blackbirdonline journalSpring 2010  Vol. 9  No. 1
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The Angel of Death Knocks at the Door

It could have been bones thumping a coffin. On TV, a night train crossed from India to Pakistan, smudging the sky with smoke.

“Only the conductor got off in Lahore,” someone with a long beard said. “Hindu thugs stacked the passengers in aisles, luggage racks, and bathrooms after slitting their throats.”

I barely heard the man at the door ask to use the phone. He had appeared from nowhere. He wore a studded choke collar, combat boots, and jacket with Angel of Death painted in gold letters over a skull. He said he’d hit a flagpole with his motorcycle.

“Do you think Gandhi was right to take a vow of silence when the killing started?” I asked after he’d called a friend and come back to the living room. I’d been living alone for eight months, so I wanted to talk.

He sat on the couch as if he were deaf. His hands trembled as he sprinkled tobacco on thin papers, rolled a cigarette, and licked it.

Finally he said: “The only time I say stuff I really mean is on my bike when nobody’s listening.”

“So you don’t think it’s better to talk like the grandsons of the murderers in the documentary?” I asked.

“Look,” he said with a sigh. “Every time you open your mouth, there’s somebody right there ready to cut your tongue out.”

He pulled a switchblade from his pocket and started to clean his nails.

I was sorry I’d tried to talk to him.

Hearing tires screech on the driveway, he flicked his knife shut and limped toward the door without a “thank you” or “goodbye.” The gold skull on his back flashed once under the streetlight.

When I walked to my bedroom, the skull followed me. When I tried to sleep, it hovered on the ceiling. When I went to the bathroom to get a sleeping pill, it leered at me from the dark mirror.  end

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