The Third Silence by Nancy Springer

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What starts as a typical day for self-described arts nerd Brad Litwack is soon altered by a woman who stops a car in the middle of traffic and begins to paint poetry all over it. Brad is immediately intrigued, particularly by the phrase "Dario Fuentes," something his police officer father seems particularly outraged about when he arrives on the scene to take the woman to jail. Although his father insists Brad keep his nose out of the situation, Brad can't help but do some research to find out what message the woman was trying to convey. What Brad uncovers is a dark family secret, every bit as intriguing as the poetry-covered car itself. A short story.


So a bunch of us were walking downtown after school. Town, as in, Small Town, USA. Make that Small College Town. Which is lucky for me, because there are professors, who have brainy kids, so I actually have friends, which is not the usual fate of the school Nerd of the Arts. Which I am, despite my name. Hi, I’m Brad Litwack, and could somebody please explain me to my dad?

So it was May of junior year, my friends and I were heading toward the Emporium of Ice-Cream after another school day, and it was sunny and there should have been birds singing, but instead I heard car horns caroling. “What’s going on?”

One of the girls said, “It’s coming from the square.”

“Why do they call it a square? It’s a circle.”

Horns crescendoed, and ahead I could see traffic piling up. You would think people would be able to handle a rudimentary roundabout with a Dead General on Horse statue in the middle, but at least once a year… I grinned. “Some tourist went the wrong way again!” I broke into a trot. Wanted to see.

The circle was packed full of pissed-off horn honkers while more cars poured in from four directions like beans funneling into a jar. Cars tried to turn around, cars tried to cut across the grass island, cars drove on the sidewalks while my friends and I ran in the street. It was a wondrous mayhem. I laughed out loud.

“What if it’s an accident?” said one of the girls. “What if somebody died?”

“Nobody died!” I pointed at the epicenter of the mess, a muddle of heads around a woman who seemed to be standing on the hood of her car— Painting?

I couldn’t be sure at first. I just saw her gestures, smooth and precise, as if she were conducting Tchaikovsky. And her face, grave and still, with long gray hair pulled back in a braid. I recognized her, kind of. I’d seen her around town, maybe walking a Welsh Corgi, maybe clerking at an antique shop? She was one of those older women you see without noticing, faded female in faded jeans blending into the campus environment.

I saw a flash of yellow, brighter than the petunias around the Dead General, tipping the sweep of a long-handled brush.

“Is she painting the car?” somebody exclaimed.

  • Published by: Untreed Reads

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