Billy, Billy and Billy


**For those of you who were wondering where the billy goats were in Sunday’s story: There be a Troll!

On a small bridge over the Griboyedova Canal, three goats sat. Their names were Billy, Billy, and Billy. They were not named Billy, Billy and Billy because they had cruel or uncreative parents (though they were.) No, Billy, Billy and Billy were named Billy, Billy and Billy because all goats are named Billy.

To avoid confusion I will call them Little, Middle, and Great-Big. In fact, one was little, one was fairly great and big, and one was somewhere in the middle.

These goats like all goats, hated one thing, Trolls. After petitioning the city in the summer of 1844 to ban all trolls from all bridges, they started using them as much as possible. In fact, goats are well-known for avoiding subways, taxi’s and sometimes even buses in order to stroll haughtily over bridges. This meant that goats often found themselves outrageously late for everything–even by Russian standards. After years of putting up with it, other living things simply no longer made plans with them.

So, bitter and with a single focus, they all spend the majority of their time patrolling city bridges for vagrant trolls.

Little bit a bug off of Great-Big’s back side.

“Ah,” Great-Big cried, cigarette falling from his mouth into the canal.

He watched it go.


“Shut up!” Great-Big snapped. He saw something just before the cigarette hit the water. A little something, a bubble.

“Troll,” growled Middle.

Little lifted himself up to see. “What do we do?” he asked. Middle, being the smartest, looked around. A cop car was coming their way. He waved to it.

“Waiiiit!” Great-Big said. He nodded his horns to a man in a black jacket. He took the stairs down, below the bridge. He was smoking and had a confused look strewn over his face. The bubbles in the water grew bigger. A troll burst through. The man in the black jacket began speaking to him in English.

“Biiilly,” Middle said to Little. (Biiiilly being Little’s actual name since, while all goats are named Billy, they identify each other by the length and depth of stress on the “i”)

“What?” said Little.

“Wave down the cops.”

Little did. Great-Big spoke to the hippopotamus who pulled up . He told him that an Ameriiican was taking a piiiiss beneath the briiiidge. The Hippo, hungry to make some cash, stopped and started making his way toward the stairs. The goats, hating Americans almost as much as trolls, were eager to watch.

“NO!” Great-Big, cried when the Troll dove back into the water.

Middle patted his shoulder, “at least he wiiill stiiill get the Ameriiican.”

Great-Big grunted and satisfied himself by watching the man in the black jacket climb the stairs, shaking. The Hippopotamus confronted him. Little, Middle, and Great-Big watched hungrily, licking their lips through sick grins. Then, without warning, a troll leapt out of the water and bit off the Hippo’s head.

“Oh shiiiiiit,” Middle said. Little threw up over the side of the bridge. Great-Big watched the man in a black jacket run as the troll called after him.

Great-Big, tried, but couldn’t make out the Troll’s words because, of course, his mouth was full.


The Mother of The Sun


Part V of V.

“Huh?” I say, staring at The Sun’s mother, my pride diminishing.

She is looking down at the girl.

“I didn’t even recognize her,” she sighs. “she’s gotten so old.”

She turns and looks at me, sad-eyed. “You must understand. My son is a very temperamental man. He goes out, he comes home, he stays out all night then spends seven months cooped up in here, moping. But, when his daughter was here, he spent all his days inside. You’ve condemned Russia to eternal darkness.”

I put it together, slowly. “So you? The Leshy?”

The Sun’s mother sighs. “Yes, yes, he took her on my request. And now he is dead.”

I bite my lip. “Not exactly.”

She turns to me and raises an eyebrow.

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I kinda wished him back to life.”


The Sun skips back into the room carrying a tray.

“Is she awake?” he asks.

“Not yet dear,” his mother tells him. “Why don’t you go lay down and I’ll wake you when she comes around. You know you need your rest.”

The Sun shakes his head.

“I’m not leaving her side.”

He places down the tray of teas. His mother sighs. “Very well.”

She walks behind her son. Then, motions for me to follow. The Sun sits, staring at his daughter. As soon as I find myself behind him, The Sun’s Mother pulls a Taser from her pocket and shoves it into her sons neck. He falls face first into his daughter’s lap.

“What the hell!” I cry. The old woman turns the taser to me.

“Give me your damn phone,” she growls. I hand it over. She says something soft and sweet into it, without dialing. Then, places it to her ear.

She begins speaking very fast Russian. All I catch of it is “idiot,” and “peanuts?”

She hangs up and tosses the phone at me.

“You better go, when he wakes and she is gone, you’ll be the first to die.”

I back toward the door.

“You’re giving her back to the Leshy?”

“I’m doing what has to be done,” she says, advancing on me, taser first.

“Okay, okay.”

I open the door and step out.

“And don’t go outside for a few months, when he wakes, I will blame all of this on you. Can’t have a boy blaming his mother for such nonsense, I hope you understand,” she says, slamming the door.

Out in the stairwell I pull a cigarette from my pack. Half way down, a man with long dirty green hair is making his way up. As we pass one another, not a glimmer of recognition flashes in his eyes. He grabs my arm.

“Food?” he mumbles.

I pull my arm away.

“Not a chance,” I snap, nearly falling as I dash down the stairs, out into the darkness.


Daughter of the Sun


Part IV of V.

I back up. The sun stands.

“What are you doing here?” he demands.

“Uhhh,” I inform him. I back up until I hit the wall.

“You–” he stops. he is staring into the closet. He walks closer, frowning.

“Who is that there?”

I look into the closet.

“Uh, that’s kind of why I am here. She was in the park. Someone kidnapped her, I think. She–”

“It can’t be,” The Sun mutters, bending over the girl. He brushes hair from the girl’s face. He steps back. He looks at me.

“You brought her back to me.”

He lunges at me and I scream before finding myself embraced in his warm arms.

“She was taken, so long ago.” he begins to cry. His tears burn through my shirt. I don’t dare move.

Finally, he lets me go. He walks over to the girl.

“Uh, how? How do you know her?” I ask.

The Sun laughs. “She is my daughter.”

He lifts her into his arms. He carries her over to the couch and places her gently down.

“So, you’ve been looking for her?”

The Sun nods, “every summer, without rest.”

“So, what now?”

“Now, she must sleep, then, the wedding.”

I frown. “Uh, what?”

“You saved her, so now you are to be married and you will have half of the sky as your kingdom.”

“Uh-huh, yeah, no thanks.”

The sun turns and stands up.

“What do you mean no thanks?”

I shrink back. “Hm, like I Just wanted to make sure she was okay, and well, this was just a happy coincidence. But really, I’m good. Don’t need half the sky and all that. Not really ready for marriage, plus you know, I think it’s her choice. Two-thousand-seventeen, and all that.”

The Sun crosses his arms.

“Well, you must be rewarded for this service. What is it you desire?”

I think about all the different things I want in the world. Then, I remember.

“I kind of accidentally killed a guy in woods.”

The Sun gives me a curious look.

“It was an accident, seriously. I don’t know what the whole story is. He might have been involved with something with your daughter. I honestly don’t speak enough Russian to understand what was going on there, he might be the spirit of the forest or some shit. But, I suppose I don’t really want to be responsible for a dead guy so, yeah. That. Can you bring him back?”

The Sun smiles, closes his eyes a moment, then opens them. “Done.”

At that, the door opens.


The Sun’s mother walks through. She smiles. Then, looks down at the girl sleeping on the couch. She frowns.

“Our baby girl has returned.”

His mother breaks into an awkward smile.

“How lovely.”

“Isn’t it magnificent?”

His mother takes off her coat and hangs it up.

“Truly,” she says. “Why don’t you go make your mother a cup of tea.”

The Sun nods and skips off into the kitchen. His mother turns to me.

“You idiot,” she growls.


House of the Rising Sun


Part III of V.

The house of The Sun turns out to be a dilapidated apartment building. I drag my passed out companion off the horse and take a breath.

“This is ridiculous,” I tell her limp body. I pull her up over my shoulder and trudge toward the building. I ring the buzzer. It rings, then stops. There is breathing.

“Hi, I, uh, your sister said you could help me.”

There is more breathing, then, a click as the door unlocks.

“Fourth floor, hurry.”

“Son of a bitch,” I mutter, dragging the girl up four flights of stairs. The door to an apartment is already open. A crusty old woman peers out at me.

“Hurry,” she is looking outside the window. I hand her the jar of white stuff. She smiles. Then looks fearfully out of the window.

“Quick, the closet. I must hide you from my son. If he catches you here he will surely eat you.”

“The hell?”

The woman bustles towards a closet and opens it.

“In,” she demands.

So, I head for it, heaving the unconscious girl up over one shoulder.

Just as we are sealed in, the door bursts open. The Sun walks in. I peak through a small hole.

“Good afternoon dear, what are you doing home so early?” His mother asks.

The Sun flops down in a chair. “These people are so depressing. I needed a break. Soon they will be expecting me to stay out all day and night. I need to conserve my energy.”

“Of course dear,” his mother consoles him.

The Sun closes his eyes, then, they snap open.

“I smell a human,” he growls.

“Tut-tut, you are just tired. Why would there be a human here?” his mother cooed.

The Sun narrowed his eyes around the room, sniffing harder.

“No, I’m sure of it, a human, and…American?”

His mother sighs. “Oh there you go, an American? you must be tired. Why would an American come to Russia?”

The Sun sits back, thinking.

“Perhaps you are right,” he decides.

“Of course,” his mother says, ” now take a nap and then go back out.”

“Mhm,” the sun responds, already nodding off. When he begins to snore, his mother sneaks over to the closet. She whispers into the hole.

“As he sleeps you must steal from him one golden strand of his hair. Then, when he wakes, you must present him with this hair and he will grant you one wish.”

Then, she leaves the apartment.

So, taking a breath, I open the closet and creep toward the sleeping sun. I stand over him.

“What the fuck,” I whisper to myself, reaching down.

Inches from his head, his eyes snap open. He frowns.

“What the fuck indeed,” he says.




Part II of V.

We walk out of the park meeting no one.

“You need food,” I tell her. She nods. There is a shawarma stand near-by. An elderly middle-eastern woman sits playing bejeweled on her iphone.

“Hello, do you speak English?” I ask.

“A little,” the woman tells me, in Russian. She looks to me, then the woman beside me. She scowls at the jacket wrapped around the otherwise naked woman.

“My sister?” I say, hopefully, awkwardly. The old woman shakes her head.

“Kebab?” I ask. The woman puts her phone down and walks into her booth. I turn back in time to watch my companion fall to the ground.

“Shit,” I bend down over her. “Help!” I call to the elderly woman. She shuffles out of her stand and comes to crouch down beside me.

“Police?” I say.

The elderly woman shakes her head, seriously. She bends closer over my unconscious companion. She peels open one of her eyes, spits in it, then, presses her hand down on the closed lid. I straighten up and light a cigarette, pacing.

“Is she okay?” I ask. The elderly woman shakes her head slowly.

“No, you must bring her to the house of the sun.”

I stop pacing. “The what?”

“The house of the sun, my nephew. But, you must go when he is out and tell his mother that her elder sister has sent you. She may be able to help you. But remember, you must go while the sun is in the sky. Give me your phone.”

I hand the elderly woman my phone. I finish my cigarette. She hands my phone back.

“I’ve ordered you an UBER,” she tells me. She goes back into her booth and comes out with a jar of shawarma sauce.

“Give this to my sister, so she knows I have sent you.”

I take the jar. I bend down and drag the unconscious girl onto a bench to wait. The old lady is staring at her, thinking.

“I promise, it’s not what it looks like,” I say.

The shawarma lady shrugs, “life rarely is.”

A few minutes later, a man on a horse; a great shaggy bay, three ells in length, his tail three fathoms, and his hair three colors. Atop the horse, a broad shouldered man called out, “I am Ilya of Murom and this is my steed, Cloudfall.”

I look at the old lady, then back at Ilya.

“Brilliant,” I sigh, tossing the unconscious girl up on the horse’s rear and climb on. The old lady tosses me up the jar of shawarma sauce.

“When you say house of the sun, you mean?” I call down to her.

She points up at the sky.

“Right,” I sigh, slipping my arms around the large man’s mid-section.


The Leshy


Part I of V.

The city is wet and the sun is out. It is spring (as much as Russia can figure out what spring is).

I decide to go for a walk in the park. It isn’t a big park. The ground is mostly slush and dog shit. I take a seat on a bench and light a cigarette. It is warm enough that my thumb doesn’t hurt when I strike the lighter. I smile.

The air jumps aside as a man plops himself onto the bench beside me. I look at him, then around at the multitude of empty benches on the other side of the path. I sigh. He looks at me.

“Can I have a cigarette?” he asks, in Russian. I nod and pull out my pack. He places one in his mouth and I light it for him. His beard goes to his belly-button, his hair is a messy length of knots. It is green. He takes a drag. I shift a bit away. The arm of the bench digs into my side. He says something else. I turn. He repeats it.

“I don’t understand Russian,” I tell him, in Russian. He points at his mouth. I feel around in my pockets. There is a bag of peanuts I was saving for later. I shrug and hand it over. He rips it open in a hurry and pours the whole bag down his throat.

He coughs, he gags, he dies. It all happens in the time it takes my cigarette to get low enough that it burns my fingers. I toss it away. I shake the man. He slumps onto my lap, colder than he already was. I shove him off and stand up. He slides off the bench onto the ground. I look at my phone, realize I don’t want to attempt explaining me and a dead guy in the park in Russian, and put it away.

I look around. In the trees behind the bench I see something. It looks like a large cardboard box, with a chimney. I head toward it. As I get closer, it grows bigger. It is a soggy hut made entirely of cardboard and soda cans. There is even a door; strips of plastic taped together draped over a poorly fixed stick.

I push it aside and walk in. A bed made of newspaper stacks occupies a corner. On it, a girl of about twenty, completely naked, staring at me, wide eyed.

“Run!” she says. I step back.

“He is coming!” she says. Then, she starts speaking too fast for me to understand. She says one word over and over.

“Leshy, Leshy, Leshy.”

She gets up at runs at me. I back away but she is faster, she shoves me out of the hut. I fall back in the mud. I look up. She is standing over me. She has stopped hollering. She is looking at something behind me. I turn. The dead man is still on the ground, not far.

“Ah, uh, yeah, death?” I manage to say, in Russian. She looks down at me, then back at the man.

“Death?” she repeats.

I nod.

Then, she smiles. She begins crying. The tears fill the corner of her mouth and she falls on me, holding me tight, covering us both in mud. She continues crying, gurgling the word “thank you, thank you, thank you,” over and over. I wait for her to calm down. Then, gently, I push her off. My back is wet with mud. I point to the man. Then at my phone.


She looks at my phone, takes it, and puts half of it in her mouth. She spits it out into the mud.

“What the hell!” I reach down and pick it up. I clean it with my shirt.

“Look,” I say, taking off my jacket, “I don’t speak Russian well.”

“But,” I add, in English, “you can’t go running around like that.”

I put the jacket around her shoulders and zip it up. It’s good enough. I walk over to where the dead man is laying. The woman follows.

“Leshy,” she says, pointing at the dead man.

“I don’t understand what that means,” I tell her.

“You die him?” she manages, in broken English.

I nod, “well, no, accident. It was an accident.”

She smiles. and says a word at me I don’t understand. She walks closer and grabs my hand. I frown at it. She repeats the word. I pull my hand away.

“Just, hold on,” I tell her.

I take out my phone and call N.

“Yes?” N answers.

“Hey, so, awkward. Some dude kinda died in the park–”

“Are you there?” he cuts me off.

“Yeah, but–”

“Yeah, don’t be there.”

“Yeah, I know. It’s just there is a girl here,” I pause, “naked. I think this guy had kidnapped her.”

N sighs on the other end of the phone. “Yeah, don’t be there.”


“My pleasure.”

“One more thing, what is a Leshy?”

“The spirit of the forest. Why?”

I look at the dead man on the ground. “Of course he is,” I mutter.


Descent from Fahrenheit 451°


The finale of The Babushka Society II (six part series): for the first story, click here.

An hour later, the sun is coming in through the windows. I am running. The sound of rusted metal follows.

“American bastard,” rough voices call at my back. The Hollow suit of armor runs beside me.

“That was stupid,” it reminds me.

I don’t usually run. I am too out of breath to respond. I trip and fall.

“Shit.” I pull myself up and panic my way into the Baba Yaga exhibit. It is empty. The hut sits in the glass box at the center. I run up to it.

“Hut, hut, turn your back to the forest and your front to me!” I pant. It rotates in its glass case. Light spills in through the high windows revealing an open door. A scraping, clanking, thunderous mess of metal fills the halls behind me.

The suit of armor beside me nudges my arm.

“What now?” it says from what I imagine is the corner of his non-existent mouth.

“Shit,” I mutter.

“Shit is right,” a voice calls from behind me. I turn. L stands in the doorway. Her face is mutated. Her nose longer, her leg is stiff. She walks with a limp. She grows as she does, her eyes bulging.

“Back again? Your fancy modern technology won’t help you this time, boy.”

The Baba Yaga towers over me, no longer resembling L at all. I back up.

“I uh,”

The Baba Yaga laughs, “You uh, you uh, fool! A dead fo—“

There is a loud crack from the door. The Baba Yaga looks behind me. I don’t dare turn. She frowns. I can hear it. The Dyedushkas are moving, crashing into each other, pouring into the room.

“What did you do?” The Baba Yaga growls down at me.

“I, uh,” I pull the empty bottle of vodka from my pocket. I toss it to the Baba Yaga. She catches it and turns it over in her hand.

“No, you wouldn’t. You’ll destroy a thousand years of art,” she mutters. “No one would,” she whispers in disbelief.

I shrug. She looks down at me, wide eyed.

“Open up big man,” I tell the suit of armor. It opens up and sucks me inside without question.

The cold voice in my ear sounds surprised. “Now what?” it asks.

“Run, yeah. Run,” I say, hearing the first click-boom of an unstable Dyedushka blowing itself to bits. Then we are moving. We plow right past the Baba Yaga and burst out a window. It isn’t far down. Just in time. The room behind us explodes. The only thing louder is the Baba Yaga screeching after us.

The scene is fire. The Knight spits me out into the snow. I stand up, stumble, and fall. The whole of the Hermitage is in flames around us. Most art is just paper, after all.

“Come on!” I tell the knight, heading for the arch to freedom.

The Knight is looking behind us at the flames. He shakes his head.

“Sorry,” is all I can say. He doesn’t respond.

He walks back into the building, the entry-way falls down around him.

I turn and walk out of the courtyard into the square. People are starting to gather in the morning light, watching it burn. A group of college students, in linen scarfs and fedoras, hold each other, weeping.


The Sacrifice of the Poet

dostoevskyI cannot see as we tread through the dark passage. The knight grumbles as we go.

“I just wanted to show you a nice night, you know. It gets so lonely here.”

I ignore him. I am soaked in sweat. We stop.

“Well?” I demand. The knight sighs. My hand is lifted up and a slot in the wall is pulled aside. I look through. It is the Baba Yaga exhibit. There is a crowd of babushkas gathered along one wall. In the center of the room is a young man; he is a bit younger than me. He is crying. He has a long waxed mustache catching his tears, his cardigan is pulled open revealing a compass tattooed to his chest. The Babushkas are chanting something. I can’t understand.

“Do you speak Russian?” I whisper.

“I speak many languages,” he says something in Russian I don’t gather.

“See,” he says, “that was Russian.”

He says something again, soft and round and lyrical. “That was Spanish.”

He coughs in my ear. I cringe. “And that was fren—“

“Got it!” I snap, cutting him off. “What are they saying?”

“I can just tell you. They do this often. The Babushkas are getting their revenge.”

I frown at the young man in the floor.

“What did he do to them?”

“Oh not him, Dostoevsky.”


“Dostoevsky, wrote a book called Crime and Punishment.”

“Yeah, I know it.”

“Well, it wasn’t just a story. Dostoevsky was responsible for killing the two older sisters of the Baba Yaga. He wrote the book first as a way to work himself up to actually committing a crime of his own. And, when he did, it was flawless. But, the Babushkas knew, the Baba Yaga knew. They managed to rid themselves of Dostoevsky, eventually, and have worked to kill any potential great writers before they can become a threat.”

I watched as I listened. The Babushkas have stopped chanting. They approach the man in the middle of the floor. They raise their cold fists. He moans. The slit in the wall slides shut.

“I can’t watch,” The Knight murmurs. The other side of the wall screams. My insides shake. I jerk my hand up. The suit of armor goes with it. I slide the small window open.

“Hey!” The Knight calls into my ear. I look out, the young man is motionless on the floor. My whole body tenses.

“Stop that.” The Knight says, a hint of fear in his voice. I struggle and manage to move one arm, then the next. I tilt my head to the right, then left. I take a breath and look at my armored hands.

“This is no fair. Give me back my body,” The Knight whines.

I look through the window. There is movement coming from the far side. A pair of babushkas walk through. Between them, a smaller, more human figure. It’s L. They lead her into the center of the room. She stands. They begin chanting.

In my ear the Knight whines “please, let me take you to see something cool. I can show you the Davinci!”

I grab onto the edge of the small window.

“You seem nice,” I say, “but please, shut up.”

I tear through the wall.


The Fool’s Parting from The Damsel


For Part I, click here.

L skips up to the glass case.

“Hut, hut! Turn your back to the forest and your fron—“

I run up behind her and clasp a hand over her mouth.

She jerks away and stares at me, wide eyed.

“What the hell is wrong with you?”

I look at the hut. Then at a babushka guarding the door. The Babushka is smiling. I feel a sick sinking feeling in my stomach. I’ve never seen a babushka smile. I want to vomit.

“Just, please, trust me,” I manage.

L turns and walks off to the wall to read the plaque below the phantom hand. I step up behind her. I read the plaque:

In Slavic folklore, Baba Yaga is a supernatural being (or one of a trio of sisters of the same name) who appears as a deformed and/or ferocious-looking witch. Baba Yaga flies around in a mortar, wields a pestle, and dwells deep in the forest in a hut usually described as standing on chicken legs.

L frowns at the plaque.

“That sounds like it’s copied straight from Wikipedia,” she says.

I nod, unaware of what I am agreeing to.

“Can we get out of this room?”

L sighs, “sure, scared-y-cat.”

She walks off through a door. I follow. I take a breath of fresh air, feeling the fear subside a little.

L turns. “Okay, emperors or other stuff?”

“I don’t care,” I think.

“Other stuff?”

L nods, “right, this way.”

I follow her, not looking back. We past a whole slew of various classic paintings. I don’t recognize them, but occasionally L will stop at one and tell me some of its history. The Babushkas are less ubiquitous the further we get and even a few of them are sleeping. I begin to feel more calm. I even begin enjoying myself.

We find ourselves in a room connecting halls of paintings. This room is decked out in case after case of various medieval armor and weapons. In the center of the room, five nights on horses are frozen in mid-gallop. Three gray, one white and one red. They look fierce.

L points to the toes.

“You can tell how prestigious a family they came from based on how wide their toes are,” she says, pointing at the different boots.

I look.

“See, here, this guy wasn’t very well respected.”

I look at the toes, they are thick, wide, fat.

“But these,” she motions to the knight in black armor. I look at his toes. They come to a sickening point.

“He must have been from a royal family.”

I look up at the knight. I look down at its foot. It twitches, ever so slightly. I jump away.

“You alright?” L asks. I nod, moving around the blood that has recently returned to my face.

“I’m going to find a bathroom, will you wait here?”

“What?” I turn. She is already walking away. I look back up at the black knight. I back away slowly toward the knight with big flat poor-man’s feet. I hear a scraping of metal behind me. I turn in time to see the suit of poor-man’s armor open wide and suck me in.

Everything is dark.

“Hey there,” a cold voice whispers in my ear. I pass out.