“After Impact” Dark, Apocalyptic Fiction by Mark Antokas

There are times in life when clarity comes to a man, when he realizes it is useless to struggle against the current, when it is easier to negotiate around his grunting compatriots and to follow a truer course–the path of least resistance. Moses is one man’s name. Birdy calls him The Jew.

He walks into the Robin’s Nest Bar and Grill, parting the accumulated atmospheres of body heat and smoke. The music is loud, and people inebriately speak of former times: those recent times when the seasons and the worth of a man could easily be delineated, when prospecting for the value of a soul unnecessary, when plumbing the meaning of your own existence is enough without attempting to fathom your neighbor’s. Moses slips past a perspirant drunk dancing with a reluctant farm girl. The farmhand is still dressed in his working clothes, still stinks of the barnyard, still has clumps of manure dried to his boots. She sports jeans well past their prime, a pilled pink sweater and cowboy boots. Morose, she relinquishes herself to the attention of the dance floor. It is a Saturday afternoon by rote, and the lunch hour.

The first cut haying is done, most likely it’s the only cutting to be done. The corn has yet to be harvested and won’t. Unripe ears, the promise of food and fuel for the winter, next year’s seed, hang on stilted stalks waiting for a sun which will not come. As farming people might, most take comfort in a wait-and-see attitude. The situation is of catastrophe. The sun has not appeared in many days, and an unseasonable chill has claims on August.

A few people say hello to Moses, whether they know him or not, with the friendly innocence that comes parceled in with the farm. Some turn at the opening of the door, at Moses, at the fresh clean breeze blowing the collective smoke from their faces. They awake to a foreign presence, turn back to their beer and talk of personal problems, common struggles with the environment, and new model threshing machines. The bar is the only one in town. It is on the farthest edge. Everyone knows everyone else by sight, by nickname, or by reputation. Moses is the foreigner.

He comes from a place where music, poetry, and the arts, flourish in a culture older, wiser, and more graceful. As a boy, others called him Pharaoh. His triangular face, olive complexion, brown and byzantine eyes stand him apart from most here.

He sits himself at an empty stool at the bar, trades glances here and there in hello, orders tomato juice and beer.

Barbara makes a face and pours it.

A few look on as she mixes the two together and go back to whatever they have been doing or not doing.

A riotous splash of sound and activity in an otherwise quiet pond, this bar is mostly empty by two. These boys work hard, sun or no sun.

Stanya Stanislavska, provocatively dressed, sits three seats down at the corner. She glances at the Jew. She sits alone. Every man in the bar wants her. Careful and controlled in every movement, she speaks only to the bartender.

Moses keeps one eye on her, and one on the televised news. It wages a losing war. More incoherent words about an inconceivable situation. For the moment, the jukebox, and the blare of country music win.

Moses has placed himself next to a suntanned man. Birdy is his name. He clears his throat and launches into what will be a long conversation. “Eighteen hundred acres, Jew,” Birdy says as if he’d already been on the subject, “eighteen hundred acres. All the land you could ever want. My father. He didn’t want anything done with it. After the old house burned”–his look is of arson and insurance.–“he told me, now you can’t bring no more girls here. He knew I was bringing them there when he was working nights at the mill and I was pounding them there. But the muck Jew, was so rich, with lime in it Jew-people were growing flowers”–he pronounces it ‘fla-waz’–“big like this.” His hands are far apart. They are like big, burled parts of tree stumps: knotted, torn out from the earth by flood, like driftwood smoothed by the tides.

Moses looks closer and assesses. Birdy isn’t a tall man. Dark-rimmed glass ashtrays owl his face and better his vision. His shoulders are tough and broad, and perennially slung with multicolored suspenders. Moses knows him as an out crier in the hammer business, a hawker and a crooner and someone who you know you better watch.

Birdy runs consignment auctions every other Saturday night. On auction nights, he accepts merchandise all day long. Through those halls run the hideous to the sublime. About four o’clock on those auction afternoons, ready for the show, he runs home and changes into a brown suit, several years old but in good shape, a fedora hat with a hint of peacock, and as always, the suspenders. At seven, in his serviceable black shoes, he begins the sale in a braying and unmelodic voice.

“Women, Jew,” he deviates for an instant.

The blonde Stanya rests untouchable at the end of the bar. “You think they ain’t got dicks? They got dicks this long.” He outstretches again just as he had done in his rendition of flowers. “They got dicks this long. Only you can’t see them because they’re invis-idible. Yeah. They’ll get you with them too.”

The American locker room. Moses smiles and considers his drink with eyes on Stanya, he motions to the barkeep. “Buy that lady a drink–And buy yourself one too.” He pushes some money forward on the bar.  What the hell. Money has become nothing. Just that morning he sold an old tanning lamp for the price of a used car. The human animal is a creature of the sun. “Yeah. So, what about the eighteen hundred acres of muck?” Moses asks, as it’s far better than talking about impacts and craters and descending clouds.

“I was getting seventy-five cents a bucket.” Birdy says. “Those people were buying it like crazy. Then, I started selling it to the town for a dollar. Then, my father found out. That’s when I broke the bridge, Jew. I was so overloaded in my truck, it just went. His bridge. He made me fix it, and he just sat in his truck with it running and the heater on. He had that smirk on his face, told me I’d have to pay him back for the buckets I’d sold to the town. But I didn’t. That’s when I went to live in the foster home. But the muck, Jew. Eighteen hundred acres of it. My god.” Shaking his head, he grins at Moses. An artistic scammer, he is an axe surgeon pirouetting through the nutcracker, sugarplums and gingerbread dances through his head. “The muck, all eighteen hundred acres of it.”

No problem, prosim Moses indicates silently with a flourish of the head taking in Stanya whole, her eyes almond-sweet, cobalt-blue, lashed to perfection. He drinks of her oval face–stoic, sedative, surrounded by a shining nimbus of hair now pulled back tight. She holds a sense of understated elegance, is a reticent Slavic beauty, has been schooled in the arts. All this, splat in the heart of a comic cartoon farming community. Moses feels it and everyone knows it, inside Stanya is a pure and simple animal warmth.

The Jew removes his gaze.

Birdy expands his audience. Central and correct in his place midpoint at the bar, he starts in with poor Julian Budd, a man who works for the town. “Women. I’ll tell you. They ain’t no good. Hey” Birdy says so all in the bar can hear. “I hear your wife is leaving you.” And he laughs.

Dumfounded, as sheepish as if he is covered in wool, he feels foolish when the road crew boss says yes, that it is true, that he couldn’t care less, that he’ll load his truck with his belongings and just take off. He has always wanted to see the ocean.

“Hey. I was just joking,” Birdy says contrite, “I didn’t know that.”

Julian goes on to say that seeing how there isn’t any children anymore, he can just get up and go whenever the spirit moves him. What with the end of the world and all that.

“Women,” Birdy says again. “You think they ain’t got dicks?”

Francis Teyssier, French-American, a Gaul, Frankish, sits in a far booth brooding before a bottle of whiskey. The doomsayers have been right. It is the day of retribution. Payback time. Everyone has sinned. The newspapers all say the end of the world is close at hand, weeks at most, only days perhaps.

In the days before the impact, life for Francis Teyssier was orderly, predictable, and boring. Get up in the morning to “Joey- The Bebop King Fossey” and his morning show on WKXZ, then coffee, then straight to the toilet. Read the front lawn newspaper. A quick shower and a shave before teaching applied science at the East Side School. He has worked here every school day since graduating sixteen years ago from State. After six classes and three breaks, he goes home. Clean the house on Saturdays, shop on Sundays when his choices are limited and the stores not crowded. Back to school on Monday.

In the days before the impact, Francis Teyssier took consolation and comfort in the fact that he was tenured, and that he’d need only four more years until retirement. Some joke now. Francis–or Frank as his closest friends were used to calling him–went from sneering sarcasm, to utter disbelief. The government is now in complete disarray. The ship of state is the only kind of ship that can leak from the top. The ship of relations–he looks over the back of his seat towards Stanya–is the only one that can leak from the heart. Straight from the bottle he gulps down another shot.

All of his neighbors, sedated in their cocoons, pink flamingos outside their Leavitt-like homes, his otherwise educated colleagues, oh, the sophisticated rationale on why it all was. The pastor of his church who has always wanted to drive a Porsche and has rented one yesterday for the whole month figuring what the hell, you only live once. In the cities, the looting by the common man in the streets. They were out there after the first day, sniffing around, testing the waters, pushing the limits of the envelope in full view of the police, whose only directive was to see no one of importance gets physically hurt. And that Stanya next door, oh how he’s wondered about her when her husband is not around and when he is swaying in masturbation side to side in the hammock of his front yard, or manicuring the grass in straight even lines. Those sunny days, she comes out in that lowcut braless, the one that fits so tight you can see the indentation of her navel, and her almost see-through skirt. She pretends to weed the flowerbed that separates their properties. He is a burning bag of repressed sexual shit just waiting to be thrown from a third-story window, and God help the one who happens to be passing by. The cruelty of it all. So, the poor man has decided for himself, to now go silently berserk.

The government has sold out the people. Has taken a powder and abdicated. They at first tried an impossible coverup. Then they foolishly admit there is very little hope. The meteorite struck the desert east of L.A. creating a crater that extends to the Pacific. Killing millions, a tidal wave took care of coastal British Columbia and Central America to the south. The Earth has taken on a new and evil wobble, and a thick and viscous shroud slowly descends upon the rest of the world. The green earth groups foolishly say that this is an environmental problem of enormous extent. Some folks think of it as an invader from the outer limits of space. Some believe it to be divine intervention, the second coming, and they are ready. Right now, all Francis Teyssier knows is he wants her, Stanya Stanislavska, sitting there in the corner of the bar, in the worst way. But he is petrified of Nicolai.  

No one in town ever sees Nicolai work. He is rumored to have connections with the Russian mob. Cars and boats appear periodically in the driveway then disappear. People say he launders money. No one can tell precisely what his views are, as he speaks little if no English. A curt, sharp-eyed, sizing-up and nod is all that can be expected in the mornings.

Stanya is another story. She has something Francis can-not characterize. For the two years she and Nicolai have been living next door, she bends over the low fence, her long fingers grasping the top in an earth-encrusted hold, and music pours from her body in a Hapsburg Empire conversation that Francis finds unnerving at best, given the eyes he always feels upon him from inside the house. That Nicolai frightens him, Francis reasons in the days and months before the impact, is normal. All in the neighborhood say the house is an arsenal of guns and ammunition and explosive devices.

At this point, it hardly matters. Come blow me up if you like. But Francis cannot move.

*

Three days ago, right after the impact, Francis Teyssier sits under a perpetual shade, perches on the edge of a hammock slung between two Mimosa trees. He waits for Stanya to come out. She has become the only excitement in his life, and he knows her schedule intimately. He doesn’t have to wait long.

Nicolai comes out first. He is unusually dressed in a long flowing black robe, black pants, a strangely shaped square hat, and a three-day beard. The massive gold cross gives away the intent and the guise. He hurries from the house and down the street.

“He thinks he is a priest,” Stanya says from her side of the flowerbed. She wears only a thin housedress, and Francis imagines, little underneath. “He’s going to the main terminal. He wants to preach. I suppose in these times, people should be allowed to do what they want.” Stanya plays with the first few buttons of her dress, awaiting reaction from her passive neighbor. Looking into Francis’ eyes she asks huskily, “Don’t you?”  

“Yes,” Francis says lowers his eyes from the crack of her bosom. “I suppose.”

“Frank, may I ask you a question?”

“Yes.”

“Have you ever seen the mist rising in the mornings from the river Vltava?”

“What?” Francis does not know where that is.

Stanya pats back the buttons of her dress. “Oh, never mind.”

*

The only Jew in the bar orders another drink. He lipreads the news. Satellite radar shows in slow repetition, how the cloud has been drifting east upon the North American continent. You don’t need a satellite to see that. Fall would come early this year. Maybe an endless winter.

Moses has been visiting this rural town, feeding a city dealer antiques. They can be bought in this depressed area cheaply. Occasionally he buys from houses, direct and sometimes he runs pieces through Birdy’s auction if they aren’t quite right for his picky customers downstate, and to cover his expenses.

But in the recent months before impact, he has become tired of the auction game–the hustle, the back biting, the bidding up, the buying back, and the petty intrigues. Little matters. Everyone rushes to get rid of their belongings. They try to scrape up a little something for a last fling, psychotherapy, purification, or pilgrimage. The worth of things has shifted. Who wants antiques when a simple sunlamp is heaven?

Birdy picks at his nose, and burps out loud. He is thinking hard. What can he sell to the Jew? “Hey, Jew, I got a nice Coca-Cola machine in the auction house. It’s from the forties, real clean. Works, too.”

“Have to pass on that Birdy. Not warm enough lately for a Coke.”

*

The sign reads ROBIN’S NEST, pop. 238. Moses stops in at the auction house. He’s looking for a new place to buy. The dilapidated building in the center of town, right next to the Quick-Stop Gas Station, has been at one time a gem of a structure, with French doors inside, embossed metal ceilings and a hardwood floor. It is so ill maintained now you would hardly think piles of antique Victorian furniture and smalls are inside. A hand-painted ANTIQUES sign hangs skewed over the door, which is wide open with no one around. He checks the Quick-Stop. Someone says the owner is probably at the grill. Another suggests he’s in the hardware store. Birdy finally shows, an apparition, as if he’s been there all the time.

Moses says, “I wonder if I could get some prices.”

“Sure. “Whad’ya need?” He looks Moses over, notices the car, categorizes the shoes.

Moses knows he’s being catalogued. 

A careful Birdy sizes up new prey. This isn’t his regular crowd. This is an unknown commodity, not the occasional fat-cat from the city who can be taken for a ride. This guy is probably in the business.

“What about that Stickley piece over there?”

Birdy launches into an imagined history of the piece, incorrectly labels it as ‘Arts and Crafts,’ makes it out to be older than it is, insists that it is signed. It is Moses’ turn for assessment.

Some people operate by giving others absolutely no information about their affairs, keep them guessing all the time. Birdy’s approach is entirely the opposite. He offers too much information. Usually, this is of a conflicting nature. With just the right touch of secrecy, a hint of illegality, the information is always wordy, and inflated. This is his style, his mandate, it always works. Should people think of him as simple, they lower their guard.

“Oh. Yeah, Stickley,” Birdy says in understatement. “People collect that stuff. That’s real good. It’s signed on the back. I’ll take five hundred.” He drops his eyes toward the ground, shrugs broad shoulders in order not to intimidate.

The price is high. This guy might be illiterate but is no fool. “And how about that Icart print over there?”

“Oh. Yeah. That’s original. I got it out of a house. It’s signed too.”

Moses taps the frame with the point of a fingernail.  The numbered print is a good copy. The frame, Rococo, incorrect.

“A thousand,” Birdy says knowing it would only bring two hundred at auction. “But I’ll let it go for eight hundred.”

It is a good price if it had been real. “Yeah, well, thanks. I’ll be in touch.”

Birdy follows Moses out into the daytime sun, insisting that his prices are flexible.

*

Julian Budd, the road boss for the town, cantilevers at the bar near Birdy, beer in hand. Julian Budd is a plain man who likes to invent words in his speech, use old phrases, like, she took a tumble instead of she fell. He once told Birdy that as a boy, he sniffed gas tanks for fun, and then ate potted meat and cheese sandwiches. His father once said to him, “Take a look around you son, at all the assholes that you work with. They will all be your supervisors someday.” Beaten into intemperance by a life filled with nothing, he wants nothing other than to drink himself dumb.

*

One morning before the impact, with the previous night’s bottle empty and staring him in the face, Julian Budd arrives at the conclusion that he must go into the basement and kill himself. Not a good sleeper, he tosses and turns all night, giving himself ample opportunity to dream bits and pieces through the night. Around five this morning, he decides that suicide is the only way. Too many complications in his fifty -year -old life.

For months he’s been unhappy, listless, a malcontent, and black thoughts of his past life persist. Small snapshots appear in his consciousness, little carrier pigeon messages like a movie in reverse, he plods through his days. The woman he married thirty years ago sleeps like a rock on the outer recesses of their communal bed, immobile and distant, untouchable in spirit and mind. He is tired of it all–the arguments, misunderstandings, the rock-hard disagreements and the betrayals of marriage. He has tried everything to understand the woman, to accommodate her, to bend even more, and nothing seems to work. He has thought about divorce, but being delicate of heart, or perhaps just afraid of being alone, he returns to the hell that was his married life. So, cyanide, electrocution, a razorblade, killing himself in the basement is the only way to go.

Seven years ago he leaves the house, after they put his daughter into the ground. Karen Budd, the tombstone reads, aged nineteen. She’s gone to a better place everyone says. Pity, she hanged herself while in pantyhose and bra, from the rafters of her small apartment, used a pair of black nylons to do it. You’ll go on with your life, they say. The next Saturday night he’s helping at the auction, like he always has, like it never happened. A month later, Julian packs everything that he has into large Tupperware boxes with lids, and puts them into the barn.

Everything he needs, which isn’t much, he puts into an old Chevy wagon he’s bought cheap from Birdy. The whole process has taken two days. He heads west, makes it as far as Arizona where the car breaks down, and he sells it for parts. Plane fare back home.

His wife has taken up with another man in his absence–a retired policeman from Newark. He has a habit of getting drunk on port wine, then attempts to beat her, but she is a farm woman, bigger than him and tough. She has thrown out the cop after Julian has written her, asking forgiveness. Julian returns in the spring. Afterwards, most things are not discussed.

How would you like your eggs?

The garage needs another coat of paint.

Tuesday’s garbage day, isn’t it?

Life for Julian is a series of nothings. No conversation, no spirituality, no support. Head askew, eyes blunted, neck elongated like an animal, without comprehension. Yes, Julian thinks, killing oneself is better than living a nothing life. He should have done it right after Karen’s death.

*

Julian opens a newspaper at the bar. All over the front page is the news; the world is coming to an end. No hope, no succor, no time, and Julian Budd realizes he will, indeed, die, whether he goes to the basement or not.

“I saw your husband at the main terminal preaching the Lord this morning. He had a bunch of little girls around him,” the barkeep Barbara says to Stanya. Not one to keep any thought from her lips, before, during, or after impact, she always steers straight for the nerve.

“Yes, he preaches the gospel and takes them for a ride in the Lincoln, then they go somewhere more private. To pray. Since the meteorite hit, he’s found some kind of religion.” Stanya couldn’t care less. She has lived through the Communist era, when thoughts were repressed, free speech and the actions that followed, unthinkable. She could have wound up as so many innocent ones have. A prostitute. Nicolai yanked her from her homeland. Saved her. She will always defend him. Screwing little girls before God? Little matters, with an apocalyptic cloud bearing down and the sun drawing further away every day.

“That Frank has some eyes for you, though,” Barbara says.    

“Yes. The Franks of the world.”

He sits there with a mixture of rage and pain and desire, with confusion written all over his face.

“The poor man. Like a rabbit, he runs this way and that. He goes through life automatically. His life is an ancient catechism, afraid to act. He doesn’t know what he wants. Carpe Diem.”

“What?”

“Seize the day. It’s Latin. Go for it. Nicolai knows.”

“How about the Jew?”

“Mm. Yes,” Stanya says with care. “He’s another case.” She considers her glass, touches the inside of her thigh under the bar.

“Has he ever said anything to you? He doesn’t speak very often. No one really knows about him. So odd. And then he drinks those awful drinks. Just about the only one he speaks to is Birdy over there.”

“He’s seen the river Vltava in the mornings.”

“What?”

“It runs through Prague.”

Barbara does not know where Prague is, knows nothing of Stanya’s homeland, could care less about fancy Latin phrases. All she knows right now is Stanya Stanislavska is keeping something back. She is a saloonkeeper, an amateur psychologist, a behind-the-bar soothsayer “Well I guess the wild times have arrived.”

“Yes, well, we are all human animals.” Stanya watches Moses. He is listening to Birdy, his thoughts, she knows, are on her.

Birdy says, “You ever throw a discus Jew? I mean, being a foreigner yourself, I would think it.” After downing a shot of bourbon, daintily, he sips from his beer “When I was a kid, I remember seeing pictures in my younger brother’s schoolbook. He’s the educated one, made it all the way through high school. The Olympics. I always wanted to see it. The ancient times. Used to put myself to sleep when I was a kid throwing the discus in the Olympics. I told my father that once. He smacked me upside the head a good one, said he had no time for foolishness, and neither should I. Jesus, what a man. In those days he was ramming everything under the sun. My mother knew it. Didn’t do nothing about it. She was Italian. They don’t make women like that anymore. In the beginning she figured that was her husband and she married him, and had kids by him and she was stuck with it. So, what could she do other than make the best of it? That worked for her for a long time, Jew. But when the old man moved in some young tramp from over West Town, was banging her every night and we all could hear them, she kind of slowly started to drift away from us all, started losing it, wound up humming the same tune all day, day in and day out,” he sips some beer, his broad shoulders, the multi-colored suspenders for a moment hollow. “Ava Maria I think it was. My father didn’t give a shit about nothing but himself. My mother always said I was just like him. The day he died everybody in the whole town–the tramp first in line–was digging and digging for his buried money.” Birdy falls silent for a moment. He wants to tell Moses about his brother who disappeaed right after his mother went off kilter, and they took her away to the asylum. But he has one pressing question. “Moses, you’re from that part of the world.” Birdy confuses the Greeks with the Jews. “You ever throw the discus when you were a kid?”

The neglected jukebox is mute. Faces at the bar turn to the television, at center stage. The moderator interviews a panel of experts. How many days is the ultimate question. One expert, a physicist says the cloud formation is a result of the impact striking the Earth and that with it comes poisonous gasses. As the dust cloud spreads over the earth, the sun will ever increasingly be blotted out, and the natural photosynthesis of plant life will cease, and oxygen will become scarcer and scarcer. Another expert, a mathematician this time, calculates the odds of human survival. He says that more than ninety percent of the earth’s population faces extinction. Representing the federal government, an operative of the Federal Bureau of Investigation calls for order in society. A businessman insists increased global warming is the only solution and should be actively pursued. A clergyman suggests all make prayers and ask for salvation. 

“Jesus H. Christ, Jew.” Birdy rubs a hand across his lips. “Get a load of that. Don’t look like long to me.”

Except for that statement, the bar is momentarily hushed. The farm girl who was dancing with the cowhand weeps into his shoulder. She has only now told him she is pregnant. He carries her out into the chill of an August afternoon.

“My God,” Barbara drops a bomb into the empty space of the bar. “What has become of us?

“We are all going to die!” Frank blurts out, coming alive from the corner booth. “That’s what’s going to become of us. This is a stupid, stupid life. Tenure and retirement benefits? Ha.” He strikes his fists against the table hard, spills his whiskey. “And if anyone of you have any plans for the future, well, I guess you better put them on hold and then forget about them.”

“Shut up Frank,” Barbara says annoyed. “There’s no need in upsetting everybody more than we already are.”

“But I’m right! I’m right, I tell you. We are all heading for a permanent vacation in the promised land.” A mirthless whimper comes from him, and he glares at Stanya. Unfair, his eyes say, then he falls back into his silent cubicle, head in arms.

“Got any plans?” Barbara asks Stanya.

 “Oh, I suppose I’ll do what I did yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that. Just live my life until it is my time to end it. I don’t have any regrets. I’ve lived my life, the good and the bad, and make no mistake, I haven’t been a saint. But you know what? I’d do it all over again, the good and the bad.”

She fixes on the Jew. They share a look. A faint smile softens his eyes.

Flushing and warm, she remembers when Nicolai put an ad in the Courier-Gazette, and Moses came to buy Deco jewelry. But Nicolai forgot, and was out of town on some business or another. Moses stood there at her door one spring afternoon in his blue jeans and boots and his black leather, and to her he was something different, something as foreign as home, something as exotic as your own navel in this white-bread American community in which she lived. She invited him in.

She smelled gentile Mediterranean breezes of oregano and thyme. She heard the sounds of the silvery undersides of olive trees as they blew in the wind, and of wild grasses standing to natures forces, bending as if showing the way, and delivering her from her madness. She felt as if he touched the water within her, thought lost, long ago, he swam the river of her homeland, the river Vlatava. Later, he poured Champagne into her every orifice and drank like it was nectar.

That was as good and as bad as it gets.

Reading her thoughts, Barbara asks, “Stanya, you ever cheat on your husband?”

Stanya, does not answer and drops her gaze from the Jew’s.

The door opens. A silhouette lurches through the smoke. The door slams shut with authority. Nicolai bursts in carrying a fireball in his hand and the word of God on his tongue. Inside his black robe is the bulge of a semi-automatic weapon. “You have sinned,” he pronounces with a purple tongue to the congregation.

They all take cover, think he’ll begin shooting.

“And for that there is retribution.” Clenching his teeth he searches for an appropriate reaction. “But divine intervention is at hand.” He points outside with Michelangelo hands.

Three teenage girls stand patiently waiting near the Lincoln, looking up at the sky. The sun momentarily bursts forth under the heavens like the truth comes to the heathens.

Most everyone in the bar brushes past Nicolai and once outside, they tilt their faces to the summits and the promise of another day.

Julian Budd extends his arms, hands open asking why. Face mangled in pain he shouts for his daughter, “Karen, Karen, Karen.”

“Oh, why are you doing this to me?” Francis Tessier prostates himself on top of a car sobbing. He murmurs about how he doesn’t want to die. He takes it all back, never meant to sin. He wants time enough to spend his retirement.

Birdy is laughing and laughing with delight. He picks up a square tile, a cement piece loosened from the sidewalk and hurls it discus-like, whooping through the windshield of his own truck.

Inside, two women hear the weatherman say that a cold front from the arctic pushes a wind which, for a moment, will clear the sky.

No need for optimism. The Jew orders a bottle of champagne, and takes in whole, Stanya.

And outside, the cloud comes back.


Previously published by Transmundane Press, 2019


Spending time equally between the Greek Islands of the Aegean in the summers, the author, Cap’t Mark Antokas, winters in the U.S. and is currently restoring a 1977 Nautor Swan 43 in the Cape Canaveral, Florida area. See him on Facebook at Mark Antokas. He has two published novels on Amazon, “The Odyssey According to Homer, 1967-69,” and, “Another Noel,” as well as a collection of short stories, “You Said We’d Be Friends Forever, and I believed You.” Among other places, he has had short stories published in 5thWallPress(wall#9), ScryofLust, Fleas on the Dog(issue 7, #17), and Transmundane Press(On Time), and short fiction in Red Fez. At the moment, the author is at work on more short stories and flash fiction pieces for publication, and is trying his hand at screenwriting in Piraeus, Port of Athens, Greece.


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