A Million Countries

by Brian Mihok

Denny stepped into the street and was killed by a bus. Denny had been a librarian. His brother Darryl cried for hours when he heard. Darryl did not read often and really did not understand what Denny's job was. Darryl was a contractor and liked hiking. On Thursdays he went to trivia night at Bosco's. He wasn't the worst trivia player. Their mother, Ellen, began calling Darryl every day as he was now her only son. Darryl and Denny's father died when they were teenagers. He had been ill for a long time. Now that it was just Darryl and Ellen, their family felt mostly dissolved. Darryl went home to Ellen and stayed for two weeks. He told her about a ticket he bought. It was a world traveler's ticket. He explained that for a year he could fly anywhere, and that he could keep flying place to place. I need to get out, he said. Get out of what? Ellen said. She was sad because she had assumed she would be seeing Darryl more often, but instead would be seeing him less. Thailand, Japan, Mongolia, then work my way east, he said. Your brother would have loved to go with you, Ellen said. Darryl looked at his feet. The two weeks at home went by slowly. He got up late and ate dinner fast.

Then he flew to Thailand. One night in Thailand he met Tina. Is Tina your real name? he asked her. She was from Thailand. No not really, she said, but everybody calls me Tina. They ate breakfast together every day. Eat fruit, she said to him. He laughed. So much of the fruit in Thailand tasted strange. And there were so many kinds of bananas he'd never seen before. You have a constellation on your thigh, he said as they lay on her couch together. The air was warm in her apartment. How many countries will you see? she said. A million, he said but she didn't smile. There was a commotion outside. People yelled. They went to the window and looked down to the street. A car had driven into a fruit stand. They watched the people yell at each other. The fruit was scattered everywhere. The traffic was backing up. The guy with the fruit is really letting him have it, Darryl said. Yeah he's really trying. What else do you want to do? Tina said. What else can we do? Darryl said.

A week later he flew to Japan. Weeks after that he was in Mongolia. Then Moscow. Tina was on his mind. He wanted to tell her about Denny. He wrote her a letter in a cafe in Naples. On the way to the cafe he had seen a man get mugged. The cafe was warm and it reminded him of Tina's apartment. Sorry to tell you like this, he wrote about Denny. I'll have to go home at some point. As far as I go, I'll have to come back. Don't know what sense that makes, he wrote. Tina never wrote back. In Barcelona he stopped writing her. His last night abroad he met some younger people. They were setting off rockets on the roof of an apartment building. They all tried to hit other buildings but Darryl liked how the rockets flared in the sky, so he pointed his straight up, as if to pierce the night above them. What's your problem, Felix said to him. They look better up there, Darryl said. Yeah but they always come back down, Felix said, and maybe on your head.