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

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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

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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

 

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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

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/

“Jump”

jump

I’ve only been to New York City once.

I drove in with my cousin. He lived in Brooklyn, working as a stunt double and he had my name. It was a lovely day. We got Creole food and took it up to the roof of his apartment complex. Down the street there was a party going on and people were shouting things like “Hey!” and “How’ve you been?”

It had been a long time since I had seen my cousin.

“How’ve you been?”

He held his Creole food in one hand as he hoisted himself up onto the ledge with the other. I walked up beside him, looked over. His feet dangled over a dizzying abyss filled with all of the faces of all of the people who might be sad if I leaned forward, just a bit more.

“Jump.”

“What?”

“I said, I’ve been good.”

“Oh.”

“Working as a stunt-man, just got into the guild.”

I backed away from the ledge. “Cool.”

There was a wall about ten feet back, beside the door, I leaned against it and opened my food. I’d never had creole food before. It was street food, so it was what it was. My cousin turned back toward the expanse, he swayed back and forth and hummed, a tune I recognized, one our mothers must both have known.

“How can you sit on the edge like that?” I asked him.

He turned, “what?”

I put my food down on the ground beside me; a fear of heights lives in the stomach and it is a bully.

“Like that,” I waved my hand at him dramatically. I lit a cigarette instead of eating, he didn’t smoke. He didn’t say anything, didn’t even look. Instead he looked down over the abyss. He shrugged.

“Why not?”

“Well, don’t you have that voice?”

“What voice?”

He rolled himself back to face me, creole food still in one hand. I wondered how I would tell people if he fell, we didn’t like each other as kids, maybe they’d think it was me.

“The voice, you know that little voice that tells you to jump.”

He frowned. “What?”

“The voice, kind of like—like a voice-feeling, you know?”

He didn’t know, and he told me so.

“When you look down over the edge and that voice says ‘jump, just jump.’ And you get that feeling, in your lower back and then right between your eyes, but up a little and it says ‘jump.’”

He ate his food, slowly, not looking at me. Then, “are you suicidal?”

“No.”

“The why do you want to jump?”

“I don’t want to jump,” I cried.

He placed his food down on the ledge beside him. He leaned back and looked down. I backed toward the wall some more, he sat back up. He smiled.

“Sure,” he said.

The party was still going on, it was still a lovely day. One of the women from the party cried down the road, “you crazy mother fucker!”

My cousin turned and gave her a thumbs-up, but she wasn’t talking to him.

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**

Gvlerbintinkinstry

His name was Francis and he was born with an odd gift. By the time he was twenty, he was still a baby and his mother was dead. They switched him to goats milk and kept him in a cage.

I found him on an app; F4F. I’d been having trouble making new friends in Russia. So, I signed up and put in my information, interests, morals and so on. It set me up on something called a F4Fate.

“It’s a date,” my grilfriend said.

“A friend date.”

She shrugged. “Still a date.”

I went anyways. He was ten minutes late, led in by his caretaker.

“His name is Francis, he was born with an odd gift,” his caretaker told me; her name was Olga.

I was half-way through my second beer. “Hi,” I told Francis.

“Omphlalaa boogle-snarf,” Francis replied, unenthused.

Olga shrugged. “He doesn’t speak English. He’s been alive for, hm–” she looked away, “a few thousand years at least. We felt like he needed some social time.”

I frowned at Francis, he didn’t seem too interested in anything, especially me. “I–uh, I don’t speak Russian very well,” I told her, or him, or both.

Olga sighed. “He doesn’t either, we don’t actually know what he speaks, a dead language presumably.”

She seemed bored.

“Humble-gruff!” Francis cried. Olga checked her watch, then nodded. She held out her wrist to Francis, he kissed it. When he did, her wrist glowed a bit. I frowned.

“It doesn’t hurt,” Olga reassured me. “He just takes a little life now, keeps him able.”

I leaned away from the pair. Francis did look old, but not frail. I ordered another beer.

“Umgfrlumpus!” he said, pulling his lips from Olga’s wrist.

I shrugged and ordered him a beer too. Olga declined. We sat in silence for a while. This is what I get for looking for friends on an app, I thought. Francis hummed to himself as he drank. I wondered when I could leave without running the risk of having my life wrist-kissed out of my body. To pass the time I had a go at Francis.

“So, what do you like to do?” I asked him.

He grunted. “Inklifundershuck.”

I sighed, then frowned, thinking.

“Inklifundershuck?” I said. Francis looked up at me. He raised an eyebrow.

Then, he smiled. “Jusflrunhcter,” he said.

“Klimblginter,” I replied.

“Vlimpsitsfik!” he cried.

I leaned toward him and held up my finger.

“Tlipl-shfffter.”

He followed suit, saying it softer, “Tlipl-shfffter.”

At this we both burst out laughing. Francis turned to Olga and held out his finger. ” Tlipl-shfffter!” he spat at her, “Tlipl-shfffter!”

He had to put down his beer he was laughing so hard. Olga looked from him to me in a confused sort of horror. She looked at her own finger.

“Tlipl-shfffter?” she asked, “what–what are you guys talking about?”

I shook my head, catching my breath. “Absolutely nothing,” I told her, feeling as though I’d finally found a friend I understood.

 

Getting Ready For Spring Cleaning

horror

**Someone asked me to try and write a horror story. I have never been a huge fan of horror and never tried to write it but, well, here it is:

 

I only felt fear once in my life. My brother woke me from the other room. He was screaming. I got up and ran, I got there only a moment before my parents. He was crying, shaking.

“Someone was trying to strangle me!” he cried. My mother sat on the edge of his bed, held him. My father led me back to my room.

“It’s okay,” he told me, “it was just a bad dream.”

I tried to sleep, couldn’t. Thirty minutes might have passed, or maybe I slept. I was woken by my mother.

“Sweetie,” she shook me. I felt her there before she shook me, but kept my eyes closed. She shook harder. I opened my eyes.

“Were you in your brother’s room?” she asked. I frowned up at her. I looked around, my father was standing at the door.

“No,” I told her. “No, I was sleeping. Is he okay?”

“He’s fine, just had a bad dream. Go to sleep.” She kissed me on the head, just where my hair starts, as she always did. They left, talking low. I didn’t sleep well.

The next night it happened again, the screaming. My parents made it there first this time. They all turned when I walked in. They didn’t say anything. My father walked me back to my room, left me there without a word.

The next day, I saw my brother once, in the kitchen, his wouldn’t look at me or talk to me. As he walked away I saw bruises around his neck, he was crying.

My parents came to me in the afternoon, sat me down.

“You can’t go into your brother’s room at night,” they told me.

I looked from one to the other, confused. “I don’t,” I told them, honest.

“Okay, well your brother says it’s you.”

I frowned. “Me, what?”

My father spoke now, “he says you’ve been going into his room, and–well, attacking him.”

I laughed, mostly because my brother is a year older and twice my size. They didn’t laugh. I began to cry, uncontrollably. My mother came over and put her arms around me.

“I wouldn’t,” I tried to sob.

My mother kissed me, “of course not.”

That night it happened again. Then, again. After the fourth night my mother slept in bed with me. The next day her and my father told me I’d be sent to therapy. She slept in my bed every night for a week, I talked to the therapist twice that week. At the end of it, I was allowed to sleep alone. I woke up in the middle of the night, unable to breathe. I opened my eyes and my brother was there, sitting on the edge of my bed, his hands around my neck.

I looked into his eyes, there was something different, they looked cleaner. It was then that I felt the only real fear I’ve ever felt. I felt it just before everything went dark around the edges. It was only then that he let go. I coughed for a long time. He sat and watched. By the time I finished coughing I was already crying.

“I just wanted to see,” he told me, his eyes no longer clean.

He leaned in and kissed me where my hair met my forehead. He left.

I screamed.

My brother got there just after my parents. My mother sat on the edge of the bed and held me. My father stood by the door, at a nod from my mother he went and took my brother out.

“He tried to strangle me!” I cried into my mother’s shoulder. I said it over and over. She didn’t say anything. I pulled away, looked up at her and realized, she was crying too.

 

You Wouldn’t Want to Float to China

china

I was nine when I found out people could fly. It was simple. Just two steps to the left, then up.

A girl in my class taught me. Her name was Kelly. She had bangs.

“Just like this,” she said, before showing me. I frowned.

I followed the motions. I froze. Like a bubble in cola, I floated. I began laughing as I floated. As I rose, my stomach sank. I started to panic, flail.

“Just calm down,” Kelly said, floating up to hold my hand.

“I want to get down,” I told her.

She shrugged. She held my hand. She began to blow upwards. I followed her lead until suddenly our feet struck grass. I fell, even though it wasn’t a hard landing. I stood up, red faced. Kelly laughed.

The shock hit me all at once. “Why don’t people do this!” I asked Kelly.

“My mom says it is useless. We don’t move any faster and it’s not like cars can fly,” she made her voice more shrill, mimicking her mother. “plus, it’s dangerous. If you don’t pay attention you’ll float off to China. And, they eat dogs in China, you know?”

“They do?”

She nodded.

I thought of my dog, Squeaks. I shuddered.

“I don’t want to go to China,” I decided.

Kelly nodded, approvingly.

“Can everyone fly?” I asked Kelly.

Kelly nodded. “I think so. Mom said she can. My uncle said that people in Spain do it all the time but he said that is because they are lazy and don’t have anything better to do.”

I didn’t know anything about Spain. I suspected Kelly didn’t either. I didn’t say anything.

I really wanted her to like me.

But she didn’t and I grew up. I checked the internet for her the other day, just curious. She is living in Spain, working for Microsoft. I worked up the courage to message her, asked if people in Spain really fly all the time.

She never got back to me.