Russia, most people knew, was a corrupted country. Its gutters swelled with sewage and its roads, in areas, were pockmarked with potholes, like the country had suffered through a particularly bad case of acne. Yet, if one walked only two blocks away from this ragged, slum-filled neighborhood, one could glimpse the white spires of the Kremlin and the famed onion domes of the St. Petersburg Cathedral permeate the pristine air.
There was an area between the dank, hellish depths of the Motherland and its shining façade. This area was where the minor officials lived – the senators, the judges, the lead bankers, among others of their kin. In this region populated by the upper-middle-class, in the middle of the picturesque snow-lined avenues and awe-inspiring gargoyles, there was a house that was the black sheep in its family. Not just the black sheep, as a matter of fact, but a sheep so dark that in the night, it became invisible- metaphorically, of course.
In this house lived the Putin family, comprised of one father (Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin), one mother (Maria Ivanovna Putina) , one son (upon whose shoulders this story rests), and two daughters (who do not, unfortunately, play an instrumental part).
Spiridonovich Putin was an influential figure in Russian politics. Among other jobs of varying legalities, he was the Moscow representative in the Federation Council and, most prominently, the leader of the KGB. Thus, the younger Putin’s childhood was blurry; a move from Siberia to Ukraine would be accepted without much hassle. Vladimir tolerated his father’s career as a part-time mafia lord, and in return, he was housed and fed.
However, a boulder balanced on top of a canyon rim will either break the rim or plunge into the canyon, and so too with Vladimir Putin. To condense a long story, when the US and its ally, the UK, discovered that the Fed Council was becoming increasingly corrupt, they sought to find the source of the disease, which led them to Spiridonovich Putin and his henchmen. Spiridonovich Putin fled, forgetting that he had a son; that same son, unfortunately, was incapable of living on his own and thus froze to death in a particularly harsh blizzard.
After his death, Vladimir Putin was judged and determined to be a redeemable person.
“God,” Vladimir said. “Will you do me a favor? Will you grant me the same characteristics –both internal and external – that I had in my previous life?”
The stone statue of God looked on impassively and Vladimir was preparing to leave when the statue spoke.
“Your wish will be fulfilled, but you will have to be a ghost. You cannot occupy a tangible form,” God said.
And thus, Vladimir Putin was reincarnated as a ghost. Because he was invisible, he decided to attain one of the things the frequent moves had never offered him a chance to do: get an education.
Putin walked through the halls of the school –ghosthood still meant he would act and talk like he did in the past. The only condition was that he wouldn’t be seen, and he would have a limited amount of powers - until he happened upon the eleventh class. The students inside appeared roughly the same age as he was when he died.
He passed through the door and into the classroom.
“…is our transfer student from the United States,” the teacher said, gesturing at a boy standing in the front.
“Hello! My name is Barack Obama, and I am 16 years old. My hobbies are reading, swimming, and worshipping the American flag. I hav-“
“That’s great, Barack. Why don’t you tell us about yourself at some other time? We need to proceed with the lesson.”
“Oh,” said Barack, turning slightly pink at the teacher’s interruption. “Where should I sit?”
Putin lurked near the back of the classroom and watched as the new student took his place in the very last row, as there were no more seats open in the front. He was sure that Barack, model student, would have sat as near the teacher as he could (most likely to brownnose and earn a higher mark) .
Putin slid into the seat beside Obama and watched the teacher attentively until the class was over. He repeated this procedure for the majority of the day. Sometimes, he was placed in the same class Barack and would listen to the same introductions take place.
“Hey, Barack,” said Putin as the school day came to a close. “Walk home with me.”
“Aren't you my partner from maths? What's your name?” Obama asked.
He can see me, Putin thought incredulously.
“You-you can see me? I’m visible?” He poked Barack’s shoulder. “You can see my finger doing that?”
“Uh, is there a reason I wouldn’t be able to see you?”
“I’m a ghost, so technically, no. You should not be able to see me. I need to speak to God- he can’t have messed up and granted me both parts of my wish.”
Barack backed away.
“It-it’s okay, you don’t need to accompany me home. I don’t even know who you are, much less if you’re sane or not.”
Putin rolled his eyes. “My name is Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. I died when my father fled from the US/UK forces because they were worried the mafia might be becoming an integral part of the Federation Council.”
Obama’s eyes widened. “You mean your father was a leader in the KGB? That’s terrifying. I don’t really know how I would have survived if I was in your place.”
“That’s sort of the point, Barack. I did not, in fact, survive. Hence the whole ghost thing.”
Vladimir realized that he’d been making frankly ludicrous claims and had no evidence to back them up. He pointed his finger at Barack’s backpack and crooked it towards him. The backpack flew towards Vladimir and he halted it with a flick of his wrist.
“That is proof that I am not mortal. I hope we can walk home now?”
“O-of course. Do you know where I live?” Barack asked.
“No. You will have to guide me.”
Barack threw a barrage of questions at Putin while walking home.
“Why did you decide to attend school post-mortem?”
“We did not have the resources to send me to school in the past. Now, because I am invisible, it becomes much less of a challenge to get an education. Better late than never, after all.”
“Does that mean that you have no supplies?”
“No- I don’t need them, either. Quizzes become obsolete and tests even more so. I am in school to learn, and to be quite honest the tests do not interest me.”
“Well, it’s one advantage of being a ghost, I suppose. Still, you should at least attempt them. The teacher doesn’t have to realize- after the test, I will let you borrow mine and you can complete it without looking at the answers.”
“Okay, Obama. Do I have to do my homework, too?”
“Of course! Why would you even imagine the possibility of not doing it?”
They remained silent for the rest of the walk until finally, Putin realized they had arrived at his house. He bid goodbye to Obama and smiled as he entered the proverbial black sheep-house of the neighborhood.
At this point it becomes necessary to give an explanation for why the house was known as the worst. It is a simple matter- part-time mafia lords/senators do not mix well with children. The neighborhood knew the natures of the inhabitants of the house, and thus judged them accordingly. Vladimir and Spiridonovich were frowned upon and because of the frequent moves, never had a chance to fully establish themselves.
Because of this, for better or worse, Vladimir was always one step ahead or behind of his peers-never with them.