2A – The Georgian Queen

Diogenes turned the corner and discovered the man in the moo-moo seated by himself in drag. His mascara had smeared, his hands folded in consternation, he drunkenly traced his ripped nylons with a thick finger, then peered at Diogenes with an ashen dejection despite his colorful make-up and outlandish costume.  Diogenes examined his glazed eyes as they struggled to focus and his body-language spoke of pathologic self-pity.  Here sat a hulk of blubbery-sad tissue on a lonely stool.  Diogenes took the couch beside him as a disco-strobe panned their faces from the hallway.

“Have you come to stare at the pain of a man’s ruined conscience?”

“Of course not.  I don’t know what you mean.”

“No, you probably don’t.”

“My name is Diogenes.”  He said, offering his hand.

Basarov.”

“Good. Why are you sitting here alone and not enjoying the show?”

“The hologram?  Old hat. Save me from pretty illusions.”

Actually, it was too much for me as well.”

“Too much?” he said, bunching his lips with disdain. “It’s … is not enough … of what is real!”

“And what is real?”

“Shame.   Shame is real. To worry about the future, one’s country — is real.”

“Are you ashamed?”

“What do you think?”

“That’s too depressing for a party — after heavy drinking.  There’s plenty to worry about. The priority should be to save oneself.  A friend of mine said you cannot save the world ’til you first save yourself.”

Greeting card psychology. I am not so sure we are safe here anyway.”  He whispered, then burped.

“I feel safe – that’s a change for me.”  Diogenes said, brushing off his suit, struggling to look at him dressed in yellow chiffon, but trying to tackle the worlds problems.

“No!  I’ll never cease to care, for my people!”  Basarov declared then clenched his teeth.

“Has anyone asked you to?”

“Yes!”  He turned his heavy frame and whispered angrily: “Do you know what’s happening in Atlanta right now?  With your people? Two street gangs armed with missiles and chemical weapons are blowing up what’s left of the city government.  Tanks are grinding through downtown Atlanta as we lisp and dribble about fine art and watch dirty movies!  Innocent people are lined up — then bulldozed into excavated holes, then covered up alive.  Mines which explode randomly are stuffed into mail boxes, in soup dispensaries … children are forced to swallow … !”  And with this he crumbled, slamming his fist into the couch.

“Where do you come from?”  Diogenes asked, changing the subject.

“Odessa … in Georgia.”  Basarov said, spitefully.

“But you’ve a Russian name. Were you … near the Black Sea?”  Diogenes studied him,  “It’s supposed to be gorgeous.”

“It used to be.  I had a happy boyhood.  I entered politics five decades after independence.  Before the Mafia assumed governmental control.”

“When did you meet Grabmaler?”

His expression soured and he seemed to resist a powerful impulse, twisting his mouth hideously, “I won’t … I won’t say.  But let me say this, this complex has recruited or blackmailed members of the Russian and Crimean Mafia.  Take our so-called ‘General’ Trepov, head of the paramilitary Blunts.  He led an extortionary network with links from Moscow to Detroit.  His family was kidnapped by the very Blunts he now leads.  He saved his wife by pledging obedience to Grabmaler, then sacrificed his children. And there’s the aerobic instructor Vera, who still wants to revive Stalinism!” He tried to laugh while wringing his hands.

“Both Russians.”  Diogenes asked.

“I just mentioned two. I’m a Georgian. This is, afterall, an internationale.”

“Why should this interest me?”

“I don’t want to be specific and endanger myself.  But, if you look at Russian history — long ago they were obliged to endure seventy years of Communist purges, executions and murderous dictatorship.  Our great great grandfathers sat on their guilt and took it. So did our great and so-so grandfathers’ generation.  If a member of your family is taken out and shot and you remain silent to save your hide — you share the guilt.  The sins of the fathers is passed on … it re — it happens again.”

Diogenes felt it was all too remote now but urged him to continue: “Go ahead, I’m listening. …”

“There’s a Russian novel which exactly describes this, translated as The Devils or The Possessed.  An opportunist lies to some local yokels that he heads an international revolutionary movement.  They believe him and he gets them to commit a crime together, gets them to murder, so that he can ‘unite’ them.  Guilt is social glue.  No one is more likely to obey than a guilty man.  You see, he got them to murder an innocent.  The book is a prophecy not only about Russia, or Georgia, but about our Internationale, our world anarchy.”

“No I don’t see.”  Diogenes said, growing impatient.

“After the Russians lost their empire — they tried to be democratic but it never took.  Well, after fools stole nuclear material and a cruel dictator gained power and tried to force history backwards, there was new terror, ‘liquidation’, again.  But it was too late — times had changed.  We collapsed.  For ever.”

I know.”

“Don’t tell Trepov, head of the Blunts.  He’s a real animal.  Ex-Mafia Russian asshole.  You won’t tell Trepov, will you?  He dresses in a white uniform with stacked epaulettes.  Big boots.  Big voice. Walks and looks like an ox!”

“Why would I?”

That’s why I escaped.  I was afraid.  This organization seemed to offer me security.  A better life, after I lost my family.”  And then his gaze fell to his knees, “You probably wonder why I’m dressed like this?”

“It crossed my mind.”

“I was able to pull my mother out from Georgia but she died here in the Plague.  After she left me, I met Grabmaler — while trying to sneak into my country from Istanbul.  A crazy thing to do.  He talked me out of it.  After my mother’s death I found a mission in life … but my personal life … it must sound pathetic to you … and there are other’s who are healthy who also do these things … but I take my personal refuge … in this. I guess you might say I am my mother.  Or my mother lives through me.”

“Makes sense.  Why not?” As Diogenes shrugged, Grabmaler roamed in and scowled circumspectly at the two.

“Diogenes, here are the keys to your room.” He said, “You’ll find Miss Duykinck has a bed for you and everything is prepared. As for you, Mademoiselle Basarov, here’s another drink — vodka — you can chat with Trepov, your boss, over vodka.  I know Russians love vodka!” Grabmaler slapped Basarov on the back, “Oh I forgot, you’re a Georgian,” laughing sardonically, “Trepov, you’re boss, is Russian.”