Graphite sketch of a sad-eyed dog's head, with wavy fractal patterns, teeth, and lithic shapes within its skin.

The boy gets into his car. It’s old, red-gray paint flecking away, the engine shuddering every time it tries to start, like a horse ridden by a ghost. It’s the sort of car that had more work done on its stereo than any other part. The boy, who is supposed to be in school, puts the car in reverse and maneuvers out of the parking spot with one hand while clattering around in a pile of cassette tapes in the passenger seat with the other. He selects one with only the word “Howl” written on its label in red marker and jams it into the player. “Hold Me Now” by the Thompson Twins begins its anemic dance across the torn upholstery as the boy that summer forgot smiles and pulls forward. The engine roars.

The interstate is mostly empty under the wan sun, the unseasonable wind rattles the car. The boy is relaxed, idly tapping his fingers on the wheel. From his wrist dangles a thin, featureless disk of silvery metal on a chain. He has no destination, only the desire to feel in himself the imagined velocity of airy guitar strumming. His eyes linger a moment too long, as though pulled by magnets, on the glare off the windshield of a black truck in his rearview mirror. The sunbeam is hot, piercing. He looks away but the afterimage, the color of insect blood, stings the inside of of his eyelids, shapeless, persistent. He squints and blinks.

The truck is beside his car, its engine making deep coughs. The boy can’t see the driver through the windows. His music seems softer against the other car’s grumbling, the sunlight darker in its shadow. His stomach churns, his hands clutch the wheel. The truck coughs and hacks, pulling ahead, wheezing and expelling a cloud of exhaust the color of the inside of a shower drain, speeding off into the dusty haze.

There are half a dozen carcasses of flies stuck to the boy’s windshield. Their legs flail slowly. Another one hits it every few minutes for the rest of the drive.

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