Yes, it’s a mouthful of an introduction and so usually I just say hello my name is Denis Stepkin. How my grandparents got together in 1959 – before either of them had achieved fame in their respective fields of literature and rock and roll – is a long story and even longer is the tale of my mother ending up in Russia. Needless to say my work involves sprinkles of magic realism and psychedelia and everything that was best in my grandparents. The past four months of stories on this blog wherein I’ve created different authors and stories for each day is also a kind of Borgian experiment in truth, falsehoods and fiction.  In a nutshell: a meta-fictional, psychedelic freak-out.




The Curse of Laughter



    On May 12th of 1949, after the twins were delivered from a sixteen-hour labor, their father held them in his right and left arms and joked that they must have been locked in a struggle to make it out first. “They’ll be no favorites in these arms. No need to fight anymore boys,” he said but Misha and Sasha kicked their tiny legs at each other and the nurses had to separate them. Over the first decade of their lives the competition grew in leaps and bounds as the boys constantly tried to outdo one another: Misha with death-defying stunts (a tight-rope routine on a barbed-wire for example) and Sasha with his magic and comedy act which he snuck out into the night to perform at bars outside of St Petersburg. For their father’s thirtieth birthday, Sasha presented him with a birthday card containing 500 rubles of his secret earnings. Their father’s other gift was a fat tie with a smiling Stalin on the front that Misha had sewn himself. Sticking out from the dictator’s head were real hairs which Misha had plucked from Old Joe on a trip to the capital. With the family’s fortunes in decline, it was obvious which gift was the dearer and late that night Misha ran away from home with tears in his eyes to wander the Russian Steps where he met an obscure tribe of Cossacks who taught him real magic. Upon his return, ten years later, his brother laughed at his wild and savage appearance. In response: “This is the curse I will give to you. There will always be laughter springing from your lips. Through death and grief and whatever you may feel inside, your mouth will produce nothing but laughter.”  Sasha laughed even harder at the curse but later that night when he stubbed his toe on the edge of the bed, his body erupted in laughter. Fear spread through his heart as his body contorted in apparent mirth. Over the next couple of years, he lost friends and positions in entertainment clubs from his inappropriate laugher. (For audiences always want to enjoy a routine more than the performer. They’re the ones who are paying after all.) The terror of the curse hit home the hardest when their father died and Sasha attended the funeral at a distance so as not to interrupt the somber proceedings with peals of laughter. Sasha plotted his revenge and, learning that his brother had become an aspiring writer, he sought out a suitable curse: his brother would never come up with satisfying endings to stories. Never.