FRIENDS OF FRED

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.

* * *

CHAPTER ONE

A COUNTRY OF FOOLS

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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