THE CAPTAIN • by Andrei Șișman

The man who was shot in the head goes to church on Sunday mornings. His name is George Marcovici, but to his friends and family, he is the captain. George is a neighborhood legend in Antim, Bucharest, with his soft gait and head held high, retracing his steps every Sunday at 7 sharp to pray for his children and his late wife.

When Romania, like a student late to class, joined World War II in June ’41, George was assigned to the 11th Infantry Division. In addition to other horrors of war, Romanian troops had to survive incompetent superiors and contradictory orders. For all that, George lived. He was discharged in the spring of ’44 — right before his country changed sides — because someone had sliced off the tendons in his right hand. He recuperated at the General Military Hospital in Bucharest for four weeks, and returned home, hopeful and healing.

The children were absent the night he came back. The house was silent and bathed in the kind of darkness that swallows all light. George opened the bedroom door to see a man on the bed, straddling his wife.

The window was open to the outside air and the man’s shirt lashed behind him like a tail. He was pumping vigorously and softly moaning; George was silent; he touched the man lightly on the shoulder, friend-like, and the man cursed softly and pulled his trousers up. He was young, barely a lad, George saw. The youth turned away and dressed, walked angrily to the door, stopped at the threshold—and pulled a Ruby pistol from his jacket pocket.

He shot George first, in the back of his head. When he woke up in a pool of his own blood, the man had disappeared and his wife no longer had a face.

George keeps a photograph from the wedding on the nightstand, next to his thyroid medication. She has been gone for twenty years—the photograph is his company these days.

The bullet had come out through his left cheek. After a time, George recovered. Today, on the street and in church, people stare at him, though they try to pretend otherwise. But he does not think much of it. In the morning and at night, when George looks at the photograph, an eternally young man stares back from behind the glass. He does not mind the staring anymore. A life well-lived, he thinks as he gazes at the young man, is what truly matters.

Andrei Sisman is a fiction author and memoirist from Bucharest, Romania. He is currently wading through a forest of banalities in search of the perfect Tweet. By trade a lawyer, his literary work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Rune Bear, and other places.

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