Sunday, April 12, 2009

Chapter Five; The American Troll

Where did we leave those two? Oh yes, our intrepid pair were standing in that yard on Cathedral Ave with that talking statue.

Not any statue, but a larger than life grey visage of; well you know, the incredible and famous Edgar Allen Poe. For our guys, it wasn’t much of a surprise. Indeed, at home in Russia they could recall a talking tortoise and a chatty fish, after all.

But the thing that chilled them to the core was when the poet shouted; “Nevermore!”

It was indeed a magic word; of that Tanya and Kasha were sure. For no sooner was it spoken when it was followed by a rude noise from the hole, followed by a midget Viking, a tiny American troll.

Our Russian voyagers were more than a little suspicious. He had arrived like every other clever domovoi, nonetheless he looked for all the world like a pint sized American boy.

“George Bailey is the name and double trouble is my game” chirped the blond apparition.

“Well, I declare,” said our Princess who couldn’t help but stare. Kasha jumped up and gave the troll a sniff, taking time for more than a whiff; she examined all of those critter crevasses, so you would think he was covered with molasses. There are many things that people won’t tell that can be seen by dogs with an ever clever and keen sense of smell.

Kasha whipped her ears and let out a snort; she had to clear her nose before she could report. She raised her head, lowered her tail, ruffled her fur and started to wail.

“Holy mackerel;” said Tanka “does he smell that bad?”

“No he doesn’t, he doesn’t smell like that, at least thank goodness, not like a cat. But he does smell funky like wet hair or a dry frog; good grief, I’ve got it, he smells like a great hairy dog;” said Kasha.

Well Tanya took a whiff herself and sure enough he was a little punky but she was quite sure it was the essence of monkey. Having a great shock of russet hair on her head she knew all about hair that that could be said. Say what you will or wait and contemplate; she was fairly certain that George Bailey was a primate.

She also knew for certain there was nothing to fear, yet surely there was something missing here. She didn’t know what it was or something he had trot in, but she was pretty sure there was something this dwarf had forgotten. So she thought the prudent thing to do was to start the whole meeting anew.

“Did you forget something, just as we came, pray tell me again, say it once more, what is you name?” said the princess.

The troll started to hop and dance, almost as if he had ants in his pants. “What a clever girl,” said he. “I gave you two names but there are actually three. If you’re not happy with just two, there’s only one proper thing to do. Before George and Bailey they called me Keagan and as you now see, I leave it out for a prudent reason. You have no idea how things have gone for me since my parents named me K-G-B.”

Well upon hearing this, you could have knocked Tanya and Kasha over with a little tortoise wind. He wasn’t just him; he was also an acronym. What a coinkidink thought the pair; they wanted to laugh but didn’t dare. Who would though in the world of weird boys, one would turn out be a domovoi. Not just any old troll from a hole but a genuine spook, mendacious and droll.

Of course, Russians are very emotional. Try as they might to wear reason in every season, as every one knows, their favorite clothes are poetry and prose. What keeps Slavs in the pink, most assuredly is not how often and deeply they think. Nothing is simple and nothing is boring when we leave the logic and send our souls soaring. If you must know who and what is real, turn off your head and let your heart feel. This was one of those moments.

Tanya and Kasha were quite saddened and unhappy without really trying. Meeting an American elf made them feel like crying. When you mix new with true you often get blue. Meeting an American troll put them in a bit of a hole. You might call it the sad joy - of remembering – their own Major Dom O’Voi. It’s very difficult to forget a tortoise that will live longer than you do.

Tanya also was thinking that these Yankees never stop; just when you think you have a leg up, they’re back on top. Before they could investigate cheeseburgers and soft toilet tissues; they now had to deal with fairy tale issues. Up to that point, Kasha was pretty sure that all the little people and golden fishes, all those myths that might grant wishes, were peculiar to Russia. “Well, guess again sport;” Tanka declared with a snort.

“Now, now,” said Mister Poe; “let’s put away the Russian onions. It’s not like Americans invented bunions. No need to whine and wail, here’s the truth about fairly tales; myths are not things that didn’t happen then, they are more like things that happen over and over again.”

This got our Princess to thinking, some thing she often did without blinking. Has this guy got something up his sleeve or is he trying to say that truth is what we believe. “If this is so, what about ideas? And what about monsters and our other fears?” said the princess.

“My, oh my, I’ll give it a try,” said the poet. “Monsters are a curious race, and believe or not, they don’t just exist in any old place. If the truth be told, they’re not very bold. The reason they are so unkind, and often hard to find, is those deplorable living conditions in the back of your mind.”

Back of my mind, good grief, how unkind, thought Tanya. Kasha was also a little confused. He had always believed that scary cats and sneaky foxes came from dark places or stinky litter boxes. Well I guess you can never win if the worst comes from within, thought our fearless canine. So ogres and fiends are not just bad dreams, monsters live inside of us all; or so it seems!

“Yes, indeed,” said KGB who had been listening to the talk without and the thoughts within. “Some call them ogres and some call it sin, but the worst things about us are the creatures that escape from within.”

“And the worst thing about them,” said Poe with a shout, “is we all have the power to let them out!”

At that very moment the bushes exploded in a halo of green and out came the biggest, hairiest dog that anyone had ever seen. “That didn’t come out of my head,” said Kasha.

This huge hairy and curiously fragrant load marched right thru the group, into the street, and took a nap in the road.

“That’s what the smell was all about,” said the troll, “it’s just my dog Scout”.


Well it’s been a while Agatha, but here we are again. After Jeffery died, it was hard for me to think about fun things. But I think we can continue now. Next time, the princess and her faithful dog continue their pursuit of those issues; cheese burgers and soft toilet tissues.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chapter Four; Coming to America

Where were we when we last saw our two brave travelers? Oh yes, Princess Tatiana and Kasha were about to get on an airplane bound for America.

Well, Kasha had never been on an airplane before. She couldn’t understand why she had to ride under the floor – with the luggage. Indeed, when dogs travel by automobile in Russia, no one would have ever thunk to put them in the trunk. Kasha concluded that some people were not that bright and certainly not as polite – as dogs. As everyone knows, the average dog is a nicer person than the average person. Unlike cats, dogs are fond of laws and logic.

You might think that coming to America was a happy event, if so; your thoughts would be misspent. As soon as their plane arrived, Princess Tatiana became hopelessly homesick. Old Domo had warned her. It was Mother Russia’s favorite trick, leave home and you immediately get sick. Rodina makes you yearn and burn for the motherland, but after a while even Russians take themselves in hand.

So our heroine bravely insisted that home was only a place to hang your hat. But her hat less companion was having none of that. Kasha raised her head and straightened her tail and then proceeded to howl and wail. Crying is always contagious, so Tanya did her part. When they were through, both agreed that home was really the place where you leave your heart.

As everyone knows, the best cure for the blues anyplace is a warm brown puppy to lick tears from your face. The virtues of dog therapy are hard to avoid according to the eminent Doctor Freud.

So with Kasha by her side, our princess set off to see the world or at least the American part of it. Fortunately they had landed in Washington next to a beautiful river and they followed it until it became a sliver. Kasha was especially pleased because next to her tennis ball and food dish, her two favorite things were water and fish. Indeed, if she couldn’t swim, Kasha would often get fish in the secondary market, after it had passed though a cat. It’s hard to know what cats thought of that.

So west they went to Little Falls and encountered a towering height of Palisades walls. Fortunately for them, it was possible to go ridge to ridge across a very convenient Chain Bridge. High above current and tide sat rows of dacha’s side by side. Here was a village and other delights that the natives had named Potomac Heights. So explore they did, row after row until they encountered a talking head – the very likeness of Edgar Allen Poe.

He sat in a garden surrounded by flowering trees, giving free advice, big as you please.

“Welcome to our cathedral, avenue that is, and howdy do! How may I be of service to you? We are fond of great trees over our heads, shade in the summer, mulch in the fall and strawberries in the spring for one and all”.

How bizarre, thought Tanya, as she scratched her head, not that she couldn’t believe what he said. In all of Russia she couldn’t recall a single dead poet who spoke at all. Kasha of course, being a more practical sort, didn’t give the talking statue a second thought. No stranger, said she, than fiddling frogs or poker playing dogs.

“Well Mister Poe, if you must know, we have come from Moscow to explore several issues, especially cheeseburgers and soft toilet tissues.

“My, my”, said the poet, “you are serious creatures and don’t I know it. Let me run through a list of friendly neighbors who might assist. If pillage you must, we have a family of Vikings or a trio of boat builders might be more to your likings. We also have noisy cicadas and singing birds by the bunch or a bevy of svelte nannies who might do in a crunch. There are more than a few lawyers taking up space and scribblers and politicians all over the place. Yet I’m thinking we need to cut though the weeds. Serious issues often require very special deeds. Special needs if you please! I may have the answer behind those trees. The cottage just there is home to an elf, which, unlike yours truly, is both discrete and unruly.”

“Holy mackerel!” shouted the princess with joy, “we found an American domovoi”. Up this moment our princess and her dog were not at all sure that they could fill the holes in their souls. The past is a thing that doesn’t last. While not our whole life, it is one of those things that make our lives whole. With an eye to the future, girl and dog rejoiced. No matter how far you roam or how often your life seems out of control, nothing, short of going home, beats meeting a troll.

We may think big and keep those dreams on call, yet we never love and trust them as we do all things small. We see them in wobbly first steps and all those baby clothes that must be kept. Indeed it’s hard to dispute that even smelly kittens are cute. Big eyes, loud cries and first tries, a thousand inspirations for a hundred white lies. Floppy ears, crocodile tears, absurd poses and cold wet noses. Doll houses, miniature trousers, and a house full mouses. We do, after all, love all things small.

“A kopek for your thoughts,” said the poet.

“We have a domovoi at home,” replied Tanya, “and to know that he has an American clone makes me feel quite at home”.

“Here we might say hair of the dog that bit you”, said the poet.

“Bit me!” Exclaimed Tanya who was ever so prone to jump to conclusions on her own. “Dogs love their friends and only bite their enemies, quite unlike people,” huffed the princess, struggling to remember something else that Doctor Freud might have to offer on the subject.

“Merely a figure of speech, my dear,” said Poe, “poetic license as they might say in another day. Oh well, if you would be so kind, never mind. Shall I summon the troll from the hole?”

“Indeed you may,” said the princess.

Kasha jumped to her feet, the hair on her back rose. She unrolled her ears, tilted her head

and licked her dry nose. Neither dog nor girl knew what was in store as the grey visage of Edgar Allen Poe took a deep breathe and shouted the magic word: “NEVERMORE”!


Well, dear girl, there you have it. A cliffhanger. Next time, Tanka and Kasha get to meet a genuine Yankee troll.

Until then, girlfriend, hit the sack and don't look back.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chapter Three; Kasha and the Domovoi

Where did we stop last time? Oh yes, our princess had been granted her final wish and she and Kasha were off to Moscow. Although Kasha was half wolf and half seal, she looked for all the world like a chocolate Labrador retriever. Indeed, she had the best of two worlds, the cunning of Lupus and the beauty of a seal. All in all, not a bad deal. On rare occasions, mother nature will take pains to bless special creatures with beauty and brains.

Not that everything was peaches and cream back in Moscow. Indeed, Tanya's mother, who we now have to call Babushka, was about to get another grandchild. Sure enough she was confused. At her age she was expecting the family to grow, but she wasn't expecting dogs. And needless to say the tortoise was less than charmed, you might even say he was alarmed.

You see, our ancient amphibian was not just any old carapace. He was a domovoi. As everyone knows, a domovoi is a house fairy who protects all who live therein. And this is only where he begins. He was also the chief domovoi for all of Moscow city, a card carrying member of the State Security Committee. I know you might think this is a fairy tale, but he was also a major. Indeed, his full name was Major Domo O'voi. Way back in the day, his grandfather came from Ireland, yes, that far away.

Of course being a tortoise, he had the perfect disguise. The princess and Babushka didn't even know if he was a she or she was a he. Such things are not that obvious when one wears a shell.

Indeed, like most secret agents, Domo preferred to work alone and he would often steal off to obscure places. To keep track of him, Babushka attached a ribbon to his shell. For Domo the ribbon was not just a tribulation, it was outright humiliation. As everyone knows, even in Moscow, very few boys wear ribbons.

Nonetheless, amphibians, if they are nothing else, are patient and tolerant. So when Kasha arrived Domo calmed himself by composing a welcome poem:

It could have been worse, I have to admit that.
Worse might have been, an odoriferous cat.
A dog takes great pains and pride
in doing their toilet, mostly outside.
With dogs we are spared that rare kind of hell,
homecoming at night to that evil cat smell.

The fact that amphibians are nifty poets is not as well known as it might be because they speak so softly. Only finely tuned ears like those on a canine can hear their spiffy verse.

Howsoever, Kasha was quite pleased with the cat ditty. As everyone knows, dogs are not that fond of cats even if they're pretty. Furthermore, the issue of smell was to provide the glue that helped to cement the dog and the tortoise as the best of friends. This came to pass because tortoises eat greens and emit great volumes of gas.

Now we must be honest from the start. Only the keenest of noses can detect a tortoise fart. Surely, when Domo got windy the dust bunnies would fly. But then they would be gone in the wink of an eye. Now along comes a dog with the best kind of nose, so the need for those ribbons no longer arose.

Indeed, Kasha was also the first one to inform the family that she was a he and surely that was another reason to cut the ribbons. As everyone knows, tortoises are very quiet, but Kasha, with her big ears, never missed a word no matter which end of the tortoise spoke.

Meanwhile down on the first floor, the shoemakers were still busy turning cows into shoes and other leather goods. No doubt for the Italian market. Domo didn't mind the noise because Tortoises don't hear very well anyway. It was a different matter with Tatiana and Kasha. As everyone knows, dogs have very sensitive ears. Domo, as the household guardian, felt it was his responsibility to give the princess a break. One day, out of the clear blue, he told Kasha to ask Tanya if she wanted to go to America for a visit.

"America!", she screamed. "We would love to go to America."

"We?," said the tortoise. "Do you have a mouse in your pocket?"

"Come on, of course I would take Kasha," she wailed.

"America doesn't need any more dogs, Babushka can take care of Kasha," said Major Domo.

"Oh no, my dear Domo, you see; a perfect pond needs frogs, just as any good farm needs hogs and a perfect church needs a steeple, but dogs never need people as much as people need dogs," said the princess.

Domo was very impressed with the Limerick. The Irish themselves were very good with bad poetry. OK!, OK!, he thought. The dog goes too. But they need to have a mission, a purpose for their visit. First he needed to know what the princess knew about the good old USA.

"My dear girl, what do you know about America?"

"What can I say about the USA? Well, there's Mickey, Minnie and happy endings, flip flops, drop tops and deficit spending. And there's baseball, basketball and football or soccer with no score at all. What can I say about the USA? There's Memphis, Graceland and Hollywood, Dolly Parton and Johnny Be Good. Tabasco, grits and bar-b-que, Po, Tigger and Scooby Do. What can you say about the USA? There's Sousa bands and extra virgins, jello molds and plastic surgeons. Elvis imitators in cowboy boots, Halloween and turkey shoots. What can you say about the USA? There's sister wives and yellow mustard, the NY Times and frozen custard. Hot dogs, surfing and rodeo queens, wanna bees, bimbos and Maureen. What can you say about the USA? You can rock and roll or do a square dance or wiggle your wagon in Levi pants. I think there's more I must confess, for the moment, I'm out of breath."

After hearing all this, Domo was spinning on the floor like a top. Hocus pocus, he thought, this girl needs some focus. Tatiana was going to America for a few weeks not the rest of her life. Domo thought she should concentrate on a couple of issues, maybe two. More than that would not do.

So while he munched on a sprout, he tossed some ideas about. What do Russians need to know about the USA that they don't already know today?

If the truth be told, our major Domo was curious about his colleagues, American fairies and elves. He had heard from a usually reliable source, later confirmed by exit polls, that American hotels were infested with trolls. Indeed, the rooms were stocked with little bars of soap, little bottles of shampoo, little bags of snacks and even a tiny ice box filled with small bottles of adult beverages. After considerable thought, Major Domo decided that he should investigate those adult beverages himself whenever an occasion arose.

After much reflection, he decided to point the princess and Kasha in another direction. "How are these if you please? Let's say you examine just two strategic issues; cheese burgers and soft toilet tissues.

If the truth be told, Tanya was quite relieved. As everybody knows, she hated too many choices. Furthermore, she was especially happy that she wouldn't have to investigate those extra virgins. Such issues are fraught with ambiguity. An extra virgin could be a blind date, near sighted fruit, maiden aunts or salad dressings. Or who knows, something really depressing.

So armed with focus, purpose and a mission, Princess Tatiana and Kasha prepared to leave for America. When they stood on the runway, Tanya told Major Domo that she thought that it was nothing short of a miracle that in less than a day they would be in the USA. Old Domo disagreed, he thought the real miracle was this twosome, a girl and her dog, were off to see the world, and then some.


Well Ganya, here we are again, another convenient place to stop. In our next chapter we will hear what happens to the princess and Kasha when they get to America. Until then, out with the light, sleep tight and good night.

Chapter One; A Fish Story


This is the story of Kasha, a brave Russian dog who immigrated to America. In many ways she was like Laika, the Russian cosmonaut. Unlike Laika, Kasha was able to return from most of her journeys. They say that every dog will have her day. As you shall see, Kasha had many and most of them were quite extraordinary, We begin with her ancestors and the folks who made her travels possible. Chapter one is a kind of pedigree, something every dog should have.


Once upon a time, long ago before Perestroika and Glasnost, a beautiful princess lived alone with her mother in a one-room flat above a family of shoemakers. Ordinarily, a princess would live in a castle at least as big as the Kremlin - or a least in a place that didn't smell like shoe glue. Yet back in those days, before MacDonald's came to Moscow, there were a lot of poor princesses.

When she wasn't in school, our princess would try and read books written in English. This always confused her mother who thought there were plenty of perfectly good books written in perfectly good Russian.

"Why do you do you look at these foreign books, my precious, when we have so many in Russian?," she would complain. "Come on mama," the princess would reply, "they're not foreigners, they're just Americans. I'm learning English so I can see what these guys are up to."

This explanation did nothing to end the confusion, a condition which was pretty much a regular thing with mom. She was very much convinced that English and American were very different languages. She would often test her daughter and ask her to recite the five most important words in the English language.

The princess loved this test. She would immediately shout; "Hello, goodbye, please, thank you and you're welcome!" If the truth be told, there's a bit of a math problem here. In English there are actually nine words and five ideas. Mom loved to ask this question anyway because the same words were pretty important in Russian too - and the math wasn't as confusing.

In any case Princess Tatiana - her friends called her Tanya but her mom called her Tanka - had a secret reason for all that reading. She was an only child, no brothers and sisters. So she had a host of imaginary friends. They all lived between the pages of used, dusty paperbacks. No hard cover books, too expensive. In those days Tanya and mom were on a budget. With her book friends she could spend as much imagination as she wanted to.

Her favorite writers were Hemingway and Bulgakov. Hemingway was fond of cats, mohitos, wives and chest hair. He was an American. Bulgakov, a more reserved fellow, was content with cats and tequila - actually margaritas. Mohitos and margaritas - those magic potions - are what they are today because of Hemingway and Bulgakov, and those darn cats.

Oddly enough, our princess was not that fond of cats, but she didn't blame her favorite authors. However, she would complain to her mother; " If I can't have a brother, I would like a sister. And mother, If I can't have a sister, I would like to have red hair. If I can't have red hair, I would like to have a turtle or a pair. If I can't have a turtle, I would like a ... . " She would never get to finish because her mother would always interrupt before Tanka finished her wish list.

Finally, one day her mom said; "OK!, OK!, if you want a pet, it's a turtle we will get." Actually, when it arrived, it was a tortoise. As everybody knows, you don't have to move a tortoise from the tub before you take a bath. But if you want to take a shower, a little company is always nice.

Tanya seldom got to the end of her wish list, but if she ever did, she was going to ask for a dog. Then she wouldn't have to worry about amphibians in the water closet.

She wanted a dog like Laika. Not a famous astronaut, just a brave beast. The dog would, of course, have to be fond of travel. Her name would be Kasha, Tanka's favorite cereal.

For now she would settle for a tortoise. On most days mother would roll Brussels sprouts to the tortoise and Tanya would go on safari with Hemingway. Our princess was coming of age in those days. She spent a lot of time thinking about boys and wondering about chest hair and listening to the noise.

Down on the first floor it was always the same - rip rap, tip tap, rip rap, tip tap - the shoemakers were always banging on something. When the noise stopped, Tanya and her mom knew they were firing up the glue pots. That smell was always worse than the noise. Shoe glue smells like shoe poo. Time to take a walk.

Tanya would often ride the tram to the edge of the city and then walk in the countryside. Her favorite spot was a quaint cedar dacha near a pond. The cottage was surrounded by birch, Tanya's favorite tree. She loved the way they danced in a summer breeze. She loved the way the colors changed in the cool autumn. Most of all, we have to confess,she loved the way the bark peeled like a naughty dress.

One day when the glue pots were especially bad, the princess sat by the pond wondering if she and her mother would have to spend the rest of their lives living with shoe makers.

Suddenly, there was a great splash as a large rusty carp jumped from the pond and landed on the grass right next to our princess. "Come on!", she shouted in amazement. "Say girlie, it's early, you ain't seen nothing yet," said the carp. A talking fish is not that rare in the countryside. You rarely see them in Moscow.

"Why have you come out of the pond?," Tanya asked. "Look sis," said the fish, "take my word and gimme a brake, a fish outta water is always a mistake."

The fish was not the handsome sort, like a trout or a salmon. Indeed, he was very gruff and you could say he didn't have the best manners. If you are polite, you do not call a princess "sis" and certainly not "girlie".

Nonetheless, he introduced himself as "Nikita," and if the truth be told, he looked a lot like Khrushchev. He was certainly not the golden fish. As everyone knows, the golden fish is handsome and polite and always says goodnight.

Nonetheless, Princess Tanya, having a kind heart, picked up Nikita and was going to put him back with the other fishes. "Wait, wait," said the carp, "you forgot your three wishes."

Well isn't this a tasty dish, she thought. Save a fish and make a wish. Yet Tanya was perplexed. She would have been happy with one request. She always hated to have too many choices.


That's it Agatha, for now. So sleep tight and and maybe on another night you will hear more about Tanya, Nikita and the three wishes.

Chapter Two; The Three Wishes

So where were we? Oh yes, we left Princess Tatianna by the pond talking to that rude fish. Just as our heroine was about to put him back in the water, Nikita mentioned those three wishes.

"My dear Mister Fish," she insisted, "I would still be happy with one wish."

"Holy mackerel," he exclaimed, "this isn't Montessori school. You have to follow the rule. In a fairy tale, you see, the pretty princess always gets three. Not one. Not two. But three. I can't say that your dream will come true. You ask, then I see what I can do. You have nothing to loose, you ask thrice, but I get to choose.

And so our princess began to ponder and sigh as Nikita watched with one big bulging eye. He had been out of the water for quite a while and to be perfectly honest he was starting to get a little ripe.

So there stood our heroine on the verge of an anxiety attack. She was faced with too many choices, a thing she never liked to do. And she was holding a smelly fish too. She gets three, he gets one, she knew what she wanted, how could it be done?

"OK! OK!," said Tanya, 'I've got it! I would like to have a new flat and not on top of a shoe shop." If the truth were told, things were getting a little crowded at momma’s place now that the tortoise had moved in.

Dear Princess Tanka would often make a decision and then immediately change her mind. A gene from her mother's side no doubt. This was one of those times.

"Wait, wait!" she exclaimed. “If the truth be told, I'm very fond of that lovely dacha on the other side of the pond."

"Oh crab crud," said the fish. "Look girlie, here's how the new economy works. First you get the nice flat, and then you get the nice dacha. And this is also true; from me you get one or the other, not two. And no back tracking. You want a dacha instead of a flat; there's no logic to that. So to teach you a lesson, all you get here is your next wish," said the fish.

Nikita was a bit of an ichthyosaur apparatchik, a product of old schools. He believed in reason and the rules. If you were inclined to tell him how you feel, it was no deal. And of course there's fish Karma. While little ponds produce on small scales, oceans and seas produce majestic whales. It was no accident that the golden fish preferred salt water.

Oh my, thought the princess. Quite a stew, what to do? No flat, no dacha - ha, ha -gotcha. I'm wishing as fast as I can, yet I'm starting to see a plan. I believe for now I will just ask for a man.

"OK! you bug-eyed fish, here's my next wish. After thinking as fast as I can, I believe I have decided on an American. And just that will not do, he should be a handsome prince too."

"Holy mackerel, that's a sack full," said Nikita. "You must be joshing me; I didn't just fall out of a tree. That's not one wish, it's actually three. A prince, an American and a handsome gallant? That's two more than I can grant."

He knew he wasn't the golden fish, but he did believe he could handle the American thing. 'Handsome' and American might be a bit of a stretch. But a prince too? Momma was not the only one confused about England and America.

Our heroine was now down to her last choice. No new flat, no dacha, and no American prince. What other earthly delight could make a young girl's heart take flight?

Now I must really give this some thought, she pondered, without becoming overwrought. Didn't I have another list somewhere, one that included red hair? Let's see - a sister, a brother, a turtle or some other? Couldn't be another amphibian like a frog. I have it! I’ve got it! I remember! I have always wanted a dog!

"A dog," said the rusty carp. Finally, a logical request and its singular, thought the fish. Now all we have is a haggle, not a gaggle.

"Why a dog, my pretty?" said he.

And so our princess took a deep breath, smiled ever so coyly and replied; "Unlike my favorite tree, a dog could take a walk with me. And on our many walks, perhaps she could learn to talk. She could also learn to fetch and run. Down in the park, that would be fun. And on some cold dark night, if scary things give me a fright, I would smile, dream and not care, because curled beside me, she would be there."

Holy mackerel, thought the fish, this kid's getting better and I'm not getting any wetter. Technically, a 'talking' dog would be two requests. However, if she modified the request then he could logically tinker with the answer. If her wish were actually two, a half a dog might have to do.

Now at this point, you either believe in fairy tales or not. It just happened that Nikita knew a white wolf that had been quite taken with a certain beautiful black seal and they fell in love and you know how those things go. Before you could say mixed marriage or broken home, the stork brought a lovely brown baby with the face of a seal and, well, the body of a dog.

As everybody knows, a wolf must spend most of it's time in the forest and a seal must spend most it's time in the ocean, so half-dog spent most of her time in day care or at the pond with uncle rusty carp.

So that's how our fair princess met the puppy who was perfect in every way except that her breath was always a little fishy. Here again, that's the kind of thing that comes down on the mother's side. Of course, Tanya named her Kasha in keeping with her original intentions. The fish returned to the water and Tanya took Kasha back to Moscow where they both lived happily ever after, as we shall see.