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by Nikolaj Volgushev

We kept returning to the lot because there was the body of a man there and good shade for when the afternoon sun got to be too much. The body sat in the driver seat of an ancient, rusty car, perfectly preserved as though frozen. The man had died at the wheel with a calm, tired expression on his face, which is the reason we came to see his body so much. We wanted to absorb some of his confidence. Apart from his face and the expression thereon, the man had gray stubble and big, purple ears and an orange hat. In the beginning, he had a warm coat with a soft inner lining but later he didn’t have it anymore because we took it from him, for when the night winds got to be too much. So he sat there in a wife-beater, his meager arms marked in many shades of blue, like art. There was also a rosary with a crude, wooden figure of Jesus hanging from the rearview mirror; the dead man and Jesus didn’t look anything alike. We used to come back to the lot and take naps in the car cabin with the dead man because we felt protected, or sometimes we would play among the branches and vines of the trees overlooking the lot or pick at the moss-covered roots that had broken through the pavement in many places. We stopped coming back to the lot when one day we came there to sleep next to the dead man but the dead man wasn’t there anymore. The car cabin was empty, apart from Jesus; the man was gone. We knew this to be a bad omen. We packed our things and went on a journey to find more fortunate lands. We promised never to return.

Nikolaj Volgushev’s fiction has appeared in the Cafe Irreal, Long River Review, and Jersey Devil Press. He currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts where he writes, programs, and does other things along those lines.

Lead image: “Jaguar” *with edits* (via Flickr user jason goulding)