December 4, 2014: The Great Bear of Brighton

He stands on the boardwalk. A hulking mass staring out towards the ocean.

A cup of tea steams between his hands. He offers me a cigarette and nods when I decline.

Strange News: You have many nicknames…Chatushka…Idolischa…The Great Bear. Any chance of getting your real name?

The Great Bear: No, no…even I don’t remember that anymore. I’ve been away from that name for a long time now.

SN: So why here? Why Brooklyn? Why not Russia?

GB: It’s different now, than when it was. Peoples minds shift, you know? They pray to one God now, they pray inside a gilded building. They’ve moved away from me. But, here, when they are away from their mother land they pray to me…I’m their last vestige of hope, it seems.

He shifts his bulk, his leather jacket creaking in the cold.

GB: That’s what happens when people leave their homes. They feel lost…their modern modes of thought no longer help them cope. So they revert back to me, back to their ancestral belief system.

SN: Comfort in the old ways?

He nods and sips his tea.

GB: Comfort, yes. Hope, too. The new ways ask too much of you. The faithful don’t really see it. They give and give and give and most of the time get nothing in return. The old ways…you give and you get. Tit for tat. It’s a cycle that has been broken back home.

He looks tired, drained. His tea has gone cold, so he pours it out onto the beach.

GB: Tit for tat. That’s how the world works. When your God doesn’t answer you, you go seeking others for help…that’s why I’m still around.

SN: You’re bleeding…

GB: That happens sometimes. Don’t worry. It’s not real blood. It’s a ghost wound. I was shot, now I’m here.

We sit on a bench and watch a lone seagull fly along the boardwalk.

GB: I do miss home. The air, the mountains, the language…they speak it here sometimes, but it’s not the same as hearing it through the mouths of the natives.

He unfolds a crossword puzzle and begins to fill in the blanks with symbols and numbers.

I watch him for a while, then I realize he’s done with me. I leave the Great Bear and walk down the boardwalk towards the amusement parks, wondering which god answers his prayers.

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