Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Russian Folk Story

Simonov Seminovich awoke one morning to an unpleasant surprise: the wooden fence separating his goat pen from that of his dastardly neighbor, Vadim Zimavich, had been breached. From his bedroom window he saw splinters and posts scattered about like twigs in the wind, while the two flocks began to mingle like lacrosse players at a Goldman Sachs info session. By the time he had ventured outside to inspect the damage, Zimavich had emerged and begun to brand the animals with a smoldering piece of iron.

"Hey there!" cried Seminov. "We ought to settle conclusively which animal belongs where first!"

Zimavich grimaced coldly. "The animals are on my property. The right of salvage is universally recognized among civilized nations as extending to the limits of a man's private property. Unless you would like for me to report to the constable that my neighbor is a socialist, I'd suggest that you focus your attention on mending that fence."

"This isn't a civilized nation, this is Russia," replied Seminov. "And you know that we aren't rich enough to be socialists. If anyone's a socialist here, it's old Rabinovich. I hear his nephew is going to NYU. If you'd like to take this to the constable, I'm happy to oblige."

Three hours later Seminov and Zimavich found themselves sitting on a cold bench in the local police station. It was a busy day for the constabulary. A man had been arrested for attempting to sneak soap and shampoo into continental Europe, and the Italians were pushing for extradition. Then two local youths who were seen walloping a Jew with a street lamp post were fined for damaging the post. By the time Seminov and Zimavich approached the constable with their complaint, it was nearly four in the afternoon. As Seminov recounted his story, the constable yawned and checked his timepiece. "If you cannot determine what destroyed the fence or even prove that the animals in question belong to you, there really isn't much I can do," the constable sighed, his boredom palpable.

"It seems a bit unfair that my conniving neighbor ought to benefit from an act of negligence that was probably his fault to begin with!" Seminov objected.

The constable grew visibly annoyed. "Perhaps its unfair, but then what isn't these days? Think about people who were born with crippling diseases, inferior intelligence, or relatives from Houston. Is it our job to make all those people whole?" The constable then picked up a magazine and refused to look up.

As Seminov made his way home, he considered his options. He could attempt to make do with the remaining animals in his pen, but the prospects weren't good. By the time he got home, he realized that he had been left with two cows, each with the body type of a refugee, an asthmatic duck, and one of those tiny dogs that are often sold as fashion accessories for designer handbags. He knew an uncle in Kiev who might be able to get him a job in the civil service, but deep down he knew that he wasn't suited to a life of crime. What else was left?

Heartbroken, he retrieved a spade and a musket from the shed, intending to dig his own grave. Not wanting his remains to be dug up by the Pomeranian, he dug ceaselessly throughout the night, eschewing all comforts save for a glass of vodka. As the sun rose, Seminov thrust his shovel into the dirt for a final time, only to be thrown out of the ditch by a dark flume of crude oil. It turned out that his property was situated above a giant oil reserve. Now wealthy, Seminov started a multinational oil company and moved to Houston. His wife bought a Fendi for the Pomeranian. His two children dropped out of Columbia and moved to San Francisco, where they now work the counter at the Socialist Action Network Bookstore on 14th and Valencia.

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