This Bear’s Been to Space

Two friends were walking through a modest zoo in a modest Soviet village. The sky was frothy with whipped gray clouds. They stopped in front of a cage which contained a laconic black bear. Aleksey, short and portly, with a mustache that sweeps towards his ear, looked at the bear with disappointment; and Vladamir, towering and fair, dressed in a sharp coat with epaulets and copper buttons, stroked his chin as he analyzed the creature. They both wore hats made of beaver fur on their heads.

“This bear is no fun, comrade, ” Aleksey commented.

Vladamir read the sign and exclaimed, “Of course nyat, nitwit! This bear’s been to space! He’s a national hero.”

“But why doesn’t he bounce beach balls on his nose? Or clap his paws together?”

“Those are seals, you pea-brain. This here is a bear. And he’s not some circus bear. This bear was in orbit before the first cosmonaut in space, the great Yuri Gagarin. He’s seen the Earth in its entirety and now you expect him to do tricks? What’s wrong with you?!”

They stood silently for a minute appraising the bear as it muzzled its snout into its armpit, scratching itself.

Finally Aleksey spoke. “Well, why’s it locked up in this cage and not free to roam around then? If it’s such a hero it should be up in the Kremlin and not this zoo.”

“Oh, Aleksey, you’re such a flibbertigibbet. I’m surprised you can even put your pants on everyday without somebody reminding you you have two legs. It may have been to space, but it’s still a bear and will eat us up if given the chance. Especially you, my sweet lover of shashlik friend.”

Aleksey’s face tightened into a grimace. “There’s no point in getting surly, Vladamir. I’m just asking why this bear is moping around like somebody stuck a bee hive up its pooper. If I went to space I’d walk around proud of it.”

“You would tell everybody about it nonstop, I’m sure,” Vladamir stated, “that is, if you made it back without disabling the engines by pushing every button in the cockpit. My point being, you don’t know the first thing about space.”

“Sure, I do. It’s big and dark and it would take 16 lifetimes to get to the end of it.”

“16 lifetimes? The end of it?! Ha… comrade, with people like you I fear this great nation won’t last into the 21st century; and the damn Yankees won’t just get to the moon first, they’ll crush us and and we’ll be drowning in sugary coca cola if we keep making thinkers like you. Mickey Mouse will be poking us with hot sticks.”

Aleksey took umbrage, shouted, “That’ll never happen! That bear will put on skates and play hockey before the Americans beat us to the moon. This bear’s fleas will organize a more just and sustainable economic system before those dirty capitalist overcome our great and proud workers.”

“I agree, comrade. As long as we take a sickle to your gonads to make sure the motherland doesn’t create any more of you,” Vladamir joked.

The sad, short man turned to his friend and gave him a begging look. “I’ve known you for thirteen years, Vladamir. All this over a bear?”

Vladamir bristled, unmoved by Aleksey’s entreaty. “Not just any bear, you pee-hole dandruff, confused yeti. This bear’s been to space!”

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