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Excerpt from

Dirty Souls
By
Andy Henion

In which Boaz returns from battle; meets his end

Boaz Polish comes home from the war with Canada on a mild Friday evening. He sits in the driveway of his two-story suburban home in his burnt umber hatchback and imagines the things war can do to a man. Even a war with Canada.

Despite his namesake, Boaz is not a mighty man of wealth, though he does well enough, nor is he particularly godly, though he once attended nondenominational service with a hazel-eyed coed who pulled him off in the back pew while her father shook with epileptic fervor behind the pulpit.

Boaz Polish isnít Polish but has learned to take a joke. Joke after joke after joke. Did you know Polish firing squads stand in a circle? Boaz does.

The war with Canada has lasted twenty-eight days and may not make thirty. Boaz serves on the front lines. His fellow warriors call him the Lone Wolf with barely a hint of irony. His role cannot be understated.

He stares into his well-lit garage, with its obsessively arranged shelves and greaseless gray floor, and gnaws his bottom lip. Victory is fully expected, but then what? Weeks of blaring headlines and talking heads. Retaliation from the losing party, those milquetoast socialists. A promotion for Boaz, perhaps, and, with it, more money, prestige, responsibility.

His heart beats madly at the prospect. Heís a doer, not a dreamer. Give him his marching orders, drop him into battle and watch him go. Boazís superiors understand him perfectly.

Sylvia does not. Marriage is not war, its mission far from defined, and Boaz has no meaningful precedent to guide him. His father was a ghost and his mother never married, plagued by what they called borderline personality disorder. (Which made no sense to young Boaz: borderline how, exactly? All he knew was that Momma, prior to death-by-pills the week before he turned six, was dotty enough to dub him Boaz Pendergrass Polish, spawning the fist-heavy wrath of countless orphanage bullies throughout his formative period.)

So Boaz learned to fight, but not to love, his efforts at emotional intimacy as awkward and unnatural as a dog attempting to purr. As such, he does not, cannot, blame Sylvia for the affair. Alas, Boaz is contemplating his capacity for forgiveness for perhaps the thousandth time when the slug enters his left temple, passes cleanly through the other side of his head, cracks but does not penetrate the passenger window then bounces off the legal folder and plops onto his lap. The Lone Wolf is dead before his forehead hits the steering wheel.

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Literary Fiction, Noir, Pulp Fiction, Short Stories