Jared Lipof
| Fiction

Across the street from our school lived a man with a broken face. He hadn’t always lived there, but for the past three days, freed by the final bell, we’d walk past the yellow buses idling along the driveway and there he’d be, sitting in a window, an X of band-ages across his nose, a gauze skullcap held in place by a chinstrap of medical tape. Just two eyes and some nose holes. A mummified king, silent and cryptic, scowling at everything beneath him.

Theories of his injury abounded.

“Race car driver,” said Benny Silver, my best friend. “Formula One would be my guess. And that is the result of one hell of a crash. Multiple flips, no doubt.”

“What would a race car driver be doing here,” I said, “in that dump?”

The man smoked a cigarette in the third-floor window, two stories above Val’s Barbershop and King Pizza, side-by-side establishments that shared the storefront at 1608 Chickering Road.

“He’s in that dump,” said Benny, “convalescing.”

Benny gathered and hoarded vocabulary words from his mother’s grad school textbooks, words he planned to deploy in a courtroom one day, when he became a hotshot attorney.

“No, I mean, wouldn’t a race car driver rather convalesce,” I said, letting Benny know he hadn’t lost me, “in, like, an Italian villa, or a Back Bay brownstone, or seaside mansion up in New-buryport? Those guys are loaded.”

“The car owners are loaded,” said Benny. “Drivers are like jockeys, hired help on the payroll.”

“Maybe he’s a boxer,” said Mike Walden, with his bowl cut and wristbands.

“Maybe he is pilot of fighter jet,” said Nader Al-Otabi, whose father had brought his family here from Saudi Arabia as part of some top-secret air force contract that Nader couldn’t seem to shut up about. “Maybe seat ejects but cockpit remains closed.”

“Again with the fighter pilots?” said Benny.

“Yeah, we get it, man,” I said. “You know jets.”

“And parachutes,” whispered Nader.

The mummy’s head swiveled toward us and we bolted like impalas spooked by a lion.

Jared Lipof is a sound engineer for documentary television programs. His work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review. He lives in Tallahassee, where he is at work on a novel.

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