The Dead Know Best (excerpt)

An excerpt from the novel “The Dead Know Best” by Vlado Janevski.


Furioso was already exhausted by the past day, when he parked the vehicle beside the cooler. High walls enclosed the parking lot, and the metal entrance door of the street was closed. There weren’t any other parked cars, all employees from the cooler were already gone. Furioso opened the trunk in order to take out the lifeless body of Nozomi, the female hitchhiker he had picked up on the way to Karuachi. Her body was supposed to be curled up under the black nylon with a bouquet of red roses on its top.

 “Writers create the biggest lies” – she had said to him as they met. “If so, then I’m a writer” – he said to her.

Parts of the dialogue with Nozomi were running through Furioso’s mind, while he was holding her bouquet in his hands. He didn’t know what to do with it. Dealing with Nozomi’s body seemed easier to him, rather than dealing with her bouquet. Sometimes he would get panicked by flowers. He has been afraid of them ever since his childhood. “There must be a Latin name for that type of fear”, he thought to himself. He had eventually gone to the reception desk, where he found a vase where he put the roses. He was relieved as if a heavy burden had gotten off his chest. The next thing would have to be a way easier for him – he will take care of Nozomi and find her a temporary place in one of the caskets in the cooler.

Furioso strangled Nozomi to death with his own hands, after raping her. Now he intended to put her body in the cooler and go home. He was sure that he would subsequently fall exhausted in bed and fall asleep like a slaughtered animal. He needed a deep sleep, it’s going to be a rough day tomorrow. While he was getting back toward the car in order to lift her body, the whole episode with Nozomi was running through his mind again.

The bouquet of red roses was the first thing that caught his eyes while driving toward Karuachi. The girl standing by the road raised the bouquet high after noticing the approaching car. Furioso first thought she was some girl trying to sell flowers by the road. But after slowing down, he noticed that other than the bouquet of red roses, there weren’t any flowers around the girl. While he was passing by her, she smiled, waving her hands, making clear she needed a ride.

 “Pull over”, Marylin Monroe said, sitting next to him. “I’ll move to the back seat, to make a company to Mr. Einstein.”

Einstein was absorbed in his theory of consciousness. He moved to the edge of the seat, just enough to make room for Marylin.

“I thought you were asleep”, she told him.

“I’m working”, he told her. “I think that consciousness consists of tiny particles resembling photons moving like little packs of energy, and waves, as well.

 “Conscioustones?” Marylin asked.

 “I beg a pardon?”

“I guess the particles of consciousness go by the name conscioustones.”

 “You are talking gibberish, you better shut up.” Einstein rolled his eyes and decided not to waste his time with her.

Marylin didn’t get mad at the scientist, science was always boring her. “I have my seat, you can pull over for the girl,” she said to Furioso.

  He obliged and pulled over.

 “Where are you heading to?”, he asked the girl through the rolled-down window.

“To the city”, she said to him.

 “Get in, if you have some luggage, place it on the back seat”, he said to her.

“I have nothing other than the bouquet”

 “Nice bouquet.”

“Thank you.”

 “I didn’t know there was a flower shop here. This part of the road seemed pretty desolate to me.”

 “What is going to do in the city a beautiful girl like you?”

 “I’m gonna open a flower shop, with lots of flowers with which I’ll make the world more beautiful for anyone who gets in”, the girl was obviously dedicated to the flowers, because thereupon she didn’t stop talking about them with unbelievable ardor and admiration.”

“That’s right, there isn’t a flower shop”, she said to him.

 At first, Furioso was listening to her with attention, but after some time his brain was drowning in the sea of countless flowers. It appeared the girl knew the Latin name for each type of flower. While he was listening to her, countless names of flowers were going in one ear and out the other. All of a sudden she stopped and looked at him, there was a big insect on his head.

  “You are staring at me as if there’s something on my head. A spider?”

 “I’m afraid of spiders” – she shuddered.

 “So am I. I’m afraid of how much you know about flowers, as well.”

She smiled, she had a row of beautiful white teeth. “I’m Nozomi.”

 “Are you a florist?”

“Yes and no, I don’t own a flower shop yet.”

 “I see you already have it in your head.”

 “It would be great if it won’t be in my head only, down the road.”

 “I’m sure you’ll follow through, by having such encyclopedic knowledge, you will make a lot of money.”

“I don’t want to become rich, I want to gift flowers.”

 “To gift?”

 “Do you like these red roses?”

 “They are beautiful, I wouldn’t mind at all if you gave me a rose.”  Furioso had been successfully hiding his phobia of flowers.

 “I’m giving you the whole bouquet.”

 “The whole, why?”

 “I have told you, I like to gift them, and now I have one more reason because you are a nice man.”

This time Furioso smiled, imagining himself as a nice man.

“I like to see people smiling, and you have a beautiful smile”, she told him. “After all, every person with a smile looks better. It is the smile which beautifies a person’s face.”

 “I’m Furioso.”

That morning Furioso wasn’t in a rush, he had a day off after a few busy days when he had been contributing to the business of his father Shikamoto.

“Today you have a day off, do what you want, but tomorrow I want to see you in my office in the cooler”, Shikamoto has told him over the phone.

Furioso was Shikamoto’s right hand. He liked the job, it was lucrative. Before noticing the girl on the side of the road, he was thinking of all those things he has done at his father’s behest. Shikamoto was satisfied with him, he used to say to his son that he was naturally talented.

 “You have laid down another one on the ice. Good job. It isn’t something you learn at school” – Shikamoto used to say after being phoned by Furioso that the job was done and he was on his way to the cooler.

 “What a wonderful world!” – Nozomi said, sitting on the seat next to him.

 “It really is” – Furioso said.

 “I have told you so many things about myself and my flowers, and you are wisely silent” – she turned toward him, expecting him to tell her something more.

 “Silent? Interesting, isn’t it? Shortly before I didn’t even know you existed, and now, shortly afterward, it seems to me the girl sitting next to me isn’t a stranger anymore. I would be glad if you manage to  open your first flower shop soon.”

 “And what about you?”

 “What about me?”

 “You haven’t told me what you do you do for a living.”

Furioso was looking at the road in front of him, it started to rain heavily. The visibility was reduced. He turned the wipers on, one could hear the wipers gliding over the windshield, as the car headed forward at high speed.

“What I am doing for a living? That’s what I was thinking about before I saw you standing by the road. It’s difficult to be said precisely…”

 “Should I be guessing?”

 “You think it’s that easy?”

 “No, but I believe I know the people, especially those of your kind.”

Furioso looked at her as if he wanted to make sure Nozomi is one of those who can read people’s thoughts.

 “You are a free man, someone who has a mind of his own. Did I guess?”

 “A free man, yes – at least I haven’t ended up in jail yet, and – yes, I’m a human, and I have a head through which some thoughts are running, now and then.”

 “In that case, it is as clear as day.”

 “Like this one, a rainy?”

 “No, like a beautiful sunny day, it is clear that you are someone who deals with art, a painter or more likely, a writer. Am I right?”

“I’ll have to pull over, at least until the storm is over”, Furioso said, using his turning signal. There was a motel beside the road as well as a complex of a few stores and a gas station. “If you have nothing against it, we could have a cup of coffee.”

 “You didn’t tell me if I had guessed what you do for a living” – Nozomi reminded him while they were sipping their coffee.

 “How would you know if I’m lying to you?”

 “So, you are a writer, however. The writers make up the biggest lies.”

 “If so, then I’m a writer. You won.” Furioso raised his hands.

 “I knew it” – she said.

 “In that case, you should know you made my afternoon. I’ll take you out for lunch, my treat.”

At first, Nozomi felt uncomfortable getting treated with lunch by the man who was being so kind to her, she felt she had already owned him for not letting her stand in the rain by the road, but rather pulling up, and she will be soon in the city. But Furioso had been persistent and eventually, she agreed.

 Furioso called the waiter and asked him to bring the menu. The lunch passed in a pleasant atmosphere, this time there were both talkative, she touched Furioso’s arm a few times in the process. He got excited when she took a little hold of his palm, telling him she was seeing there positive changes that are about to happen in his life, and a beautiful woman will become his spouse. He caressed her hair.

 “You have beautiful hair” – he told her.

“I prefer it longer.”

 “Short hair looks good on you, so your milky white skin and the slender neck come to the fore.”

The storm outside wouldn’t stop. The wind and the rain were getting stronger.

Furioso caressed her neck and kissed her. Nozomi didn’t object.

 “As far as I can see, the storm isn’t going to cease” – Furioso glanced outside. “If you want, we can take a room, so we can wait until it’s over.”

She looked at him and nodded.

Shortly after they were in one room at the end of the hallway. As they were entering the room, she jumped at him and started kissing him. All of a sudden, she stopped, as she felt she had gone too far, she stepped back to the other side of the bed, telling him she couldn’t proceed. But Furioso couldn’t stop, and it was then when the most terrible thing happened and everything was over in ten minutes.

 “I cannot watch this, even knowing that I’m a result of your imagination only” – Monroe said, covering her eyes.

During the whole time, Einstein had been looking through the window and if it wasn’t for Marylin, who pulled him hard by the sleeve while she was getting out, he would have probably still been there.

Furioso had wrapped up Nozomi’s lifeless body in a bedsheet and when there wasn’t anyone in the hallway, he managed to take it out from the motel, without being noticed. The visibility was significantly reduced by the strong wind and the rain. Furioso had taken that opportunity and put her body into the trunk.

When he arrived at the cooler, after finding a place for the bouquet of red roses, Furioso got back to his car in the parking lot, opened the trunk again, and reached to remove the black nylon Nozomi’s body was covered by. A black cat jumped out of there. He got panicked after noticing the body was gone.

“Something is off here,” he said to himself while watching the cat making a circle around his legs before disappearing into the darkness right away. Furioso fumbled the trunk a few times, lifted the back seat, and looked under the car as well, but there wasn’t any trace of Nozomi. All he found was a black notebook. He had noticed it beside Nozomi while she was sitting next to him in the car. That’s when it popped up in his mind to ask her about the notebook. Nozomi told him about her intention to start writing a diary after arriving in Karuachi.

 “Unbelievable, your ill-fated friend has turned into a cat, hasn’t she? A sign of black magic”, Marylin said.

“Shut the fuck up, please. The least I want is dealing with black magic and such nonsense”, Furioso was up in arms, while moving around.

Furioso remembered very well what had happened in the motel room. He was sure that the whole episode with the hitchhiker wasn’t a delusion, because, besides being tired, he hadn’t drunk alcohol at all. His jaw dropped after opening her diary. It said there:

 “I just arrived in Karuachi. I’m not what I was anymore, but  however, I believe that my dream will come true by opening my flower shop.”

Translated by Simeon Jankov

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