The Last Dance ~ fiction by Mark Paxson

“Russia attacks Ukraine.”

“Mr. President, Russia can’t attack Ukraine. There is no Russia …”

“Nyet! Russia attacks Ukraine.” The President motioned at the board where it clearly said Ural and where he had amassed a sizable force. “There is no Ural. There is only Russia and Ukraine will soon become a part of it.”

He rolled his three dice. 1, 2 and a 3. 

Danilo, who had only two pieces left on the last country he had in the game, rolled two dice. 4 and 5. The President grumbled to himself and removed two pieces from Ural. 18 pieces remained.


The President rolled. Nothing higher than a 4.

Danilo let his two dice scatter across the board. Two 5s. The President’s grumble grew a little louder as he removed two more pieces.

“Let us switch dice.” He took two of his and handed them to Danilo before picking up the two that remained on the board.


And again, Danilo’s roll topped the President’s. Danilo began to sweat for he knew this was not how things were supposed to go when playing a game with the President. But still, the President’s forces outnumbered his 14-2. Surely, his luck – good or bad depending on your perspective – would run out soon.

But it didn’t. Four more rolls and the President’s dominance had dwindled to 6-2. Danilo was on a roll.

“This is most unfortunate,” the President said. “I must fortify Russia.” He swept ten more pieces from a neighboring country and ended his turn. Danilo could do nothing. No pieces from neighboring countries would come to the aid of Ukraine. He smiled at the President, “I pass.”

Before he took his turn, the President picked up all five dice and shook them in his hand. “I take these,” he said as he picked out three, “and you get these.” He dropped two on the board. 

The President rolled. Danilo rolled. And once again, two of the President’s pieces were removed from Ural. “Nyet!” the President exclaimed. “Russia must win.”


A few turns later, with the same results in hand, the President looked at Danilo across the board. He turned then to one of his aides and whispered in his ear. 

“Again!” As the President rolled his dice, the aide rose and left the room, and when Danilo rolled and again defeated the President, the aide returned with two security officers. They walked directly to Danilo and one of them said, “Please. Come with us.”

“I … it’s just a game,” Danilo pleaded. 

“There is no such thing as a game,” the President stated. “Russia always wins.” He looked at the officers and nodded his head. Each took one of Danilo’s arms and picked him up from his chair and walked him out of the room.

“Now,” the President looked around the room. “You,” he said to the aide and motioned to the empty chair.

“Y-y-yes,” the aide said, reluctantly settling in the chair and picking up the two dice.


And the results were the same. As turn by turn rolled by, the President kept losing. At one point, he was able to eliminate one of the remaining pieces on Ukraine, but still that one piece and its corresponding die were steadfast in their defense against the President’s forces.

When the President had finally moved all of his available forces to Ural and those had been wiped out, but for one piece, the final move occurred.

“AGAIN!” the President shouted, his face red, sweat pouring down his forehead, his anger at a fever pitch. “AGAIN!” he repeated as he rolled the die. Five pips showed up on top.

The aide looked at the single die in his hand, looked at his boss, and prayed in his mind for something less. Anything less than a 5. He had a two-thirds chance of his prayer coming true. He knew that luck would not be with him if he rolled a 6.

“Roll!” the President yelled at him, taking a handkerchief from his pocket and wiping the sweat from his brow.

The aide let the die fall from his hand and swore under his breath. Six pips showed. He looked at his boss as the President lifted his eyes from the board and made eye contact. Locked on his aide’s eyes, the President slammed his hands down on the table. “Nyet! Russia never loses! I never lose!!” He rose and pointed his finger at his aide. “You! Out!”

The door opened and more security officers entered the room. The aide cowered in his seat, knowing what would come next. Either a quick death or a long train ride to Siberia. He prayed for his wife and children and that he might see them again. But the security officers bypassed the aide and went to the President’s chair.

“Come with us,” said the officer with the biggest epaulets on his shoulders.

“What?! Me?” the President yelled again. “It is him. He is a traitor and has defeated the Motherland!”

The officer stepped forward as another stepped to the other side of the President. They put their hands under the President’s elbows. “Come with us,” the one officer said again.

“But I am the President!” He pounded the table again and began to cry and scream in unrecognizable gibberish that poured out of his mouth. 

“Yes … you were. But you lost the Motherland in a foolish onslaught that served no purpose.” They roughly stood him up and with the officers forming a cordon around them, walked the President out of the room. 

Mark Paxson has had short stories published at Toasted Cheese, The First Line, and a few other literary journals. He has also independently published The Dime, One Night in Bridgeport, The Irrepairable Past, and two collections of short stories — all available on Amazon. He blogs at and, and is enjoying life in California as a semi-retired attorney.

Show Mark some love via PayPal at @mpaxson55.