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August 15, 2022


Cristian Cantir

The undercelebrated thing about the Soviet tea-cookie wrapper is that it stays intact - even if you don't - after both of you get hit by a car. The village drunks, or at least some of the village drunks, were driving. The man had long nails and nobody was afraid of him. She had thin blonde hair. Her eyes, liquored-up, slow-blinking, unfocused when she slithered out of the passenger door to try to glare at me sprawled on the concrete like cow shit, didn't seem like they belonged to a hooligan, which is what my grandpa said she was.

For years after, every summer, I'd catch glimpses of them at the edge of the village, slouched and plastered and somehow always walking by willows. One time I stared out the back of the car window and her hair was luminous in the green fog. Nobody knew why they disappeared but everyone had a theory. 

I had run out of the store, cookies in my left hand. A truck passed and I stopped a couple of feet short of the road. My auntie yelled something from inside the store.

Then I ran across. The car was an orange Moskvich, which my cousin says is a hilarious car to get hit by.

I awoke ears first, a dove cooing like nothing happened. When I opened my eyes, someone asked me to wiggle my toes and I did. Mom grabbed me like a loose doll, arm first, started dusting me off. I couldn't grab the cookies before my grandpa kicked them into a fence. His shoe came off and I heard someone chortle. When I looked back at my mom’s face, dirt had gouached grey tears on both of her cheeks.

After I woke up my entire family screaming in the middle of the night, my grandma took me to a healer. She mumbled a bunch right in front of my face in a dark room, her breath oily and smelling of sunflower seeds, and then she spit on me three times. In one of the corners of the hut she had an icon with a cobalt dragon. It didn't work. I just learned how to wake up quiet at night, mouth wide open but no scream, eyes shut, crickets close by, at least two of my kin snoring in the house.

Everyone talked about me for a while, then laughed when my lip scar looked like a moustache for a couple of weeks, then forgot all about it when the war started. By the time another village drunk gathered us around a well for a speech about tactics, I had turned back into just another kid with crusty mud in between his toes, lip scar healed, gazes of bemused pity gone among the neighbors when I hobbled back into the store weeks later to get more cookies.

I dipped two of them in tea after I snuck three teaspoons of sugar in it; they turned into a vague paste in my mouth and I stood there, barely chewing. I spread butter on two more, made a sandwich, and climbed in my favorite tree to eat and watch people crossing the road, safely.