Bumper Stickers

He drove an ancient Nissan, evidently chosen for the boxy rear end; it had little else to recommend it and no bumper could contain his collection of stickers and decals. In spots, the adhesive had bubbled the paint. One loss had exposed bare metal, and where it wasn’t supporting the new Libertarian ticket, the rust had washed down and painted a green iconographic tree with sunset–or perhaps apocalypse.
The car mirrored its owner. He bathed in Old Spice, and infrequently. It smelled of rancid marijuana (blamed on a previous owner) and engine oil, (all his). The car was bleeding: a red, viscous fluid, and on the rear floorboard, a plastic bag of magnetic sharks stood ready to devour the occasional Jesus-fish. He, when he walked alone, could be seen gesticulating heatedly as if in uncomfortable debate—and he spit. People tended to keep their distance.
I crouched and looked past the faded college parking permit: Carnegie Mellon. No one had followed and the last echoes left the garage. I eased down and sat, making plans. The dust burned my nose and the cement grew uncomfortable and cold, but before long, the door clanged and slammed and his heavy boots scuffed nearer—I had never noticed the asymmetric gait. It wasn’t until a voice called out to him and he rounded into view that I realized my mistake. The inquiry was courteous; they had lost the scent. But Dan just looked at me, ignored my warning gestures and spoke, haltingly, but in the only voice he knew how to summon.
“Ca…Carl? What are you doing on the floor?”
The word “floor” echoed, a nasal, Jersey gunshot in a canyon of cement, and the heels were in motion again, running.

 

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