There’s a stink: a stench, wafting
through the air. The sweat of the unfinished
road? Or perhaps ashen little beasts crafting
firecrackers? A whole townful of shit
and we don’t so much as flinch,
but this is alien—a putrid smell piercing
our ordinary crooked noses.
Some pull out their cloth, dizzy heads turn.
It’s more fierce than most of us may withstand,
but fiercer still is the thudding in our ears as
we hear the pace of the Kathi Roll Man.
We watch him. Haven’t seen him in a long time,
or didn’t notice, perhaps, that he always stood
within sight. The smell is unbearable now.
Can’t put my finger on it. He once watched
as we accepted our plight, our fates—
the smellers of shit—
but this stench snuck up on us at night.
His burdened feet leave footprints on the wet tar,
marching left right left right left right.
We stand in silence, suspicious. Wrapped like a roll
in a flag we had forgotten, he walks like us,
but his steps quake the earth and thrill our ears.
When he reaches me, I hear the handgun cock
and see scarlet burst from the back of his head;
the droplets stay suspended a moment,
then the Kathi Roll Man drops at my feet,
I unwrapped him as he spilled out before me,
the dust-coated thing, bare without his flag.
As I stepped back, a siren-capped van
Ran him over. Straight. His guts filled with dirt,
face calm, content, unhurt.
The van screeched to a stop, confirming its kill
And we, tears running, fried the beast,
tires and all. We marched left right,
missing the way his steps used to thud,
and we raised him high, his flag even higher,
baying for his life,
and for blood.
Armaan Verma is Junior Editor at ALMA MAG. He is the author of Glorious Greeks: Meet the Gods and Undoing of the Thieving King.