The Tsar abdicates in February. The Provisional Government gets around to letting Fyodor out of prison in March. In April, he meets his Uncle Grigor at a Petrograd cafe. They talk about magic, death and revolution.
“I don’t care, Fyodka. Romans or Visagoths, Christians or Mohammedans, Tsars or…” The old man waves his hand, making a show of remembering the word. “…Bolsheviks… They’re all just different acts in the same circus.”
Fyodor and Grigor sit at a table by the window. They drink their tea in the Ukranian style, with apple slices.
Most of Grigor’s little sermon is familiar from the letters they exchanged while Fyodor was in prison, but one line rankles. “Politics change. What we do doesn’t. You should remember that.”
Fyodor wants very badly to correct that ‘we,’ to tell his uncle that there’s a reason he hasn’t so much as looked at his magic books since he was fourteen years of age. Instead, he blows on his tea and watches the steam rise up and disappear. When he does speak, his voice is subdued.
“In ancient Rome, who did the work?”
Grigor favors him with a sad, indulgent look. It’s exactly the way he always looked at Fyodor back home in the Ukraine, when they spent long winter afternoons playing chess. The look says, ‘I see why you’re moving your bishop like that, and I wish you wouldn’t, but I suppose this is the only way you’ll ever learn.’
Rated R for violence and adult themes.