This story was originally posted on Bill Draheim’s blog as part of our collaboration via the Mysteries of Harris Burdick Redux project.
My #FlashFriday contribution.
When I saw it was Boris walking the median-that big loping stride, the buzzed head with the white scar at the heel of his skull-I pulled over. The Interstate this far away from town isn’t much, just two long lanes with rapeseed fields at either side, so he would have been safe if I’d let him be, but who drives by an old friend?
He said he would be glad of a ride, and I figured he couldn’t do me any harm anymore, so in he got and then it was the two of us like in the old days.
Boris looked toe up, worse than a beaten dog. He seemed to get worse every time I saw him. Dirt spattered his clothes. Flecks of glinting grit on his shoes. I didn’t ask where he was going or where he’d come from—a man is entitled to his privacy, as far as I’m concerned—and there wasn’t much to say that hadn’t been said before, so we rode in silence. Words would have just trod on the glory outside anyhow. It was that time of day when everything goes quiet and the light falls soft and slanted on the land.
Boris leaned his head back, eyes half open. After her sat like that for some time, I figured he must have fallen asleep. Though I always remembered him as a snorer. And here he weren’t snoring at all, though he seemed peaceful enough, for Boris.
I hadn’t finished what I’d set out to do that morning, so when we came to the little Lutheran church at the edge of town, I rolled the car under the white Ash and there we sat as the last light crept across the fields until only the bell-tower was lit.
“I’m gonna stretch my legs,” I said, in case he was awake. He had a way of doing that: playing possum. Sure enough, he nodded.
But I didn’t get out, not yet. The bough overhead cast a finger of shadow on the hood of the car. I watched as it waved, as though it were saying goodbye.
Boris lolled his head, gave me that evil eye of his: “I’ll stay in the car if that’s alright with you.”
“Yeah, sure,” I said. “I might be a minute. Gotta check out the church.” When he didn’t say anything, I said: “I could use a hand.”
“Church got nothing to do with me, nor me with it.”
Well, that was a hell of a thing to say. Boris was infamous in those parts for a number of reasons, but I was no angel either. “Fine. Then watch the fucking road.”
He laughed, “You really gonna case it out? A church?” As if that was the worst thing someone could do. “Forget it. I got some thinking I need to do.”
“Thinking!” That tore it. “What the hell you talking about, Boris?”
“That’s why I was out walking in the first place.”
“Then why’d you jump in?”
He didn’t have an answer for that. Instead he rolled his big head front and center and closed his eyes. Soon he was asleep, or thereabouts.
I slammed the door as I left.
The sun was dead and gone. It’s amazing how quick it goes down in the end, as if the horizon’s grease and the sun, an egg rolling off it.
I climbed the steps and checked the door. What were these Podunks thinking, leaving the church open on a Wednesday night? Maybe someone was inside, a lonely old biddy praying in a pew. Maybe the Pastor himself. I knew he sometimes stayed late, to tidy up his meager things. I hoped to hell he wasn’t here. That would be all I needed, running into him and having to explain myself, why I was hanging around.
A wind blew. The leaves of the Ash tree stirred. I turned at the sound. Through the rear window I could see the back of Boris’ head, nodding back and forth. Thinking.
I remembered the salt-colored granules he had on his boots. It was Muscovite. I tried to think where it could have come from, the flats by his old house maybe? If he had gone there, it could only be for one reason but there was nothing to see, not anymore. Her folks had buried her in another part of the county, far from where he’d laid her down. Boris himself had been left where he lay. No one would touch him.
What the hell, I thought, let’s take a look, but the church was silent and empt and as usual, there was nothing worth stealing. But I figured I’d come back next week. Probably the week after that, too, just in case.
When I returned to the car, Boris was already gone. He would be heading back to his old house right about now, thinking about what he’d done, fading with each step, like how light fades at the end of day.