A wandering holy man named Grigori Rasputin comes in to Danny's Coffee Shop.
He is not mad.
He is not mad.
He is not a monk.
He orders tea.
His hair and beard are greasy and he smells like a barn.
He wraps his huge hands around the cup as women do--
It is like seeing a polar bear do cross stitch...
Absurd, incongruous, and somehow pleasing.
A panther, who is really the Queen Of The Vampires, insinuates herself onto his lap.
The huge hands caress her ears and a contented rumbling begins.
"I was debauched," he says softly, into her fur.
"I drank prodigious amounts. I slept my way through Saint Petersburg. All those bored wives with their salons and samovars!"
The panther is falling asleep in his lap, completely blissed out.
"But yet, my pretty one, this does not mean that I was not touched by God, and possessed of the true gift of healing."
At the mention of the Supreme Being, the panther does manage to half open one eye,
But she has gotten used to all of the waitresses here.
"When the Little Mother, Alexandra, implored me to save her son, the heir, I did so."
"Did you know, kitty, that I knew Maxim Gorky? As boys, we sat beneath the apple trees in summer;
I would laze about, good for nothing, and call out lewd suggestions to the local girls.
Maxim would listen to the starlings going mad in the branches at sunset, and he would write down all that they said. These jottings became his poems!
"In later years,
Lost in a cloud of startling white hair and whiskers,
He would sit on a bench and feed the great grandchildren of those same starlings, with loaves he would buy from old women.
"People would see him and say, 'There is Gorky! He is even this moment creating beautiful verse in his head!'
"But he wasn't. He couldn't.
His head was as empty as a sleigh in July,
And he was only there for the starlings,
To thank them."
A waitress named Denise brings Rasputin more tea.
"I was the Little Mother's spiritual advisor and the protector of her son.
The Grand Duchesses I loved like my own children, with never an evil thought.
"My enemies made up lies about me, you know.
I have always been able to please women, whether by vulgar or holy means;
For this, they shot me, poisoned me, bound me and threw me into the freezing Neva river in the middle of winter!
"It had nothing to do with politics! That's all pigsh--"
He had been going to say 'pigshit', but when the waitress walks by, he softens his voice and says to the cat,
"It was nonsense."
As it grows dark outside, Rasputin grows melancholy.
"Look at me, kitty. I'm dead. I can't get a woman anymore, and without that..."
His voice trails off.
The Queen Of The Vampires, who can shape-shift,
Has been on a being-a-black-panther kick for three weeks,
But now she stretches, yawns, and becomes her natural self again.
"Come on, sailor," she says. "Let's get out of here."
She gives Rasputin a wink and lets her sharp canines show for just the briefest of moments.
Rasputin feels as if he has been healed.
He feels as if he has finally stopped bleeding,
The lucky recipient of supernatural intercession.
"Look!" says an excited patron, someone from out of town. "It's Grigori Rasputin! He is probably plotting his Machiavellian schemes right here in Danny's Coffee Shop!"
But the truth is,
He is thinking of nothing except the joy of walking out into the evening with the Queen Of The Vampires.
He is there only for her pleasure,
To thank her.