Real and Ugly, and Oh So Hilarious.

Steppan laughs. He tries to hide it, or at least make the reason for his laughter less obvious, but he laughs all the same. He laughs as he guides the witless Americans through his beautiful St. Petersburg. His English is very good, having spent a summer with his uncle in London. He hears all their little conceits. He knows what they think of Russia, and how much they think they know about his Motherland. He is not particularly patriotic, but something about them brings that out in him.

It is good money, showing them around, and he does not even charge them too much extra to show them the “real” parts of the city like they ask. Silly children so eager to experience the world. So ready to see parts of another country that they would stay away from in their own. They do not want to look like tourists, which is why Steppan laughs. He laughs and tells his friends at the bar.

“Yes, of course the working man drinks here.” He tells them, and laughs that they seem not to realize that the Socialist Republic ended twenty years ago.

They want to get their hands dirty, or at least pretend like they know what it means to do so. If they really wanted to do that they could have done it home. They could have helped the poor back in America, it is funny how they all seem to think the rest of the world does not know what happens in their country. No, they do not really want to see the ugly side of things, they just want to feel like they have.

So he just takes them to any regular bar. He makes sure they never really see the ugly. God knows Steppan has avoided those places. He knows what happens, here, in Moscow, in Warsaw, Paris, London, and New York. There is ugly everywhere and anyone with any sense avoids it. These Americans have no sense though.

That is why he takes their money. He takes it and keeps them safe despite themselves. He takes it and shows them the “real” St. Petersburg. He takes their money, and he laughs.

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