The topic in Danny’s Trans Am was the movie star we had seen at the YMCA pool, Warren County, Ohio. Had I not watched the movie star act on television throughout my childhood and been disappointed in his movies once his television career ran its course, I still would have noticed him in the same way dogs recognized wolves as wolves and we recognized chimps as apes. Similar, but different. First of all, the reflection of sunlight on suntan oil caused him to shine brighter than the rest of us, the glare just visible through the tangle of young girls, basting him with application after application.

The conversation changed, however, as we drove back to Danny’s house, and we spotted a dead gopher in the middle of the road. We heard the thump against the floorboard, like a baseball bat, but when we turned around, the gopher had disappeared. Somehow, the Trans Am had scooped up the carcass and stuffed it somewhere in the undercarriage. We knew it had been scooped, the gopher, because we backed up and looked on the side of the road. We looked underneath the car, under the hood, behind the wheels. We knew the gopher remained with the car because the Trans Am stank for weeks. The science of it was simple. Enzymes and microbes broke down that gopher bit by bit, wafting up dank and moist, so wretched you could taste it. We drove the car through puddles, through the car wash, jumped it over the railroad tracks, trying to jar it loose, but nothing worked.

A few weeks later, when school had started up again, Danny walked out of class after school to find that somebody had rolled his car in the parking lot, demolished it completely. Windows smashed, tires set on fire with black char up all four sides, upside down with the roof caved in.

Long gone were the thoughts of the movie star, why he had been in town, how his family was actually connected to organized crime and he had come to lay low, or the group of teenage girls splitting apart like vultures when he stood up to walk over to the high dive and climbed the ladder. I’ll never forget it. He bounced thrice on the diving board, spread his arms wide, suddenly curled his body into a spin, then straightened his form, slicing into the water.

Tim Fitts is the author of two collections of short stories, Hypothermia (MadHat Press, 2017), and Go Home and Cry for Yourselves (Xavier Review Press, 2017). His work has been published by journals such as Granta, The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, New South, and Boulevard, among many others.

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