Tiny Cracks

      I will say that the character’s name is OI! because names are really irrelevant any-
ways; useless traps and nets for tacked-on meanings, and especially irrelevant because
the character is me, projected into the future while dwelling on the past and fearing the
unending inevitability of the present. OI! travels east by train, 500 kilometers east of
Kazan, still 500 kilometers west of the Ural Mountains, clutching a small bag of clothes,
with a wadded up Bachelor’s degree in one pocket and three hundred rubles in the other,
which I hope will feed me until I reach my destination, although I doubt it will, given the
current state of the Russian market economy.

      Next to me on the train sits an American mummy, an eighty-year-old scotch bottle
of American letters, who was known in his day to have orchestrated seventeen novels and
one murder. We chat back and forth, him speaking in a croaking mummified lizard’s
voice, and me jabbering away in response, but naturally in a cultured, erudite manner, for
after all, have I not just received my education? For every anecdote the man of American
letters provides, I provide in response an anecdote about a stripper: he says he’s from
Saint Louis, and I say that while I was in San Francisco I met a stripper from Saint Louis,
and that she was beautiful, and that she normally worked in an animal hospital, and only
danced on the weekends. He would go “Hmmmm,” and look at me with his old freako
face, all nose, glasses and hat.

      In the middle of desolation, arch-limbo of the soul and the hunting ground for
ghosts, the train stops at a little station and men with iron mask expressions board to
check tickets and passports. The old American scotch bottle leans over and says “Try to
act like you don’t know me, it’ll be easier on you if I’m caught.”

      When the iron mask Russians reach us, the first one looks back and forth between
the ancient American and me, finally addressing the American: “Mr. Lee, please come
with us.” Lee begins to rise, but a second Russian pushes him back down into his seat.
“Your hand, Lee,” he says, and gripping the offered appendage, cuts off the old man’s
pinkie finger at the first knuckle. He takes the tiny digit and licks the bloody side. “As I
thought,” he says, smacking his lips. “Pure heroin. Most ingenious Mr. Lee, smuggling
heroin by concealing it as your body.”

      “It’s true,” says Lee. “I’ve been completely transmogrified into heroin. There’s
not a part of me that can’t be ground down, cooked up and shot into a vein.” He gets up
to go with the men. “May I leave something with my young friend?” he asks.


      Lee scribbles something on a scrap of paper and hands it to the Russian. The
Russian reads, nods, folds the scrap, then hands it to me. They leave, except for one
Russian who turns to me and says, “And who are you?”


      “And where are you going?”

      “Prazmagorod, in Siberia.”

      “You are a student?”

      “Sort of.”

      “I thought so,” he says, turning to leave. “You look as though you have not yet
received your education.”

      When he is gone, I look at Lee’s note. It simply says, “Tiny cracks begin to
appear,” and I sense the truth of it, feeling that the natural progression of all things,
systems, hierarchies, taxonomies, institutions and educations is to crumble to fragments,
and from fragments to dust, all from the appearance of tiny cracks.

Nolan Whyte is a writer, musician and artist from Regina, Canada. After University he spent
a few years in Korea, and another in Australia. He now lives in Toronto and his work can be
found regularly on select internet sites. More information about this reclusive scoundrel can
be found at his vainglorious website, nolanwhyte.com.

© 2006 Underground Voices