Rišto held out the gun. “You shoot it.”

Nikola emphatically shook her head.

The cricket quieted and in the great distance, a diesel engine’s horn sounded as some oncoming train approached a level crossing. The Zaštava, never reliable when left in park for long, sputtered and stalled. A last low rumble of traffic died away, and for an instant, there was absolute and utter silence. Rišto fancied that he could actually hear the stars, their light transmuted into song, foreign and fading, a hint of a glimpse of an impression, a sweet bright alien music apprehended at the very limits of perception.

He lowered the revolver. “I think we should go.”

Nikola hesitated. “If you’re sure.”

He shrugged, smiled into the darkness. “Do you want to be the one who brings a curse on all Macedonia? For killing the last horse in Skopje?”

They drove home in contemplative silence, and once at their building, they took the steps slowly, side by side and hand in hand, with seven millennia of history trailing like phantoms behind. Before bed, Rišto composed a letter and typed it up on Nikola’s old Rheinmetall Portable. When it was done, he pulled the sheet free of the roller and handed it to Nikola.

“For the Director,” he said.

Nikola, her orange toothbrush tucked in her cheek, nodded and read.

Paris has its Eiffel Tower, and Niš the Čela Kula. In Moscow, they have Red Square and the Kremlin. Here in Skopje, a modern city, we have a horse. May we always be blessed with such wealth.

Nikola handed the sheet back. A dribble of foamy white toothpaste had escaped the corner of her mouth, but her eyes were shining. “Good,” she said. “Now we get on with our lives.”

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