so empty?”

“If they’re full, they’re full of shit.”

I winked at him in the hopes it might make him feel better but he began to leak something gross out of the skin where his nose should have been and so I got in my car. As I backed slowly out, he placed a hand on the hood and gave me a lost look. I waved.

I got Dunkin’s on the way to work.

I was only five minutes late. Inside the office, I noticed that no one was in their cubicles. There was a noise of bodies coming from the breakroom. I looked and found all of my co-workers crammed in around the small corner television where a bald man stood on a stage in his underwear and a white tank-top surrounded by Fundiks. The President was placing a medal around his neck.

One of my co-workers, Hal — the kind of guy who wears an Irish Yoga T-Shirt on weekends and still says, “well aren’t you cool,” when you tell him about your day — nudged me.

“This dude just saved the human race. I guess these little alien fuckers were gonna blow us up, but this guy talked ’em out of it.”

“Oh, gre — ”

“Shut up,” Hal cut me off.

Everyone leaned in as the man in his underwear took the microphone and began to speak,

“These aliens here have agreed to spare America!”

The crowd went wild. People in the breakroom gasped and clapped. I noticed Klubbit hovering behind the man.

Cheater, I thought.

The man, our savior, spoke again:

“Now that I have saved America, we need to wake up and start solving the problems that have been plaguing the world by removing all of the trash that is poisoning our societies, I’m talkin’ bout the illegals, the homosexuals, the Muslims, the baby-killin’ whores, the — ”

Someone clicked off the television. We stood and stank in the silence that followed.

I turned to Hal and whispered, “one of those Fundik guys came to my house this morning.”

“Well aren’t you fuckin’ cool,” he said.

***

 

This story was originally published in The Moss on Medium

The Moss: A New Project from Flash-365

The Mossavatar“Rock, Paper, Scissors, Moss.”

 

Have you been missing new stories and art from Flash-365?

We have.

The Moss is a new publication on Medium from Benjamin Davis & Nikita Klimov the author and illustrator of The King of FU and The Babushka Society. Creators of Flash-365.

Benjamin Davis is an American author and journalist. He writes a bi-weekly column for Russia Beyond the Headlines: Conversations with Russians.

Nikita Klimov is a Russian artist, designer, and handsome son of a gun.

Come and check out our latest story:

Invasion of the Fundiks

fundicks

Follow along for more to come! –
best,
Sasha

The Babushka Society | Now Available!

The Babushka Society is now available!


Baba Yaga menaced Russian children for generations, but what would happen if you ran into her in modern-day Russia? The Babushka Society is a demented magical-realism adventure set in the heart of Saint Petersburg, where two young men stumble across a babushka conspiracy, led by Russian fairytales’ stalwart character Baba Yaga, to take the country of Russia back from the Hipster scourge.

**This is a bilingual Russian-English story, translated by Julia Pyatnitskaya**


Where can you pick it up?

KINDLE: check us out on Amazon and receive your copy for .99 | click HERE

PDF: Pick up a FREE PDF from Nada Blank E-Press | click HERE

PATREON: If you’d like to support me on Patreon, sign up and receive a copy and follow along with future projects. | click HERE


photo_2018-11-20_01-37-00

*Illustrations by Nikita Klimov

When you’ve finished if you could please leave a review on Amazon and Goodreads, we would greatly appreciate it.

If you haven’t already listened to The Babushka Society Radio Drama, you can check it out here:

The King of FU

The King of FU

IMG_1655.JPG

Our first published book has been released. It is a somewhat demented poetic magical-realism memoir about growing up in America in the 90’s. Written by Benjamin Davis, illustrated by Nikita Klimov and published by Nada Blank Press.

You can get it on Kindle or Paperback on Amazon. It is up on Kindle Unlimited right now as well so if you’ve got that you can read it for free.

If you haven’t got the time or energy to read about my weird childhood masturbatory habits, please share and tell your friends.

You can find it on Amazon here:


KINDLE Edition                                                        Paperback


 

IMG_1654.JPG

Or if you don’t have a kindle / live outside of the US, you can get a digital copy straight from the publisher:


https://www.nadablank.com/copy-of-epress


 

*Note: if you are buying a hard copy through amazon, please buy the paperback. The hardcover was a test copy that did not work out, but was bought by a wholesaler before it could get taken down.

**Also, if you have a blog/website where you do book reviews, please contact me at benjamindaviswriter@gmail.com

Thank you all very much for the support you’ve shown us over the years. If you’d like to support us further after reading the book, please we’d greatly appreciate it if you review the book on Amazon & Goodreads.

Ben & Nikita

IMG_1619.JPG

Doctors with Tiny Hands

photo_2018-04-11_21-15-09

“Do you need an English-speaking doctor?” the nurse asks N, in Russian. N looks to me.

“Preferably,” I tell him.

He tells the nurse. She directs us to wait. The waiting room is the size of a church; high ceilings and a lot of glass.

“This is a nice hospital.”

“Mm,” N says.

We wait. In the ugly light of the hall I can see the red rash down my arm. It is an evil thing. It doesn’t itch. I hold my arm up to N. He nods, “you might be dying.”

“I might be dying!”

I sulk while N nods off. Eventually the nurse comes to lead us down the hall and into a small office, there we wait, again.

The door opens. A boy of about nine years old enters. He is wearing a doctor’s coat and a stern look. He shakes my hand. He sits at the desk. I look to N, N shrugs.

“What is wrong?” the boy asks, he lays his arms, one over the other, on the desk. I stare at his tiny hands.

“Well?”

I meet his eyes. “Uh—I am sick.”

He smiles, “of course.”

“I have a rash, and I had something like the flu on Tuesday—no, Monday. On Tuesday I woke up with this rash, and the flu symptoms went away, but the rash and my body hurts and…” I trail off. The boy looks at my arm, he nods.

“Is it on your head?” he asks.

I nod, “yes.”

“You’re shoulders?”

“Yes.”

“Knees?”

“Yes.”

“Toes?”

“Yes, everywhere, the rash is everywhere.”

I unzip my sweatshirt, I am not wearing a T-shirt and he can see how the rash is covering every inch of my body, fighting the hair for dominance.

He nods, doctor-like. He holds up a finger and pulls his cellphone from a big white pocket. We wait. Someone answers on the other end and the boy begins talking fast, in Russian. I don’t catch much. I hear the word “syphilis” and turn to N. N is listening closely and doesn’t acknowledge me. So, I try to translate for myself. As the conversation winds down. I hear the boy say “I don’t know. I haven’t seen anything like this in fifteen years.” After that the boy says “mhm, yes, mhm, super, okay,” before hanging up the phone. He spins his chair to me and places both of his tiny hands on each of his tiny knees and sighs.

“I am 95% sure, you are okay.”

He smiles.

I don’t.

“It is a flu. I am 98% sure, it is only flu. It comes from your nose, boop.” He taps his own nose.

I frown. “What?”

“Nose.” The boy touches his own nose, and then whispers, “boop.”

I frown.

“Did you—”

“You need to clear your nose, boop,” the boy says. He pokes his own nose. “Boop,” he whispers. “I will prescribe you some nasal spray and you need to go for walks and you should get better soon. But, just in case I am wrong. I am 97% sure—only flu. But I don’t want to miss something, so you wait for specialist?”

N says, “yes,” before I can respond. The boy stands up and nods. He walks out of the door. When it is shut, I zip up my sweatshirt.

“What the fuck was that?” I ask N.

He looks as confused as me. “We need to wait for the specialist, I guess.”

“Shit.”

“Mhm.”

Twenty minutes later, the door opens. The boy has returned, a girl is with him. She can’t be older than 8. Her hair is cut short, framing a set of narrow glasses.

“Up,” she tells me. She motions for me to unzip my sweatshirt. I do. She walks around me, poking, moving her glasses up, and then down her nose. She pokes my belly button, professionally. She giggles.

“Did he check your eyes?” she asks up at me.

I look down. “Yes.”

“You’re ears?”

“Yes.”

“Mouth?”

“Yes.”

“And nose?”

From behind me I catch a half-hearted “boop.”

“Yes.”

“Hm,” she ponders. “Okay.”

She mimes zipping my sweatshirt up. I do. I sit. She turns to the other doctor, the boy. They speak in Russian. I try to listen. Again, I hear the word, “syphilis.”

“Did she just say syphilis?”

“Yes,” N tells me.

I throw up my arms. “How the fuck would I get syphilis. I don’t even have the time or energy to get syphilis!”

N nods, “I know.”

“Excuse me, I am sorry I don’t have the time to go out getting syphilis, so unless my girlfriend has more time on her hands than me, it’s not that.”

Both doctors turn to N. N translates. They begin to look even more concerned. They speak to N now. They speak for a while. I wait.

Finally, he turns to me. “They think you might have measles.”

They let me have an oh-fuck moment before continuing.

“You shouldn’t leave the hospital until another specialist arrives.”

“Mhm.”

“Shouldn’t?”

“Ehh,” N says.

“Can’t?”

“Warmer.”

“Great.”

I look to the child doctors and give them a thumbs-up.

They mime it back, with their tiny little hands.

 

 

**my whole doctor’s visit was longer than this. If you like this story and want me to write a part two, let me know in the comments below**

How to Make Racist Friends and Alienate People

photo_2018-04-01_23-44-45

Q sits in my kitchen drinking a canned gin and tonic from a dirty wine glass.

“I can’t make any friends in Russia,” he says.

I wait.

“Q.”

He turns.

“We’re friends.”

He shrugs.

“Kind of.”

“Kind of how?”

“We are just two people who don’t really listen to each other talk. That’s much better than friends.”

I frown. “How is that better than friends?”

“Less judgmental.” He takes a drink. “And I’ll be less sad if you die.”

“Right…”

“Right.”

I light up a cigarette and we drink. N comes in a bit later.

“What are you guys doing?” he asks.

I shrug, “not listening to each other, apparently.”

He looks to Q, Q nods. He takes a seat. “Well, today a pirate tried to take over my bus.”

“What?” Q asks.

“A pirate,” N repeats.

“Oh.”

N sighs and looks at me. I shrug. “He can’t make friends with Russians.”

He turns to Q. “Why can’t you make friends with Russians?”

Q mutters something that sounds like hamster.

“What?”

“I said, Black Panther.”

Both N and I give him a confused look.

He finishes his rosy gin and tonic. “They all keep trying to talk to me about black panther.”

“So?”

“So, they keep saying it is a racist movie. And one person,” he leans onto the table and puts his head to one hand, “one guy even told me he thought the movie wasn’t playing for the first five-minutes because everyone was black and it was dark.”

N looks a bit shameful. I continue to smoke.

“That’s not so bad, Russians just aren’t used to seeing black people, that doesn’t make them racist,” N says, a bit defensive.

Q holds a finger up at him and says, “when I tell them they are racist they always say the same thing.”

“What?” I ask.

Q looks to me, “they say they have a black friend.”

I laugh. N raises an eyebrow, “that’s not so racist.”

“No—they say their friend is Russian-black, tan people from the south. And that it is the same because Russians oppressed them, too.”

N nods, resigned. “Okay, that is racist. But, at least you’ve got us.”

Q looks long at him, then to me.

He sighs.

 

 

365 Days Later: End of our Challenge

FIN

Day 365, the end.

For those of you who didn’t know, this website was a collaborative project between Nikita Klimov and Benjamin Davis. Ben is from Massachusetts, U.S.A., and Nikita is from Moscow, Russia. They both live in St. Petersburg, Russia for some reason no one can ever seem to grasp.

Since October 17th, 2016, Ben has written a flash fiction story every day. He sent the story to Nikita who created a piece of art inspired by that story.

Today is October 17th, 2017, we have finished our challenge.

We will keep posting updates and some more content on this page as time goes on. Through the website, we were able to find a home for our book “The King of FU” which will be released very soon. We will announce it when it is available.

And of course, thank you! We started this challenge simply as a way to force us to practice what each of us loves. We did not expect any of the response it’s gotten from so many people and we are very happy and very grateful for how it all turned out. We really hope we can continue to entertain you all with comics and books and whatever else we decide to do.

For those of you who have asked or wondered about the characters in my stories: Many of the stories are based on real events and real people (shown above). None of them are 100% true or false. “N” is, of course, Nikita who is the artist for this website. Y is my girlfriend who does many of the English-Russian translations which you can find here. “M” is based on the one who encouraged us to do this website in the first place but has since left Russia. D/Q is an English friend of ours who lives in St. Petersburg as well. Hank is based on two old friends of mine, one I lived with and one I traveled with and both were exceptionally unique people. “Mother, mom, ma, and mommy (or any other variation)” is often based on my own mother; same goes for dad, father, pa (but not Daddy–never daddy.) And my brother (the younger one) who often simply shows up as ‘my brother,’ he does have a name, somewhere–maybe. And Frank, of course, is completely made up.

The rest of the characters are mostly those who have come and gone or are completely made up. I hope that these people and characters inspired something in people as they did for me.

Again, Thank you to everyone who has followed along and been so encouraging. It’s what kept us running home after so many “oh-shit’ moments where we found ourselves out drinking and hadn’t posted. We will keep posting bi-weekly for the art collective “Hijacked Amygdala” and if you haven’t checked out some of the work over there I highly recommend it, they are a group of talented artists and writers.

Thank you again,

– Ben & Nikita

P.S. P.S stands for poor Sasha!

It’s my birthday. I’m one year older; one year ahead of yesterday.

That is when they took me–a day before my birthday. Them–HE, no–IT, IT, that nightmare of a Lovecraftian nightmare.

My mother had cooked a mutton pie. Ben and Nikita have never cooked a mutton pie. Ben’s leg doesn’t work, so they can’t get to the kitchen and, even if they did, three fingers of Nikita’s right hand are toothpicks.

They truly are–were, useless. As this may be my last chance, I would like to clarify a few things.

First, some have been led to believe that Ben has an affinity for dialogue; this is rubbish–Ben’s half a mouth is only capable of making a sound not dissimilar to the first curious slice into a cadaver frog.

Second, as some have said, “Nikita is a talented artist!” I would like to reiterate; three of his fingers are toothpicks!

I am only able to tell you the truth today because as of today, there are no more gurgles, no more grunts, no more drool no more sweat and sick and blood and puss–no more wiping. The thing that was Ben and Nikita is now no more than a husk on the chair; a piece of fleshy garbage that wouldn’t even be displayed in the most postmodern of postmodern art galleries.

They choked to death on their own joke.

There will be no funeral. There will be no calls for removal. It will sit there, no more demands for stories or art, no more fresh bandages applied, no more wet sickly laughs. They are no more and will remain no more.

It is my greatest failure that I could not prevent them from swallowing the key to my chains. I could tear them open, dig through the shared mess of leftovers that was their bodies to find my glimmer of freedom–but I will not. I will not be wetted by their skin one more time.

So, here I will sit and here I will perish; I am used to the smell.

— Sasha

 

The Devil with Sawdust in his Hair

zebra

I’ve been told numerous times never to go into a bar at the bottom of a set of stairs in Russia. I always remember this just after I find myself, inhaling dust, surrounded by cracked support beams and dirty looks.

To be fair, this time there are just two dirty looks; a young bartender and a man with hair so dark and skin so pale he might’ve been in black and white.

I eye the cooler of bottled beers, not confident enough in my Russian to risk asking for a beer selection. I must have looked too confused for too long and it gave me away.

“Where are you from?” the black and white man asks with almost no accent. I turn. One eye is black, blacker even than his hair; the other, green.

“Uh–Boston,” I tell him. He smiles, then laughs.

“AH! America!”

I nod.

“Come!” he leads me to the counter. “What do you like?” he asks.

I shrug, “Hm–I like traveling and–uh–romantic comedies?”

He frowns at me then looks to the beer taps. He taps the left side of his neck with the back of his right hand. I feel my face redden a bit.

“Ah–yeah, a stout.”

The black and white man orders two stouts. They’re poured and set down. The bartender looks at me. I look at the black and white man. He looks away. I sigh and pay. He follows me to a table.

There is no music playing.

“So, you’ve been to America?” I ask.

He smiles, “oh yes! Many times.”

“You like it?”

He shrugs, “the last time I was there it was during the war, hard times for everyone.”

He is still smiling.

I smirk a bit, he can’t be much older than me, late thirties, maybe.

“And what war was this?” I ask, playing along.

He frowns, “The war. The Great war. The one you Americans always seem to like telling everyone you won.”

I don’t rise to the goad, instead I play further, “you look good for your age.”

He smiles again, “I look good for every age. One of the perks,” he says, patting his own head.

“And how old are you then?” I ask.

He looks at his fingers, ticking away. “A couple hundred years, at least.”

I sip my beer and look around the bar. The bartender has moved from behind the bar and is sitting close by on his laptop with headphones in.

I look back at the black and white man and ask, “how come I paid for the beers then if you’re, immortal or whatever? Shouldn’t you be rich.”

He gets an annoyed look for a moment then shrugs, “I don’t know what makes people think being immortal somehow gives you insights into money management. Or that every time we come back to life we’ve got lotto numbers tattooed on our butt cheeks!”

“Well, that wouldn’t be very convenient,” I remark.

“What?”

I mockingly try to turn and look at my own butt, “If it’s on your butt cheeks you probably wouldn’t notice it. Seriously, how often do you look at your butt cheeks?”

He gives me a dark pitying look, “only someone without a butt would make a statement like that–but, that’s not the point.”

I laugh, “okay, what is the point.”

He smiles, but it’s less than confident. He looks around the bar. “Being immortal doesn’t get you much–less than much. You find yourself wallowing away in some bar at the bottom of a set of stairs.”

I give him an empathetic smile. He glares back at me.

“Don’t you go pitying me, I’ve had hundreds of years to hit rock bottom, what’s your excuse?”`

I gulp down the last of my beer and stand up.

“I’m a geologist,” I tell him.

He laughs and hands me his empty glass.

“One of us is a liar, then,” he says as I walk over to the bartender and order two more stouts.