I’ve come to Frostbite Falls, Minnesota, the cartoon heart of mid-century cartoon America, where the moose and the flying squirrel roam, and where seldom is heard a word that isn’t some kind of dad-blasted pun, and where Natasha Fatale, infamous spy and elusive saboteuse, resides. I should note that I’m cartoon, myself, in this dimension. I have eight fingers total. My nose is too small and body’s been drawn to resemble a closed-up umbrella. My feet are illogically shaped and arranged, like two half-size baguettes, always in first position, no matter what I’m doing, but I’m fired up and ready to go!
But, reader, I am not long for this can-do state of mind. My interviewee will prove to be a challenge unlike any I have faced in my travels thus far. Having made a career in the arts of espionage and generalized fuckery, Natasha is, understandably, a bit of a closed book. One might call her whole countenance flat— two dimensional, even. One might stare at her wacky cartoon features for hours wondering what mysteries lay beneath those extraordinary eyebrows. One might watch her do the bidding of her companion, Boris Badenov, without question or protest, pushing him around in a wheelbarrow, following him over waterfalls and into mineshaft stuffed with TNT, never leaving his side despite her obviously superior looks and intelligence, and one might begin to think that Natasha Fatale is not a fascinating villainess at all, but is instead just a woman in a toxic relationship, one breakup away from a different life. But one would be deceived. These are tricks of the espionage trade, sophisticated methods of deception, years of deep cover training. This spy, I will come to believe, knows exactly what she’s doing, even if I never quite figure it out.
Natasha Fatale is very, very tall. Her eyebrows seem less bullwhip-like in person. She is dressed in her signature shade of deep violet. Here is what Natasha Fatale is not— a moody femme fatale. I find her consistently bubbly, with highly expressive features and an easy smile. Over the course of our time together, she peels and eats seven tangerines, fishing each one from a massive black purse with such flourish it feels like a trick. I find myself wondering how many more tangerines she has in the bag. Ten? Sixteen? Is the bag filled with them? “I am trying to quit smoking,” she tells me, when I finally ask.
This is the kind of answer Natasha loves giving: the cheerful non-answer, the sidestep. I ask her how long she’s been smoking. “Oh, off and on,” she says. I don’t know what this means, and say so. She responds by fishing out another tangerine. I ask her what else is in her purse. She reaches into it, shuffles around, and fishes out a cigarette. When she goes back in for her lighter, I think I glimpse a stick of cartoon dynamite.
Reader, this may or may not come as a surprise to you, but Natasha Fatale is not my subject’s real name—not even close. It is one of a number of aliases she has used over the years, and despite her international notoriety, her true identity remains a mystery. I won’t be outing any of her other selves today, as this was one condition of our interview, and I am a deeply principled journalist.
But Natasha is finished with the espionage game. Retired. She swears. She now drives for a popular Frostbite Falls car service and studies ethics at the University of Pottsylvania (UPotts) part time.
Though she wouldn’t confirm this, the word on the street in Frostbite Falls is that Boris Badenov and Natasha are separated. Some say he left her for a younger cartoon. Others whisper that, after years of physical and emotional labor at his behest, years of weathering his harebrained whims and cleaning up his messes, she finally lost it, tied him up, and dropped him down a nearby gorge. Who’s to say what the truth is? What’s certain is that Boris Badenov (also likely an alias) has not been seen in weeks, and that Natasha Fatale, or whatever her name is, seems deeply content with this fact.
I ask her how she got involved with Boris to begin with— “Blind date,” and then “I actually don’t know who this person is—Boris…what did you say it was?” Cool as I’ve been trying to remain, I must look somewhat exasperated at this point, because she sighs, plunges her sharpened thumb nail into yet another orange and tells me, levelly, “This person you call Boris was my boss. The one we called Fearless Leader was his boss. Mr. Big, his boss.” I say I know all of these things already. She rolls her eyes. “Then why would you ask me?”
Reader, it’s tough going interviewing an international woman of mystery. I zig, she zags. I stand to leave, she feeds me something small and tangerine slice-like in juiciness and brevity.
“Why do you think you’re still a household name,” I ask her, “considering you haven’t been active in years?”
“Xenophobia is complicated,” is her steely reply.
I ask her to say more. Instead of answering, she asks me how I got to Frostbite Falls. So we are at an impasse once again.
Still, Natasha seems to enjoy the standard questionnaire, and takes pleasure in answering the questions that don’t ask her to incriminate herself.
Name: Natasha Fatale
Current Occupation: Life coach/ Uber driver/ graduate student
Ideal Occupation: Philosopher
Favorite sound: Oh, I can’t choose just one. I love BANG-BANG! and KAPOWIE! and KABLAMO! equally.
Favorite food(s): moose and squirrel
Favorite vice(s): expensive purple dresses, crude explosives
What do you like, or do for fun?
I like traveling best. My favorite part of the job used to be going on the road with Boris. He was useless with directions, and refused to ask, and we were always stranded somewhere, losing track of the moose and the squirrel for days sometimes. Back then there was serious pressure from central command to try and sabotage their every move, so there was no time to waste. Still, those layover days trapped in mines or stranded on desert islands were the closest I’ve ever felt to Boris. These kinds of memories are nice to relive. Things change, of course.
What do you dislike, or avoid?
Dudley Do-Right crossover episodes.
Personal quote or motto:
“Whatever is done for love always occurs beyond good and evil.” - Friedrich Nietzsche.
Notes from the Underground
Breakfast at Tiffany’s
Who is your style icon?
What would you “rewrite” about yourself, if you could?
First of all, I would have liked more lines in general. Second, I’d have liked to slowly transition into more comfortable clothing as it became clear how much movement and physical labor our missions involved.
Do you think you are a villain (pure evil) or just an antagonist at cross-purposes with the heroes (Rocky and Bullwinkle)?
I think the universe we live in runs on conflict, that our situation—mine and Boris’s, Rocky’s and Bullwinkle’s— is a lot like the viking conception of heaven. Valhalla. We go to war with the moose and the squirrel every episode, a new master plan every week. Nothing changes. Nothing resolves. We do this for the fun of it. Does that answer your question?
What role does your femininity play in your status as villain?
I can’t quite decide if I’m a villain or a villain’s wife. Sometimes I play the voice-of-reason sidekick, others I’m Boris in a tube dress. I’ve got this rockabilly, Betty Page aesthetic, but I almost never take the lead in missions. I defer to him against all reason, so I never get to realize my full villainess potential.
What other hideous woman—past, present, or future— would you like to meet?
Nicola Six from London Fields by Martin Amis.
What goals do you have for the future?
Well, now that I’m completely reformed, I’d like to find a way to give back to the community in some meaningful way. Perhaps I’ll raise money to replace one of the bridges Boris and I blew up in our rowdier days. Maybe have moose and squirrel over for dinner. Life is long. I’m keeping myself open to surprises.
Tell our readers something surprising about yourself:
I’m in talks to appear on a future season of Dancing With the Stars. Fingers crossed I get partnered with Derek!
What is in your purse right now?
See “Boris on a Broomstick or The Flying Sorcerer” from The Rocky Show (skip to 2:07)
 I should note that I was unable to verify either of these statements, and as Natasha almost always seems to be lying her ass off, it is likely she’s still up to her moose and squirrel harassing ways.
Chelsea Whitton's poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, Sixth Finch, Bateau, Ilk, Poetry Ireland, Stand, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in poetry from The New School and is an English PhD candidate and graduate assistant at The University of Cincinnati. She is the author of the chapbook Bear Trap from Dancing Girl Press. Read more of her workat www.chelseawhitton.com. Read the entire "Brief Interview" series here.