Those Held in Memory

…quod protinus incidit arae
atque ibi semianimi verba exsecrantia lingua
edidit, et medios animam exspiravit in ignes.
–Ovid, Metamorphoses, Book V

Petra’s waiting for her bus and there’s an old man across the street screaming at her.

“You damn people are ruining this country!” He’s all of 80, grizzled chest hair curling gray above his shirt collar, kind of stooped the way age does sometimes. “Cowards! Communists! Pedophiles!”

In her coat pocket she wraps her keys through her fingers. Tries to remember how it’s supposed to work. Instep, knee, groin… stomach? Or is it the other way round? She sees his face slashing open, his old nose splattered like a dropped beer bottle. She hunches her shoulders, checks her watch, looks for the bus.

“How many men have died so you can spit on their memory?” He steps off the corner, starts walking toward her, red hand be damned. “How many goddamned men–“

She can feel the adrenaline kicking in. Everything is suddenly so sharp; the old man, the keys digging into her knuckles, the car barreling around the corner. It crashes right into him, bam, and his head flies off and lands at her feet. The driver’s face through the windshield is a blank mask of horror. Someone across the street screams. The old man catches her eye, just his head, and glowers at her. “Kids today,” it says, then the lights go out.