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Take a pit stop, mind the explosions: Second Saturday Stories

The thoughts in his head overflowed and spilled from his ears, trickling down the sides of his jaw until they reached his chin. He could hear the recruiter in his mind. “You like to take risks eh? So do we. Why not do something real before you die?”
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Johnny, Fill Up The Bowl

By William Krueger

The car presented itself before him, yellow and bright. He walked up to it and reached out to touch it. It loomed in front of him, hard and flat and gleaming in the sun. He walked slowly around the corner to the driver’s side door. He slid his hand along the side of it as he walked, afraid to stop touching it in case it disappeared. The number in white, outline in a thick black line on the door, number forty four, the same number his father had used.

A shell crashed into a building near them, breaking his trance. He’d been in Doboj for three days, watching and hearing, then watching and hearing more. It was chilly but not cold, the snow that had fallen overnight was light, airy and blanketing everything. He watched from the edge of the building as a family of four came out of a building slowly, creeping along the street in front of him. The sun was bright and the snow looked whiter for it. They left iridescent footprints in the snow as they moved cautiously forward into the intermittent silence.

He slipped the door open and swung himself around into the driver’s seat in one fluid motion, never breaking contact with the car. It sat beside seven others, on the far outside of the track beside the grandstands, three cars in front and four behind. People were crowding into the seats, arriving after church from North Bay, Bonfield and Callander. Like they did when this was still a horse track and the horse sat in the same position as him, bridled and reigned, ready to run. He looked at the open track in front of him and ran his hand through his hair.

His hair was short, buzzed like everyone else’s. The family crept further onward, the buckets in their hands, searching for a place to collect water in the cold. After passing two buildings they paused by a third and quietly slipped into the doorway, pushing their way through a door that hung on bravely by its top hinge, whether the bottom had been broken off in the rush to leave or in the shelling no one would ever know. They disappeared behind the door, it shaking loosely like an off kilter old west saloon. He pictured the interior full of cowboy hats and whiskey. Maybe they were lucky and had been transported from here to there. He imagined them in the wild west but it kept changing into a movie theatre, and they were watching Indiana Jones for the fourth time.

He started the car, revving the engine carefully while he looked out the passenger side at the people flowing into their seats, food and drinks overflowing from their arms. A collection of teenagers, a family of four, the military recruiter he’d chatted with last week. He nodded to a retired couple as they settled into their usual seats. The engines around him revved to life, his shook his head in response, it still throbbed from the beer league ball game the night before.

There was another explosion, his head started to pound. He watched the doorway still, it twisted lightly but nothing came in or out. Ben arrived and sat down beside him, peering out the window as well. “Anything happening?”

“Just a family moving around, it’s quiet.” Another shell went off in the distance. “Sort of.” Ben chuckled.

He peered out the window, the family reappeared at the window beside the door, “Look at this place, so much history and its all just being destroyed.”

“That’s just the way it always is,” he answered, “progress.”

Ben thought for a second, “all I can add in my solitude is may Heaven’s rich blessing come down on everyone, American, English or Turk, who will help to heal this open sore of the world.”

“What’s that’s from?”

“Livingstone when he died near Lake Bangweulu.” “

Not much changes, different players, same game eh?”

Ben laughed darkly, then sighed, “what if life is meaningless after all?” He smiled, “what if death is?”

“Then we’re in the wrong damn line of work!”

The starter waved the flag and he shifted gears as the car accelerated. The revs rising and falling like hammer strokes. His head pounded more. He turned to the left and the car collected the corner and pulled its way into the middle of the bend. He cranked the wheel harder, aiming to the inside of the car in front of him as they turned for the outside straight. He stepped on the gas and the tires dug into the track and sent the car full-force toward the white line at the inside edge of the track. The car in front of him drifted toward the outside just slightly and then turned hard for the inside line. He pushed down on the gas harder, like it wasn’t already flat to the floor. He pushed like he wanted his foot through the floor, like he was running the car himself. Like Fred Flintstone. His car pulled third quarters up the inside of the other. He looked over at the other car and watched as his own crept up past each sponsor logo on the other.

Ben was rambling beside him.

“What if there is this other astral plane or something overtop of our world where all the gods of the folks on earth believe in exist and they can interact only with the gods that’s overlapped with them and so they influenced people to move the around the globe so they could hang with like some cute other god they were into and that’s why all the wars on earth exist…”

He zoned out while Ben kept talking so he didn’t notice that he had gone silent. He felt Ben tap him on the shoulder and he turned to see him pointing out the window. A collection of militia were starting to walk up the road. The family was around the corner, leaving the other building with their buckets full of water, heading back to their home.


“Lets go!” he stood up, pushing his chair back so quickly it tipped over and clattered onto the ground.

Ben grabbed his back, “can we? Should we get approval?”

“They ain’t turtles Ben, they’re people, lets go.”

Ben hesitated, “just open the door and get them in here.”

He ran over to the door, the guns rang out before he got there. They stared at each other when the guns fired again.

He kept the wheel cranked and the car started to slide, like when he’d raced on the ice down in Haliburton that past winter. He let go of the gas and turned his wheel gingerly. The slide continued. He could see the logos on the side of the other car growing larger in his mirror. Objects closer than they appear. He braced for impact. The straps over his shoulders felt uncomfortably loose, then with a crunch they were tight.

He looked up, the fortress on the hill looked pure white and gleaming, tall and wind-swept. Doors open and burnt crimson, pouring down to the hillside below the gates. The colour rained down to the streets below, pushed by the sun as it sprinkled into the desolation of the city surrounding it. They ran out of the building toward the family, the militia continue their march down the road, paying no attention to them as they arrived on the scene. Blood poured from the holes in the bodies of the family. The mother was gasping for breath, the father was dead, shot straight through the forehead. He reached down to the mother to try and lift her up. She reached out for her children as her eyes rolled back in her head.

He looked over at Ben who just shook his head. “

The shots were right at the level of their heads.”

“His too,” he nodded in the father’s direction.

“Help me get her out of here.”

“We need medical help here!” Ben shouted back in the direction of their doorway.

In an instant they cracked open the door of his car, he unstrapped carefully, checking all of the parts of his body one by one as he did.

“You alright?”

“Yeah, yeah I think so,”

They reached in and pulled him out. “That’ll wake you up eh?”


The thoughts in his head overflowed and spilled from his ears, trickling down the sides of his jaw until they reached his chin. He could hear the recruiter in his mind. “You like to take risks eh? So do we. Why not do something real before you die?”

“What are we doing here?”

“What we’re allowed,” Ben pointed the medic in his direction.

A shell arrived as he spoke, collecting the top of the building beside them and carrying it forward toward the militia group that had just rounded the corner. He heard yelling coming back around the corner. He looked back down at the women in his arms and realized it was too late, the medic arrived.

“She’s gone.” The medic took over but eventually lay her on the ground by her family.

He heard the arrival of other militia members and turned to walk back to their building, the light reflecting off the window blinding him as he shuffled slowly back inside.

The sun was bright as he walked into the centre of the track, waving to the crowd to show he was okay. His mechanic, Tom, arrived beside him, “you alright?”

“Yeah, sorry I am gonna make you work this week.”

“Better than my regular job,” Tom laughed in response.

“It is your regular job!” he laughed back.

“When you crash every week it is!”

He reached out and shoved him genially, in response Tom exaggerated his collapse to the ground. They laughed for the crowd as Tom stood back up and dusted himself off. They were hurried back across the other side of the track and over to the parking lot to wait for the car.

His father met them there and sat with them surrounded by the racer’s trucks crowded in the competitors parking, “sometimes it doesn’t go your way eh.”

Five months later he was in Sarajevo waiting to go home. He only felt worse.