Jonathan was out on his front porch swing, engrossed in another vampire book, when he gave a shiver and, looking up, caught his neighbor’s dark eye. Willy was across the street, standing on his own front porch. ‘Okay if I come over?’ he called apologetically.
Chris leaned his head against the bus window. He was tired but he couldn’t let himself even doze as that would turn into deep, much-needed sleep.
To this dying man whom the wolf already scents
And whom the crow watches.
Baudelaire, Flowers of Evil
Hobie Barkley was a first-riser most of his life, and once he was of exploring age, able to go on his own, he toured the mountain like it was newly presented to him, a gift from the God of Mountains. Nobody in the Greater Hills Region of Colorado knew it any better than him. Even some of the old prospectors, their habits and labors cut way back by age, infirmity or a newly-found woman, did not rise to his habits.
I’m rolling my head back and forth back and forth for hours at a time, sometimes against the wall, sometimes along the bed. I regard my first morning view, freezing ice frost patterns on the inside of my single window. Then it’s back to blankets awhile and rolling my head. To be free you must connect with people, withdrawing with my rocking is disappearance in my trance. But it is also liberation. I conjure up visions from the pace. My intent: to take the randomness of life and organize it, to picture by motion daily happenings and rhythm out a purpose. I spin through a back and forth reverie sweep of prairie sky, the colour and thought of the blue turning in my mind, imagine the bridge over the South Saskatchewan river, take that bridge to wilderness, to antelope leaping over the Great Sand Hills. I have $42.39. I’m 24 years old. I have a college degree. I lie on my bed and rock.
“Hi, is this Mark? Mark Chance from Deakins High School?”
Shane was sitting in front of his laptop. On the screen, an image of two young boys standing in the shade of a half-pipe, their arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders. A date, digitally imprinted in yellow, told Shane the photo was taken the spring of 2006. The boy on the right had a bloody chin and was smiling, pushing his cheeks up and squinting his brown eyes. His hair was black with brown roots and hung past his jaw. Red speckled his white Thrasher shirt. The other threw his head back in laughter, his half-black-half-bleached hair unkempt. This one wore black pants and a black The Clash tee.
“It’s Shane Lynch.”
It was a bright Tuesday morning, and the city’s dense, forest-like clusters of residential towers were stirring to life like immense ant hills in the hot rays of the sun. Down on the streets, the waves of commuters came pouring out of the towers to converge on the massive Ninth Gen Maglev Station at the base of the main transportation bridge.
Sometimes you just want to try something new.
Last week I embarked on a project – growing a beard – and tonight, instead of trimming the Christmas tree I never bought, I trimmed my new beard. The electric clipper vibrated too close to my ear, drew blood, and snagged a chunk of my hair. So tonight I also shaved my whole head. It’s fine. Waiting to go bald is exhausting. Now bristly black stubble covers my head and I resemble a mugshot on the news.
The handsome interviewer smoothed his shiny red tie. “Says you’ve worked at the docks for practically your whole life,” he said, scanning Gwen’s resume on the other side of the desk. “That your crew unloads—whoa—a hundred ships a day? Is that true?”
Early evening light, what was left of it, spilled near Jack Wilkens in his one lone room in the big house, a house once flaunting and imposing in its stance, now cluttered like an old shed forgotten in a back lot, debris its main décor. Despite his reputation as the town drunk, a ne’er-do-well from the first day, an inveterate crank, there had been an instant and subtle attraction between me and the old codger, an attraction without early explanation.