April 22, 2010

By Michael Priv

“Gran’pa Baltazar, tell us a story! Gran’pa Baltazar tell us a story!” the little ones nagged shrilly, tugging on the old man’s tunic.

“Well, alright, my little pigeons, gather around” old Baltazar eyed the small fry affectionately as his four little grand children, all daughter’s stock, were nestling excitedly at his feet by the fire in the Great Hall.

“What story would you like to hear, my little fishes?”

“The story of Virgin Mary!” yelled Augustine, his eyes ablaze with excitement.

“Well, I don’t know. Do you really want to hear that old story again?” Baltazar shook his head in mock disbelief.

“Yes! Yes! Virgin Mary!” children shrieked ecstatically.

“Alright, alright! Ready, my little flowers? Well okay then. This story started a long, long. . .”

“. . . time ago!” little Freda’s squeak immediately drowned in menacing “Shhhhhh!” and was gone as if it never happened.

“. . . time ago.” Baltazar nodded amiably. “I was still young then and your beautiful mother has not even been born. It was that long ago!”

“Ten years ago?!” Augustine was five and he just started learning numbers. In his worldview, ten years was about the longest conceivable period of time indeed.

“No, Augustine, more like forty years ago, maybe even more!”

“Wow, that is very long!” Augustine did not really accept that as the truth but being a good boy he did not want to upset his grandfather.

“In those days I was a hand on a ship, a carrack Santa Maria, exploring the Atlantic Ocean. We were a good, sturdy bunch, all homeboys from Andalusia, experienced sea hands, held in check by Bartolome, the boatswain or, as they now say it, the “bossun”. Our Captain Cristobal Colon was a wily businessman and a mean drunk, all Portuguese are scoundrels, you know. But the pay was good. We were looking for a faraway land of India but that is not what the story is about. This story is about our Master-at-Arms, a fellow by the name Diego de Arana. I remember him well, a wiry fellow, fair in demeanor, always smiling and good at keeping the place ship-shape. Diego was invincible as if under divine spell. Nothing could kill him, nothing could harm him. Nothing!”

“Not even sharks, gran’pa?!”


“But why?!” the kids knew the story already but were holding their breath now awaiting the revelation.

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April 19, 2010

© 2008 Michael Priv. All Rights Reserved.

By Michael Priv

Dedicated to Old Fred, my teacher.

* * *

An exuberant crowd of some two thousand future US Citizens from eighty countries of the world packed San Francisco Mascone Center that pivotal summer morning. To the vast majority of homo sapience it was just your not particularly newsworthy time of day between awakening from sweet or troubled slumber and propelling oneself enthusiastically or otherwise into the thick of daily toils. Not so for the bright-eyed crowd at Mascone Center. We were about to be sworn in as Citizens of the United States of America!

“Soviet Union!” I heard the call of the Master of Ceremony. About twenty people stood up here and there throughout the great hall soaking in applause and cheer. I stood tall there with the other Soviets waiting out the applause and staring at the American flag with a lump in my throat. The flag was staring back at me proudly. Beautiful flag and what a powerful symbol of Freedom! Freedom to create my own future the best I can and as I see fit. Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!

Half-listening to the speaker, in my mind’s eye I saw a different flag, different place and time, a red flag in the central square of a Ukrainian village Krasniy Oktiabr what seemed like a life-time ago.

* * *



My name is Misha. It is an equivalent to Michael in English. Although “Michael” does not have any special meaning in English, “Misha” is the name for a “bear” in Russian. So for the Russian speakers I am a bear. I was born in Kiev, Ukraine, USSR, in August of 1960. That, by the way, makes me a Leo and a Rat, according to Western and Chinese zodiacs, in addition to being a bear by name.  A lion-bear-rat. Can you imagine the strange-looking animal I would make? Or the psychological personality problems such a makeover would entail? Fortunately, I do not believe in the Zodiac, brimstone, destiny or man-the-animal theory whereby we allegedly all descended directly from Charles Darwin or some other hairy creature. I do believe in myself. I believe in people. I believe that we are all immortal and powerful spiritual beings transcending our monkey bodies. And I believe that people are basically good and can always improve and become even better.

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