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Buggylove & Ripov
by Albert Russo

A slow metamorphosis came over Ripov. It had all started the day he picked up a ladybird from a mud puddle. He would never have dreamt that saving an insect could procure him a pleasure so intense and enduring. He took her along wherever he went. When she traveled with her benefactor, Buggylove - that was her nickname - had two favorite spots. She either settled on his ringfinger or in the center of his earlobe, pretending she was an exotic gem.

Spring was in the air and the park sported its lovely new makeup. Ripov brimmed over with happiness. He made a point of rediscovering the city's nature nests and each day chose a different place to have his picnic. He, Buggylove and that symphony in green! What more could he ask of life?

Sitting on an empty bench, Ripov was hungrily munching at a pastrami sandwich. His attention was caught by a splendid yellow kite which performed elliptical waltzes against the sky. A shadow suddenly cast itself between him and the ethereal object. He nearly swallowed the pastrami and his tongue with it. A toothless, troll-like creature, wearing a poncho, stood in front of him.

"Mind if I join you for a bit?" the troll croaked. It then produced a huge apple from under its garment and offered it to Ripov. There was, an uncanny resemblance between the fruit and the creature's face. Both were covered with warts. Ripov found himself holding the apple on his lap. It weighed like lead.

"Raaahhh ... " jubilated the troll, its eyes almost popping out of their sockets as it noticed Buggylove on Ripov's finger. "I knew it, I knew it, you ain't like the others, you're my type o' guy," wheezed the creature, pawing Ripov's shoulder.

Instinctively, Ripov sprang up from the bench and scampered away like a tracked-down hare. Panting, he wound up on a shady hilltop and clutched a branch. He felt he'd wrenched himself out of a horror tale.

"Where are you, Buggylove?" Ripov whispered. His earlobe tickled. He gave a sigh of relief. "It's all right, Buggylove, it's all right," Ripov added in a singsong. "No bogeyman will ever hurt you. Cross my heart." And Buggylove tickled him again. At that very moment a young couple emerged from behind a cluster of shrubs. They were giggling but became mute as soon as they saw Ripov. The boy was extraordinarily handsome, almost too fragile for a human being. His companion, though quite smartly dressed, had an awkward appearance. There was also something unauthentic about her.

Noticing Buggylove, the girl exclaimed: "Oh, the little darling!" Then she stared at Ripov and went on humming: "What a darling!" Ripov smiled, stuttered and blushed. The boy approached him and smiled too. While the boy boldly kissed Ripov on the mouth, the girl who wasn't a girl smacked him gently and laughed, “Oh, you’re such a sweet thing, Ripov!”

When Ripov came back to his senses a moon crescent was shining through the leaves. "Whatever happened, Buggylove, why aren't we home?" He inquired softly. Then he heard a voice, at once muffled and so close, he'd have sworn it was his own conscience,

"You saved my life, Ripov, I made a wish on a night like this. Anyone who'd cast his or her eye over me would immediately fall in love with you. Oh Ripov, you deserve it so."

"Who's this?" Ripov yelled, suddenly struck by amnesia.

“Me, jerk, your BuggyIove, B U G G Y L 0 0 0 0 0 V E."