|September 2011 Fiction Anthology | Contents | Authors | echapbook.com | Leaving Lake Baikal by T.M. De Vos|
It’s an imaginary space, like the oil paintings of battlefields or miracles: you know that there was no held moment or banner brought out with the date; the wounded would have to fall in real time; the savior would have to look somewhere other than up. And, like those paintings, new details were constantly being uncovered: there was a witness, the gun was in her mouth before the end, she was thrown out and perhaps lived for awhile.
I don’t remember if the make of the car was ever noted, but I pictured one of those longish cars from the 80s, the kind a kid with a gun could get his hands on in 1994. It’s light blue in my imagination, like the Magritte-ish clouds the old masters painted around angels. There’s a tire in the trunk, an iron, and that smelly old rag that shows up in every trunk.
It’s a comfortable car, the kind you’d put your feet up in, or jump into if your ex swung by and invited you for a ride. It starts as if it’s waiting and shrugs into a run; it’s a car to hang out in, to crawl in, down the side streets where the popular kids’ houses trickle into industry, where you can see the smokestacks by Outer Drive and wonder if you’re breathing that black batting. The locks click like suitcase latches, you have to press them as you start rolling.
You can horse around in it, no one’s going to pull you over—a trio of kids on break, jolting down side streets and making skids. The pre-holiday frost on the rear window is just softening, like a cold mug of root beer you’re about to drink. There’s a girl with you in the back, and you’re playing that game where you tease her for awhile and then give her a rough tousle. It’s how you flirt: shove each other around a little and, when it’s dark, kiss her.
When you take it out, you can see the shock on her face: she’s seen them on TV, but it looks different here, more solid. You toss it back and forth between your hands like it’s hot, you twirl it on your finger and whistle, you make some feints like you mean to use it.
She’s telling you to stop, in the same tone she uses to tell you to shut up in class, when she’s done goofing around and wants to finish her work. You’re getting mad now: she doesn’t have you on a leash anymore, you already got it from her.
It’s not that you mean to, it’s just that your friend kept making that hype-it-up sound and laughing at you. All three of you knew she was outsmarting you again—just like old times—and you needed your balls back for a second. So you start teasing her, asking her what else she likes in her mouth, and does this new guy know?
She’s stubborn. She won’t take the insult, scared as she is, and you find her palate. Your friend has shut up; he’s not hyping anything now. You look at her face: she’s not yours, even now, when you could lead her down the street by the teeth. You want to clench your fists and you sort of know doing that could make something happen, but your nerves jump forward and you let them.
You’ve never seen it before, you can tell when someone is there and then gone. She was breathing, you knew she knew you, but there was no resistance. The car has rolled to a stop next to the tracks, but your friend’s not turning around yet.
Your face is hot, and you’re sorry, but you’re pushing the passenger’s seat forward and unlocking the door. You’re grabbing her under the armpits, and she’s not a big girl, but it’s hard to move her now. Even when you’d pick her up kicking and shrieking and throw her over your shoulder, she must have been helping you. Help me, man, you say, and your friend leaves the key in and walks around to your side. He doesn’t agree, and you know it, and he doesn’t speak to you, but it’s like when you break something at a store, like the remote car or the little dog that does flips at Kaybee’s. You have to hide it.
You put her down gently, as if laying her on ice. Now that she’s out and you know the car is clean, you let yourself feel what you’ve done. Your friend doesn’t look at you; he’s not going to give you hell about it.
The two of you back away, looking. You get in the front seat now, and the two of you will go somewhere normal, where you won’t have fun. You’ll keep asking each other what’s wrong, aggressively, trying to get each other to fight.
She might still be alive, on the cold stones next to the tracks. You hope she’ll sort it out and walk home and talk to you in a few weeks when she’s done being mad. It’s happened before, when a few of you were sneaking out for lunch: you burst out through the side door, leaving her there to get caught. You brought McDonald’s back for her, but she wouldn’t eat it; you had to tease her for a couple of days before she’d give you that mock-slap on your forehead and curse you a little before falling back onto your shoulder.
|© 2011, T.M. De Vos|