Brotherhood at the Station

There's a sense to it,
A raw anticipation,
That it's just over the next hill,
With crisp light and solutions,
To it they all come bounding,
Dropping suitcases,
Setting in on that abolishing embrace,
Everyone cries,
They always cry,
Not for the hole in my pocket,
Not for the keys I am missing and the love that eludes,
Behind everything I cannot lift,
But for each other,
As I wiggle my finger through the freyed cloth and look at my scuffed shoes.


The M Word

Today I wrestled with the sun. I obtained a fantastic grip and gained some headway, but at length I was hurled back here. My opponent did not gloat at having bested me, but rather remained inwardly content behind some scurrying clouds. I thanked him for the degree of respect he commanded with that, and went on my meager way, wondering why anyone would consider even a day's chance here so unwelcomed it necesitated the label "meager." I consider every day that I talk to at least one of you, my beloved, far worth the pain of teething and far from that horrible word. Meager.

What did you do today?

All They Did Was Stare

Everyone's unsatisfied,
And breaking their backs,
With sparks,
And iron,
And a furrowed, blackened face,
Fathers in studies,
Mothers love like little,
Scrappy dogs,
We are fending for ourselves,
In fully stocked cabinets,
And we are so tired,
Of concrete,
Right-angled living,
We need each other,
To forget how every vein,
Is contemplating rupture,
But from the courtesy,
Of telephone poles,
We sit in a sea of white tile,
With our sanity,
Going insane,

And we've washed our folded hands of the whole thing.


All My Personal Days Are Booked

The Tulips I gave you,
Looked very nonchalant,
Leaning on the one side of that vase,
Out in the summer rain,
Your hair was in curls that whole week,
And I couldn't get enough of kissing you,
I lived in every drop,
We didn't clean the house at all,
And stayed in bed,
All day.

The Union

There were musketeers,
And buccaneers,
At our wedding,
They all smiled,
Everyone was clapping,
Your mother cried,
And I loved you.

Still love you.


The brazen bell flopped back and forth as the door glided open with the frozen air. Blossoms of snow floated in behind her and fell on the grooved carpet mat that she wiped her brown treaded boots on. Perhaps it was the sudden rush of air, but the whole room seemed to bend or sway towards her. People, unbeknownst to themselves, turned in her direction. Even the door seemed to be grasping for her as it fell back in place. She advanced into the little Scandinavian tea shop, her red woolen scarf down in waves from her shoulders. One cream colored hand reached up to brush a lock of hair from her eyes. It was a warm brown, the kind perfectly displayed in the light of something alive, like fire or candles. A faded grey tank top covered her upper body, but ruffled at the bottom around her naval. Rather than straighten it out, she reached down and spread her fingers out over her stomach, which just barely protruded due to her posture. She was every wife that husbands ever died for, and every woman that men ever sought after in that moment. The short line quickly depleted and she wrapped her hands around the strap of her blue bookbag and leaned forward only slightly, as she was soft spoken unless conveying something she felt ardently, to place her order. She took a table next to a window overlooking a small arched pedestrian bridge, and further below a small canal. She pulled out a book, Chaucer, rather thick and clearly worn, but did not open it yet. Her fingers timidly felt the corner and pulled on the pages, echoing the sound of shuffling cards. Her eyes were outside, on the people crossing the bridge. She saw many different people, as they were not particularly aware of her and kept a quick pace and agenda, but she did not look at them. She focused on the eyes of each man and woman, not for want of recognition but because that is the easiest and most honest definition of a person. A bearded man in a corderoy overcoat brought the tea, and she broke from the bridge to thank him. Every thing, everyone slowed. Time stretched onward, trying to ignore this woman who as a little girl never owned a pet but played with all the stray dogs that gathered at the end of her unpaved street, but she held it under her foot like the train of a dress, pulling tighter. Everything seemed to intensify, herself the nexus of some other-dimensional light source. On the bridge a little boy stretched over the white stone side with his grandfather and threw rocks in for their ripples. The older watched the younger, and remembered back when he was born, and the feeling of unbridled love and bliss that had accompanied the birth. He had never been a particularly emotional man, not cold but sorry he had not felt as much as he thought he should. But he felt now, and even threw in a few pebbles. Everything was caught in the air, in the middle of something. Then the ripples spread further, and the supernatural light receded but did not fade or disappear. It retreated to surrounding her, its caretaker, and flowing outward shortly with the lethargy of underwater seaweed. She picked up her tea and sampled it, then looked down at the corner of the Chaucer book.

She was thinking, but about what I cannot or will not say. Is it possible to think of something, and then have that thing happen simultaneously or later on, but only if you treat it with respect and caution? I hope so. I want so much to finally meet her, I don't know if she is or ever will be in that shop, but I know that she is real. I know.

Words are just enough air to continue to beat.



It Was Quite Windy That Day In My Head

In the tall grass,
With the shapeless clouds,
And the motherless moths,
Lighting on your perfect frame,
As you laugh,
Oh your laugh,

There I am.


On tiptoe,
Anxiety availing,
She wanted a chance,
Peering over the crowd at the cavalcade,
To the sound of churning,
Gravel rock grinding,
The paper iron balcony,
Did not sway with the breeze,
But held its breath,
As they came down the street,
Two by two,
Three rows,
To the funeral.


He walked,
Tie undone around his shoulders,
As they dispersed into the night,
He noticed the fading sky,
With the beginnings of that cream-tipped crescent,
Mouthing her name,
He could not speak in the face of headlights,
He could not speak.


ई मिस कुर्त

रेस्ट इन पास मर। वोंनेगुत, थिस वन मिसेज़ यू ग्रेत्ल्य.


Happy Birthday

All those adolescent highs,
The security and warmth,
A Pirate,
Stealing all thought,
Every moment,
Shorter than the last,
Like a sea to get lost in,
Neverending Capture,
Jubilaciously creative,
Too much,
Far too much,
For anyone I think,
But we wouldn't have it any other way,
Now would we?

And totally Gorge.

That is a small spectrum of Noor, of whom nothing close could ever be written. She is an experience, and she is a treasure. Lurve.


They skirted the floor,
He felt and felt he heard,
The scraping of dusty shoes on treaded hardwood,
But all he saw,
And all he cared to see,
Was those flying curls,
With the blur of that backroom parlor,
And her smile,
It held so much power in so small a space,
It gave him confidence to lead,
In circles circles circles,
She was his,
If just for these seconds,
Etched as if into a childhood tree,
Harboring an old tire swing,
Filled with fresh rainwater,
And Hope.
Her laugh,
Only he could hear it through this music,
"If you don't love me let me go,"
Circles Circles Circles,
It was all he knew now,
She was Eve and they were restored,
The lights swelled,
The din rose,

It was all so very fleeting.

**For Aubrie, a very beautiful person of whom I have seen not a single picture. (Quoted passage from "The Engine Driver" by The Decemberists-catch it.) **


Cacti Chp. 4-5

The men that nobody saw began infiltrating the Cosavo borders in ever-increasing numbers. They began reading the paper, ordering the special, and acquiring bumper stickers doting on exceptional children that they didn't have. Not all of them wore a suit, but all of them owned one. And nobody noticed them at all, except for Vincent, and only because he had had a very warped week and was on edge about anything and everything. Tommy's warnings still echoed as last words in his mind, and Vincent began to entertain paranoias that were not far from the truth. He began to spy at them in bookstores, and enjoyed the idea of being some type of agent, even if it was asinine. It gave a sort of comfort, to be in a world that made sense because you made the rules.

But we don't.
We don't make the rules and we don't get to say when the action starts and stops. We don't get to say how long the opposition is kept in the dark, or how they will react. And we don't get to have a preplanned suave remark for when they come up behind us.
"Excuse me," a friendly voice and a single tap on his shoulder. Vincent turned around. "Hi, my name's Claude and I was wondering if--if you could tell me where the restrooms are. Is something wrong?"
Vincent's eyes had inadvertently gone wide. Claude was dressed in khaki shorts with a blue button up shirt, no suit, no tie, no wire to his ear. Yet Vincent knew that at any other time it would be.
"Actually, we don't use earpieces. That's just the CIA, " he smirked and Vincent thought he saw nothing behind those lips, then teeth. Rows of teeth. No, razors.
His head was swimming. He spun back around and stared at the cashier with pleading eyes. He began looking to all the other customers, violently spinning his head from right to left to right.
"Uh, could someone help me! I think he's going to faint!" Claude again. Claude with the razors in his mouth. Claude the man that nobody would remember. Claude the-
And he was out.


He woke up to the scent of lemons. He was lying on his stomach and shifted to his back, squinting out a window with telephone poles scrolling lazily across it like an old filmstrip. Then he heard a grunt and turned to the front of the car.
"This town is so fucking stupid. I mean we could come in guns blazing and no news crew would waste the helicopter fuel to cover it. Oh, well! Hello there trooper!"
Vincent had been staring at the charm dangling from the rear view mirror. It was yellow, so he figured it was the source of the lemons. Now his eyes traced back to the man in the passenger seat. His head throbbed. His eyes ached. Still, he tried to focus on whoever had called him 'trooper'.
Then it was like being his by a wave. Vincent doubled back into the cushion, writhing in pain but unable to verbalize it outside of an intense hissing through clenched teeth. His hands began to claw at his hair. I'm going to die if this doesn't stop. I'm going to claw out my eyes and I'm going to die.
The Trooper man let out a chuckle and turned back to the driver, resuming their conversation. The driver seemed disinterested in pursuing whatever they were talking about, and turned around to have his own fun with Vincent.
"Hullo, sir! Could you -uh- help point me in the right direction of -uh, the restroom there please? Thank-ya!" He was faking an accent that no one spoke in the entire West, and Trooper man was snickering in his seat. "Aw, don't be like that, sir! Help a brutha out!"
Claude. Vincent remembered, even through the accent, that this one was Claude.
"That's right! I'm Claude and I still have to piss! You never did tell me where those restrooms were, no sir, you were too busy thinking about those plastic coily earpieces!"
So they read minds.

That was going to get annoying fast.
"Hey now! Don't get all aggressive on us now, or else 'Trooper' here will have to give you another hit." Trooper waved. "Now you just sit there all quiet like. Sleep if you want. We're going to your little excuse for an airport and catching the first flight out. If you try anything, N-ee-thing, bam!" Trooper pointed to his temple and nodded. "Don't worry about packing or anything, we'll take care of all that. And if you play your cards right and survive long enough, I'll even try and see if I can't bring you a slipping saying how you took your life in despair because of that Womack kid."
"Tragedy," Trooper chirped.
Vincent's head still hurt. Why hadn't the cashier done anything? Did all the customers just watch them load him into this car?
"Actually, they helped, " Trooper. " All Claude had to do was say he knew where the hospital was and that it would be faster than an ambulance, and I come up and agree and start helping move you, and there you go! One of the easiest lifts we've ever done."
Vincent sat up, and let his head collapse into the rest as he watched Cosavo go by through tinted windows. He wished Tommy had told him to pack some Advil.
Perhaps if Trooper hadn't been so hard on Vincent's first real Wave, he would've been away enough to see the Red Buick LaSabre going much too fast to not be in a hurry, and then running the busiest light in all of downtown. As it happened, when the car hit Vincent was just as surprised as the other two. Thankfully the point of contact shattered all hopes of opening the front passenger door, buckling it at such an angle that Trooper had to be dead.

There are angels.
Vincent opened the door even while his ears were still ringing. He saw people standing on the street corner. One woman with a baby carriage was pointing with one hand and covering her mouth with the other. A man who had been running was actually still jogging in place, his body not yet caught up with his head. Vincent bolted down Main, and hadn't gone a block before he had to turn around and see. Claude had wrenched free of the mass of buckled metal and was limping at a pace that would be brisk for most people.

There are demons too.
He was yelling and pointing at Vincent to solicit support from the onlookers. One man actually took a step towards Vincent, and that set him loose. He bounded down the sidewalk, then turned at the next corner. There were no alleys in Cosavo, so he didn't have to worry about getting stuck. He just had to make sure not to backtrack. His lungs began to heave with every step, but he had gained nothing on Claude and began to wonder if Trooper really was incapacitated. Finally his hands fell to his knees in exasperation as he turned another corner.
"Got a light?"
If Vincent hadn't been raised a good Christian boy, or if he had had any air in his body, he would've found the most vile string of explicatives known to man and brandished them upon the stranger in a heartbeat.
"You know, a flame? A lighter? A match? Hell, a bundle of sticks?"

Vincent looked up, losing what little breath he had regained.
It was James Dean reborn. Only he had dark hair, not long but not kept in strict regulation. His aviators reflected the street and opposite brick wall. He was swaying back and forth with his hands in the pockets of a canvas green jacket, and an unlit cigarette dangled out of his mouth. His smile touched ears when he saw Vincent's reaction, then jerked his head to a car parked on the curb.
"Hurry, Paco."
Vincent shut the door to the lowrider and they were going 60. He saw Claude turn the corner and his face flash red. He remembered the razors.
"We have to go to the airport. You have to leave."
"You go to sleep again in this town and you die."
"Who are you?"
"You have to earn that."
He answered no more questions and Vincent had no chance of surviving if he bailed out of the car at that speed.


They pulled up to the airport when night had fully set in. Mr. Dean handed him a ticket for a flight that left in ten minutes.
"There's no way I'm going to make that."
He flashed his teeth and Vincent noticed he still had those glasses on. But at least there were no razors. He was holding another ticket.
"Have faith, my son."
They were in the doors, through the checkpoint, and waiting for the last of the line to get through the tunnel when Vincent got a chance to stop. But it wasn't until he had actually fallen into his seat that he realized what he was doing. He put both hands on their rests and started to get up. His escort forced him back with one palm.
"Nuh-uh, Paco, We're about to taxi. Besides, you can relax a bit. You're among friends." He walked past him and came back with a Sprite. "Serving carts don't come 'round for another three hours, but I'm a paying customer, right?"
Vincent didn't want to talk. He didn't want to think. Hell, this guy was probably reading his thoughts too.

Well, at least he wasn't reminding him of it.
Vincent would've screamed as the plane flew through into the crisp night air, if that wouldn't have gotten them grounded and him killed.

Chapter Five

Even if you aren't particularly fond of your parents, there is still an unexpected tug of the heart the first time you are really and definitely separated from them. There is a sense of open vulnerability, which no son will admit but all feel from time to time for the first few days. It was this feeling that Vincent alone was shaking because of at 25,000 feet in the air somewhere above the continental U.S., and the same feeling his partner had shook from years ago. Pure empathy aroused him, though he would open his eye with no idea of his counterparts condition until he looked over.
"Oh, hey, you're up. Uh, sorry if I forgot, but you can sleep here and not die. None of them can fly that I'm aware of."
"No it's okay. I just wish I knew what was going on, why my friend was killed, and why the hell I'm on a plane with a guy who never takes his glasses off."
And then they were off, and Vincent was staring at circles of hazel. Then a hand.
"First thing's first. I'm Nathan, go by Nate, and in this one place I'm Reverend. Not Reverend Nathan or Reverend Nate, just Reverend. But don't worry about that place, you'll probably never see it anyway. As for what we're doing, it's really not mine to explain, but the short version is...well...shoot, there really isn't a short version. " His forehead crumpled down.
"Where are we going?"
"First? Detroit, then you're off to Europe. "
"I'm pretty sure I'd have to have a passport for that."
"I'm completely sure you would. And you do. Please give me more credit than that. If people can read your mind, can't I plan ahead?" he played being offended.
"Can you read my mind?"
"How can they?"
"Darkkkk Magicccc," Nate began to wave his hands in Vincent's face.
"And what exactly is that?"
"Voodoo fingers."
"No, 'Dark Magic' "
"Pig-fucked if I know. I don't even think magic is the right thing for it. Just wait a bit longer. Trust me, I'm in about the same amount of light on the subject as y- "
"No what?"
"You don't put someone on a plane and then tell them to just be patient."
Nate sighed and slumped back in his chair, then looked back at Vincent.
"You really wanna know?"
He looked around to make sure everyone else was asleep, then leaned over into Vincent's personal space bubble.
"Everyone is supposed to do something. At the beginning, people took the world they were given and built it into this lovely mess we contend with every minute. Now, most people dance around for a couple of decades or so, and pass on through. But there is also another group of people who feel it is their duty to end things. They would just as soon destroy beauty as admire it. At the top is this man -entity might be a better choice- who we know next to nothing about. But I can tell you for certain from all that I've experienced he is hell bent on seeing everything burn -even himself at the end." Nate was down to a whisper. Vincent mulled it over for a moment.
"And why am I on a plane?"
Nate perked up.
"Because we're the last group. No, you don't have a dormant superpower like laser-heat-vision or anything, it's just your- "
"Yeah. Basically, you're just deranged enough to go through what you're going to and not claw your eyes out."
Vincent remember the first car ride.
"I thought this was Tommy's destiny. He was the one with the calling from birth, not me."
"Tommy did serve destiny, you just have to see it play out. "
"So how much aren't you telling me?"
Nate twinkled.


They were landing.
"Shit! -" Nate was on a cell phone Vincent hadn't noticed before. "Well what was I supposed to do? Wait for the next flight! Okay, okay, so are they at the gate yet? Good, good. Yeah, I'll call you if we make it to Meg's. When we make it." Nate plucked his glasses from their pocket and was ice.
"Get ready to shove it, Paco." He was beaming.
They were up before the seatbelt light was off, and managed to make it through half the plane before bodies began blocking their route.
" 'Scuse me, pardon, he's expecting and we have to hurry! Sorry, oops! Here we go now."
They were in the terminal and running. Vincent could feel specific eyes on him, then motion to his fading left. Nate was on the phone again.
"Forty-five seconds, Meg."
They flat out sprinted the next hallway. An old woman's Pomeranian began jolting at them as they whisked by, then it only growled.
The men were close.
People were shouting now. Ordinary people, if there was such a thing anymore. Vincent saw the doors just as they hit them.
Then he was faced with another set of doors, this time a bit lower.

Open. Close. Lock.

Vincent found that he had actually lunged into the car, and was splayed across the entire back seat. Nate was seated comfortably next to a woman with swirling brown hair.

Meg apparently.


At not as much length as Vincent would've been comfortable with, they pulled into a driveway. The house was small and white, with blue shudders. It had a one car garage, and when the door closed you couldn't tell if anyone was home or not. At least there was that.
Both the other passengers had already disembarked and Nate was waiting at the door to the house.
"Don't worry, you'll get faster, " he said as they crossed the threshold.
Both the boys tested the endurance of the couch as they fell into it. Sounds came from a room in which Vincent could see half a refrigerator completely covered with pictures, magnets, and sticky-notes. Then the noises ceased. Silence.
"Phhhhh, Nate! Introduce me!"
"Oh! Uh, Vincent, please meet Megan Donnivan."
At cue she swept from around the corner and into the room. She wore a long fading jean skirt with a cream yellow top. She had dark skin, but not enough to be considered very tan, just a healthy brown. Her lips were full and sweet, and her eyes a compassionate but piercing green. He could tell she was a natural brunette, with only small hints of blond woven into what looked like the smoothest hair he had every seen. He restrained his hand from reaching out like a child to a wild rabbit.
She handed him a glass of water and smiled.
"Meg's also been convicted of arson three times!"
In a flash she was over and raining hell on Nathan.
"They were accidents! And it was a brushfire! It's not like anyone got hurt!" Nathan tried his best to protect his face. Vincent just tried to take it all in. In time both of them returned their focus.
"So, welcome to Detroit. I hear you've had a bit of an eventful few days."
"He hasn't seen half of it, " remarked Nathan.
"Well, from what I hear you've been taking it all like a real trooper."
Vincent cringed and felt his temple.
"Please don't say that."
"But you have- "
"No, I mean don't say 'trooper'. "
"Oh, okay. Sorry, " she shied away.
"It's no big deal, really, but thanks. And...well, would it be possible to- "
"Banish the manners, Paco, Meg here's like family. Ask her anything and she'll be happy to burn it for you."
She glared but smiled again.
"Okay, well- is there a bed I can get into? The airplane really didn't do much."
"Of course! I'll show you the guest room."
"Get some good hours in! Tomorrow we ride at dawn! Er...probably around eleven!" Nate yelled as the two went up the stairs.
When they were out of sight Nathan removed his aviators and rubbed his eyes. He was tired too, but he had to stand guard. They were awfully close to a whole lotta hell, and it would take Megan and him both to get Vincent to the Doctor.

(apologies for the transfer errors, all the Paco's are in italics as well as a good bit of Claude's dialogue, and some other stuff. The pardon has an accent on the o (yea, that French word), and hopefully you'll get the paragraph changes. Enjoy.)


Cacti Chapter Three

The clouds finally open up on Odessa, Texas, releasing thousands if not millions of tiny kamikaze droplets hurtling to the parched ground below. This is rain. Not a shower or a drizzle, but the rain that Odessa waits for every year. It will continue to fall for hours to come, and once back in '96 it lasted days. That was a particularly bad year. This year is a bit more mild, so people only expect about 10 to 15 hours of downpour. The amazing part is, as soon as you step out your door and open your screen, you would swear it hadn't bled an ounce.

The ground eats it all.

The Old Man sat and listened to the rain, even though there was no window to hear it fall against. There was no ventilation shaft through which any outside event could echo in. There was no orifice in the entire room, save for the door, which remained closed and did not even come close to fresh air when opened. The only piece of furniture was the chair, occupied by it's final resident. It was an old featherback chair, but no singular detail would constitute its age. There were no tears, and no patches. It did not complain when the Old Man shifted. The chair simply maintained its place and duty in the universe, not uttering a sound. Yet after constant exposure the chair seemed to almost scream old, and then drive whatever connoisseur that happened to be inspecting it mad from lack of reason.

But no one inspected the chair.

It was the Old Man's chair.

Ya dig?

White spotted fur from some larger feline ran up the sloping sides. Perhaps some barbarous caveman had slain its original owner high up on a mountain people now climbed for fun. Perhaps the caveman wasn't killing for food or defending himself either. Perhaps every other caveman, cavewoman, and cavechild had either left the mountain or starved. And perhaps this one man was left, blind by bloodlust, killing his opponent only to stand over the body and savor the steam rising from it.
The Old Man leaned forward. The red cushion underneath him bulged back but gave no sound. He rested his elbows just above his knees. and for but a moment froze. At only a glance it could have been possible that the end of those armrests were skulls and the Old Man some horrid cannibal king, but of course not. This is the new millennium, we have the Food Network to tell us what to eat. His left hand twitched once. Still.

Twice. Still.

Slowly his left hand glides through nothingness to his right, and begins to lightly trace the veins under the skin on top of his hand. His eyes begin to lose focus, and he feels every curve and rise. Back and forth his left hand scans the other. Up and down, back and forth. Eventually he turns his right hand over and begins tracing the veins under his forearm. Up and down. Back and forth.

The Old Man sat in the darkness, listening to the rain.

And waited.

The smell prevailed over all of Vincent's thoughts, and he barely made it through 2nd Period before he hung up on learning for the day. He cut out through the double doors with the crash bars in the back and halfway expected to see Tommy standing (or levitating) there like some cheap action movie scene where the gun-toting hero finds just the subtly-powerful monk he needs to stop the bald antagonist with all the financial connections.
Instead he found Todd. Again.
Todd Asnew had invited himself to replace Tommy after his disappearance. After all, their names were almost alike, right? That was his introduction. Vincent found that to be a profoundly rude thing to do, but discovered that in addition to a lack of manners, Todd also possessed an indefatigable will and refused to leave any situation he found himself a part in. He let Vincent by only to bounce around and badger him from every other direction as they strided down the sidewalk.
"Didja hear? Tommy's back! Can you believe it?"
"Well aren't you going to go see him?"
"That's just what I was getting around to."
"Oh, well I heard he was wearing some Dali-Llama cloak thing."
"What would he be doing with a cloak like that?"
"Wearing it I guess."
"Very funny. So, do you know where he is?"
"I figured he was still at Avery's."
"Yeah of course! You all used to go there almost every day! Good thinking!" Todd broke off into a run, his busted Keds creating little clouds on the ground like an astronaut with each landing.
That was a lie.
Vincent knew Tommy wasn't still at Mr. Avery's, he had visual proof of the fact. He didn't know where Tommy actually was, but felt confident that he had sent Todd to the one place he wasn't. Vincent thought that bringing Todd to Tommy might make him disappear again.

So he walked.
He walked up the main street in Cosavo with his hands in his pockets, departing only so he wouldn't pass in front of Avery's. As he left the store behind, he thought he saw Todd sitting on a stool drinking a chocolate shake. He knew he would not be bothered again.
His confidence in Tommy's locating powers began to waver once school let out and was almost gone around the time every other Cosavo family was sitting down to a Cosavo dinner of Hungry Man and the Wheel. The first stars were appearing in the pale sky when Vincent finally found Tommy not ten steps behind him, walking in his footprints.
"Did you find it?" Vincent heard himself ask almost involuntarily. He hadn't been thinking about it, but now the question seemed to seethe and writhe around in his mind as if he had been calculating it for years.
A smile began to spread across Tommy's face, one so obvious Vincent thought for an instant that Tommy may have returned crazier than before. Then:

The light continued to fade as the two friends stood like gunslingers at showdown. Slowly the smile left Tommy's face. What replaced it was a look of dawning urgency, and as he drew Vincent through the night his eyes began to betray the same darting attention field rabbits exhibit all their short lives. Vincent hoped that all the random directions would eventually lead them to one of their homes. Instead what came up before him in a surprising shaft of open moonlight where they stopped was another flat patch that would normally be passed over like every other square inch of public Cosavo, save for the little white flag flapping with the night breeze.
It was the place where they had buried the bird all those seasons back. It seemed impossible that the little white marker Vincent had stolen from someone's property line was still in the ground, but there it was, shooting back and forth in it's small patch of free motion with the speed of a hummingbird. Tommy seemed to wait for the location to drip its meaning into Vincent's mind, then pulled him down to sit opposite him a little ways away from the flag.
He hadn't noticed just how haggard Tommy had become until they both sat Indian-style on the hard earth. There were lines on his face that should not predominate so much on someone his age. His eyes still had that genius gleam and secrecy, but now they were laced with an expression of unwinding, of pushing a degree that you can't keep up and know you won't have to. If only he had stuck with the oboe.
"The bird. I forgot to tell you but I named him Clarence before I killed him. I don't know if he had a bird name among his bird friends, but I called him Clarence. It would've been a terrible thing to die without having a name, don't you think?"
"Terrible thing, " was all Vincent could reply. Now Tommy's whole body seemed to shake with its condition.
"You...You have to go to. You have to s-. You have to see it, " sweat began to trickle down his cheeks but his eyes never left Vincent's face, save one glance into the night. Then his next train of thought came to him, " I don't mean to say that you have a choice really, that I'm asking you to go wondering into the desert and disappear like I did. No, no, I highly doubt yours will be the same as mine."
"My what?"
"-All I'm saying is that you need to get ready. Prepared, mentally. I'd wager that some pretty messed up stuff is going to happen soon, and I-" again a glance over his shoulder, outside their oval of communication, "You just need to be ready. For anything." Something from his unknown past reawakened in Tommy, and his face cracked a wry smile. "Just remember, 'At the end of the world is a bundle of sticks.' "
"A bundle of sticks."
Tommy let his body relax and fall back a bit, and even let out a few chirps of laughter. Vincent was, like most of his recent history, at a loss. At least one of them got it.
"Okay, can you find your way home from here?"
"Yeah. Remember, I've had another three years in this town while you've been off destinying or whatever."
"Very true. " He smiled, and they parted.

Tommy didn't linger on his way home, but his didn't sprint there either. He took time to catch a glimpse of the moon through the cloud cover, and once he paused to peek in on a family that still had their lights on. He let his hands rest in the numerous folds of his most recent attire, and anyone that saw him (though no one did) would've pegged him as content in an instant. And all the time under his breath he muttered with that same unbelieving smile, " A bundle of sticks. "
He was waiting on the steps when Tommy came in sight of his house. He had removed his sunglasses and slid them into his shirt pocket, though it was safe to assume that he had worn them until the last shed of sunlight had been phased out. Now his dust-powdered shoes kicked a bit as he sat up, for he had been laying with his upper body on the porch. Then he was fully upright, and saved Tommy the last few feet by calmly coming up to meet him.
" I'm sorry. I know people must be thrilled that I'm back, but I still don't play oboe for strangers."
"I don't want to hear you or your stinking oboe. You know good and well why I'm here."
"Nooo, I know good and well what you're going to do, but I haven't the slightest clue why you're here. Do you see the difference?"
"There is no difference."
Tommy let out a sigh and acquiesced to the moment. He lifted his hands, palm-up, in front of the man and smirked mildly.
"A bundle of sticks."
His parents found his limp body a few feet from their steps in the morning, his necked snapped. There was no trace of the man that nobody saw. When Vincent heard, because everything travels fast in a small town, he wasn't prepared. He wasn't ready. He sat and cried, and thought about Clarence.



You may think that there is something wrong with me. You may despise my attitudes, my beliefs, even my life. You may strive to have nothing to do with me, and wish I were to disappear altogether. But know this: Before all of this and forever will I be prepared to march to the gates of hell and beyond for you.