No Country for Fake Men

Fake Cormac faked his way through the highway and stopped at the first traffic lights although he was on foot. No one took that road anymore, not even the crossers, so he was the only person in a desert riddled with lifeless bodies, leafless trees, and cordless lampposts. Or so he thought anyway. Near the horizon, a string of brothels appeared in a mirage and resembled someants infiltrating a beach full of hot sand. It reminded Fake Cormac of a dream he’d had recently, in which he had to watch his childhood home melt in furious flames. He could barely remember half of it now, only the intensity of how much he missed that place.

As the traffic lights turned green, Fake Cormac went on his way and that was when he noticed the silhouette of a man walking toward him from the opposite direction of the otherwise empty highway. Whether because of the backlight or some divine play, he couldn’t make out the man’s face from where he stood, or what he was doing in the middle of nowhere. The tension rising from the hot tarmac brought Fake Cormac’s hand to his belt although whatever toy he was carrying in that holster must probably be shooting blanks by now.

The man stopped at a few feet from Fake Cormac and tipped his imaginary hat. He seemed about the same age with Fake Cormac and was wearing sunglasses over a brown leather jacket that matched his cowboy boots. He was carrying a funny-looking device with a hose attached to its body, which Fake Cormac didn’t liken to anything he’d seen.

“Aye,” Fake Cormac’s voice found him like an old friend coming home. He realized he hadn’t spoken for days. “How you doing there, friend?”

The man spat a large medal of phlegm on the sand. “Call me Fake Cormac,” he said, extending a hand.

With a hesitant nod, Fake Cormac covered his eyes from the sun with the back of his hand and offered his free hand to Fake Cormac. Why putting on a pair of sunglasses triggered some people to talk in a thick American drawl was unclear, but it apparently still cut it for some stray men in the desert.

“Where you headed to, Fake Cormac?” Fake Cormac asked.

“California,” Fake Cormac replied.

“I heard the cats in California can beat you with a bat and scratch you with a pitchfork.” Fake Cormac laughed at his own joke. “Like a bunch of fucking farmers.”

The Fake Cormacs stood there looking at everything in the desert but each other. The rumble of a speeding ice cream truck strummed their ears as it passed by; the vehicle had the red cursive logo of FAKE CORMAC & SONS printed on its backdoor.

“Look, friend.” Fake Cormac studied the unmoving lines on Fake Cormac’s face. He felt the first bead of sweat coming to fruitition on his forehead. “I think I’m gonna go on now if that’s okay.”

Fake Cormac set his device on the ground. “Be careful out there,” he said in this low, grumbly voice, never once breaking eye contact. “You never know when you may run into a Fake Cormac these days.”

Fake Cormac nodded imperceptibly, flitting his eyes between Fake Cormac and his device. He let out a sound that could be interpreted as anything between disapproval and desperation before he motioned to walk, but he got stopped by the traffic lights again. Afar, two pump jacks started adhering to each other’s moves in the canopy of a brothel, like two cowboys meeting at noon. Fake Cormac stared at Fake Cormac, and Fake Cormac stared back.

“Fucking cats in a cathouse,” Fake Cormac cursed at a blackbird landing on top of the unchanging red light.

The bird didn’t reply.


Sarp Sozdinler splits his time between Philadelphia and Amsterdam. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming on HAD, Maudlin House, X-R-A-Y, No Contact, The Masters Review, Passages North, The Offing, and elsewhere. More on @sarpsozdinler or at sarpsozdinler.com

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