40. Never Alone
From the moment she was born, he was often lonely but never alone. She was always there, saying, “Pay attention to me now, there will come a time when you won’t catch a glimpse of me as I blur across the years.” He knew that someday she would not fit perfectly into the crook of his arm, or fall asleep nestled on his chest, their hearts sharing one beat. He knew that the longer he held her the later that day would come, and that someday he would be able to sit without her, and be alone but never lonely.
39. The Station
He closed his eyes and listened. Footsteps. A voice, a word, a laugh. A child’s shriek. Music wafting out of somewhere. Echoing endlessly and forever. Underneath, a low hum and a rumble, coming through the floor, arising from nowhere distinct and everywhere. He felt that long after all of the trains had left the station the echo would remain in the bedrock and granite. He breathed in the air. Smelled the decades, dust and paper and smoke and a million exhalations. It was stale down here at the floor, but somewhere higher there was clean fresh air, cool and moist.
Little Bird just showed up one day, the friend of a friend I owed a favor to. I didn’t recognize the dust that followed her in the door. She settled on the kitchen stool like she owned the place and batted her long eyelashes at me. “Where you been, Bird,” I asked. “Flew south,” she replied, “Came back. Brought you this,” she replied, tossing an outdated arrest warrant onto the desk. She begged me not to open it, not to see what it was about. I was a fool for Bird, but we both knew I had to go away.
37. Whatever became of her?
Myrna was a swimsuit model first and foremost. She dabbled in the tarot and had recorded a rather risque folk song in her younger days, but those were just hobbies. (The record went platinum and is now considered a valuable rarity.) She was married to Avis Fagan, a chronically underemployed carnival barker who was no fun and no help. The whole thing fell apart when Myrna reclaimed her maiden name and ran off to Atlantic City with Viola Huff, her secret lesbian lover, intent on dominating the local bathing beauty racket. Avis was heartbroken and never stopped searching for her.
Quiet days followed close upon cloudless nights. We slept together, with cats, in a heap under blankets, and nothing came in to disturb it until I left, in search of my fortune only to find more of the same, but without her table of paints or her nearness or her touch, only her letter in the mailbox. Nights crept over me with hardly a notice, so alone and yet hardly lonely. That’s when we left it. But I wonder now, so far along and so long later, if that quiet has really left me or is only crouched low, waiting.
35. Treasure or Not
A six-gun sherif from a one-horse town wakes from a week-long coma in a stolen car with a wrong number in his head and a roll of film in his vest pocket. He suspects that the tattooed madman in the back seat is mocking him, making idiot faces in the rear-view mirror. He is curious about the tattered manila envelope on the seat next to him: is it the treasure map he’s been promised? He’s missed the turn-off again, and he discovers that he doesn’t know what day it is, not that it matters. Not that any of it matters.
#34: Exit Lotto
“Number 26,” called the MC from the stage, holding aloft the ball he’d plucked from the wire cage. A woman squealed. “Yes! I’m number 26!,” she shouted. “You’ve won,” said the MC brightly, “Off you go!” An usher escorted her up the aisle, unlocked the chain from the exit door, and waved her out into the dazzling sunshine. We craned our necks to catch a glimpse of what was left of the outside world. Then, too quickly, the door slammed closed, plunging the theater back into darkness and quiet. “OK, who’s next? How about… number 40,” asked the MC.