S. Rabbani: literary fiction, instructional articles, essays & translations
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Taste of Romania

By Sahand Rabbani


HE HAD LOST everything, it seemed. Though perhaps it was the slow and tedious stretch of months over which his apparent demise had occurred that exaggerated his misery and persuaded him thoughtfully and thoroughly into resignation.

Dean Gould was calculating in all aspects of his life, even through its very end. He timed his hour-long commute to work every morning. He ate the same turkey sandwich for lunch everyday. He ate at the same time everyday: starting at 1:45 (he liked to eat a late lunch to make the afternoons seem shorter) and ending at 1:53. He would cut the sandwich in half the same way, with a clean strike of a knife connecting the top left and the bottom right corners of the multigrain sliced bread. And he always ate beginning with the lower half, saving the upper half for last. The upper half was slightly larger because it reflected the bulge of the loaf.

Gould liked to save the best for last. He liked to endure pain if it meant postponing pleasure. He would grin at his masochism and at the anticipation of his prize as he writhed in self-deprivation.

All of this seems strange considering that the most enjoyable part of Gould's day came first: his commute to the office. He enjoyed the rural deprivation of his route. He enjoyed its consistency. He counted the road signs and the mile markers.

Most of all, he was obsessed with the white truck that marked the half-way point of his journey. It had been there for as long as he could remember. Surely, it had been abandoned and was so innocuous that nobody had bothered to move it. "Taste of Romania" read the blue, yellow, and red decalcomania. Gould had wondered about this early on in his encounters with the truck; he had learned long ago that the Taste of Romania had been a low-profile food festival some decades ago, sponsored by a small enclave of Romanian immigrants in a town not far from Gould's own Midwestern suburb.

Perhaps there had been more of these trucks during the festival, but Gould knew little else about it. The event had not been well documented nor well attended, its sole memento being this solitary and mysterious truck that defied time and, more suspiciously, the attention of the highway authority that had turned a blind eye to a relic.

It was not surprising, then, that when Gould had lost his job and his income, then his house, and, as a result, his raison d'Ítre, which was to drive from one to the other, he had turned to his token of constancy like one would to a god. He had asked the truck why it would taunt him by enduring when he could no longer. The truck had not responded. Nor had nature blown a cloud over the sun or sent a tumbleweed across the tracks to cajole Gould's imagination into devising some sort of supernatural sign.

Then Gould had decided that he would cooperate, rather than resist. So he had completed the task by conducting his black Volvo straight into the "R" in "Romania" on the starboard side of the truck, taking with him from this world his last remaining asset.









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