Fistful of reefer, p.27
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       Fistful of Reefer, p.27

           David Mark Brown
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The Austin Job


  Once Upon a Bolshevik

  It was the anniversary of his exile. Standing on the northern lawn of the Austin State Capitol, Oleg watched the sun wink below the horizon. The last of its reflected light danced off the river in the distance. Transported back to the Dneiper, he closed his eyes and let the ecstasy of sorrow bubble within the cauldron of his heart. One of the few remaining Ukrainian warriors trained in classic buza, he rolled his neck and loosened his slight shoulders. Hatred flowed from his center into every extremity.

  Men and women he’d fought alongside for a democratic Russia had betrayed him ten years ago on this day. For the unification of the party, they’d forced his wife and daughter to disavow him—stolen his inventions, his dreams and his identity. After several years of anonymity as a chemistry professor by the name of Yuri Medved, new individuals with old lusts promised to reunite him with his family. Indeed he would dance, but not without taking his pound of flesh. Pulling Oleg Rodchenko’s strings come at great cost. Tonight, first payment.

  Opening his eyes, he yanked his arms forward, orchestrating the movement of minions on either side. Two dozen figures enshrouded in shadow rushed the perimeter of the capitol building. Raising his eyes slowly to the darkened dome, he flicked a black parasol from a sheath on his back and opened it at the exact moment the exterior lights of the dome buzzed to life.

  With quick strides he rounded the building. Grand pergolas emblazoned with electric lights and crammed with Austin’s elite littered the southeast lawn. Pure titillation. He snapped his fingers and drew his thumb across his throat. Reaching the gala’s fringe, he collapsed the umbrella and strode forward, twirling it like a conductor’s baton.

  As if representing the gnarled finger of death, cracks in the merriment rippled outward from his presence. A portly woman adorned in pearls dropped her beverage, fanning herself with both hands. Perspiration poured down her face and neck. A gentleman tossed his jacket to the ground while clutching his thigh.

  Oleg inhaled deeply, tasting the ionized air—the pregnant pause between lightning and thunder. He slowed to appreciate the moment.

  “Good Gawd, it’s hot!” The jacketless man convulsed, his skin red under the twinkling electric lights. “I’m so damn hooooouuah!” Racked with spasm the man crushed his wine glass, the skin of his hand erupting with flame. During the brief moment it took to fill his lungs with precious, flammable oxygen, five blue tendrils of fire spiraled from the tips of his fingers several feet into the evening air.

  Oleg licked his lips, sweat dripping from his mustache. Then came the scream—like vine-ripened terror plucked at the perfect moment. So juicy. So fresh. As the man’s lipids bled into his clothing through cracks in the skin, his fear and agony bled into the crowd. After barreling into open lawn, the man froze, rigid with pain. He arched his back, head only inches from the ground. Finally, the low, wispy flames creeping over the surface of his body erupted.

  They burst from his thighs, his buttocks, his chest, his hands. Surging from his opened throat, the flames extinguished his voice. Oleg commenced his stroll through the panicked crowd. In another moment the man’s soul would vanish, gone in a puff as his ashes collapsed to earth. But Oleg had greater business to attend to, and he would relish the expression on her face when she realized how far he was willing to stretch the boundaries of their arrangement. He wished to erase the smug look she’d worn when they last parted.

  His two fingers mimicking a pistol, he predicted each combustion—an attractive debutant, a banker with a lazy eye. Swirling storms of flame burst from human islands—friends, lovers, spouses absent during their final moment—nothing left but green grass, a private hell, and purifying fire.

  The heat and stench licked Oleg’s skin, beads of sweat forming on his forehead, dripping down the ridge of his nose. He split the herd. Stepping over bodies spent of fuel, crushing brittle skulls with his heel, retarding tongues of flame through sheer discipline—he imposed an angry contrast from the corrupt chattel of government and the slaves to wealth surrounding him. Their own predictable indulgence forfeited them to the flames. Tonight he freed them from the illusion of a happiness found in others’ misery.

  The pathetic ones too weak to flee dropped with limp thuds, overcome by artificial heatstroke. With a sigh of contentment he spotted her and her associates through the thinning herd, cowering by the refreshments he’d laced with dinitrophenol. Let her taste my loss. The temporary light of human torches faded as his demonstration ran its course. Out from the shadows and brimming with anticipation, Oleg approached the band of four.

  Ms. Lloyd, the sheriff, his daughter and the new pet, State Senator Starr. An interesting one that. Might have been great man, but for corruption of vanity. Oleg leveled his parasol, took aim at the sheriff’s chest and squeezed the handle. An eruption of gases built within the hollow of its chamber as a tiny pellet of lithium interacted with water. Oleg watched realization crest in the eyes of his enemies, the senator first. Bursting from the umbrella’s tip at 200 meters per second, the projectile struck the spontaneous Senator Starr in the fat of his ass as he attempted to play the hero. Laughing, Oleg turned to go. Fate always allows for worthy improvisation.

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