Excerpt of God Lives In St. Petersburg by Tom Bissell
(Page 4 of 4)
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"How do you feel?" Donk asked Graves now.
Graves, still sitting on the bumper, flashed his ruined teeth. The dirty wind
had given his eyes a teary under-rim. "How do I look?"
"Fading. We need to get you somewhere."
Graves looked down, angrily blinking away his eyes' moisture. "Where are
"About an hour outside Kunduz."
"That's another hour from Mazar?"
Graves glanced around, but the dunes were too high to see anything but the road
and the road was too straight to reveal anything but the dunes. "Not far
enough, I imagine."
"We could hitch. Someone is bound to be along."
"Someone is. Who is the problem."
"You don't think the poor devils would use roads, for God's sake, do you?
This far north? They'd be bombed within minutes."
"I have no idea."
With shiatsu delicacy, Graves massaged his face with his fingertips. A bright
bracelet of untanned flesh encircled his wrist. Graves's watch, too, had been
stolen. His hands fell into his lap, then, and he sighed. "I hope you're
not worried, Duncan."
Donk decided not to remind Graves, for what would have been the fortieth time,
that he preferred to be called Donk. The nickname--a diminutive form of
donkey--dated to one of the boyhood camping trips he and his father and older
brother Jason used to take every year in the Porcupine Mountains of Michigan's
Upper Peninsula. If he had never especially liked the name, he had come to
understand himself through its drab prism. donk st. pierre was stamped in raised
black type upon his ivory business card; it was the name above which his
photographs were published. People often mistook his work for that of some
Flemish eccentric. When colleagues first met him, something Donk called The
Moment inescapably came to pass. Faced not with a tall, spectral, chain-smoking
European but a short, overweight Midwesterner with frizzy black hair and
childlishly small hands, their smiles faded, their eyes crumpled, and a discreet
little sound died just past their glottis.
"I'm not worried," Donk said. "I'll be even less worried when we
figure out where we're going."
Graves stared at Donk as though weighing him in some crucial balance. "You
seemed rather jittery in Pyanj. Wasn't sure you'd be up to this."
Excerpted from God
Lives in St. Petersburg by Tom Bissell, pages 3 to 12. From the
short story titled 'Death Defier'. Copyright © 2005 by Tom Bissell.
Excerpted by permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House, Inc. All
rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted
without permission in writing from the publisher.