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Table of Contents

Chapter Thirteen

This road does not lead home.

“Where are we going?” I ask.

With Sopiala gone, chauffered home and safely escorted by the Prodigy to her door, Larry has become even more voluble and excited.

“I think I know the place she was talking about,” he says. “Isn’t that right, Sigh? Sigh?”

The Prodigy reluctantly nods.

Larry sits on the Prodigy’s lap.

After that, I stop looking. I refuse to find out which mangled pair of hands hold my fate in the shape of a steering wheel. “Hold on. Are you saying you know what Sophiala was saying?”

The second reason I don’t look is that I would not know which one of them to address with my glazed gaze, Larry or the Prodigy. Or maybe it would be Henry who would sideswipe my eyes. Of course I’ve never seen Henry but it might not be unreasonable to assume that these two would bear more than a passing resemblance to the man.

“That might be what I’m saying.” I hear Larry squirming and shifting on the Prodigy’s lap, inspired by equivocation, energetic. “Of course, I might be wrong. I might be so thirsty that the thirst is interfering with my capacity to think.”

“I’m not in the mood to be fucked with, Larry.” I fall into this exchange with a ventriloquist’s dummy as though stepping through a hole in the middle of a trapdoor swinging open two seconds after I tumble down, insult to injury added. We adapt, for better or worse, blessing or curse. “Either you know or you don’t.”

I’m tired. The sleep that has eluded me for two days discards me like a cigarette butt, leaving me to smolder in the seat. Sleep deigns to ground me into extinction beneath the heel of its boot. I’m hungry for the plate of macaroni and greens, even for the ham I typically shun because in Sage’s shunning of pork I’m able to forge another small but common link, husband and wife annealed in those shared refusals of a world so insane that the secret to living in it without diminishment is to reject it in a million minute ways. Maybe I could eat the greens and macaroni and simply feed the ham to Larry, enjoying the pork vicariously, in the same way that the Prodigy must find vicarious fulfillment through Larry. “Either you do you don’t.”

“All I’m saying, chief, is reach under your seat. Pop me off a cold one.”

Under the seat I find beer, six stiff men hanging from plastic nooses. The can lurches, snatched from my hand. I hear the ring’s snap sizzle, the gurgle of satisfaction, the post-guzzled crunch of aluminum, that masculine masquerade of power in easy compression. Larry demanded the beer but Sigh is the one who drinks it.

“Have one yourself,” Larry says expansively. “You’re not driving.”

“My first mistake,” I say.

“All right. I’ll tell you how I know. But you got to trust me, chief. How do I earn that trust?”

“You could start by letting me drive.”

“Ho ho, good one, but no. If there’s no trust, there’s no truth. Right, Sigh?”

Breaking through my resistance, I look at them both. Larry’s head is turned toward me, at a macabre overreach of angled neck, his dotted eyes wide and fluttering, like a museum guard awakening from an unauthorized nap to find a blank spot on the wall where the Mona Lisa had hung 20 minutes ago. The Prodigy is all vigilant profile, high forehead and chinless chin, shoulders a narrow subside from sunken shoulder blades. The green silk bathrobe gives him a convalescent air of distressed relaxation. He has a long upper lip, a ledge of mustache like a thin dignified air-conditioner overhanging a window. His left hand, that doorknob with fingers, rests on the steering wheel, the right one a python snaking up Larry’s back. When he pitches words to Larry lips, the Prodigy’s neck falls and rises on a calliope steed of Adam’s apple, but his mouth remains perfectly closed, a tomb’s lid sealed by the vacuum of a corpse.

“Right, Sigh?” Larry insists.

The Prodigy turns briefly to look at me, as though ashamed of his subservience. Then he nods.

“All right,” I say, “all right. Look, I want to trust you, I really do. Okay?”

Larry says, “If you trust me, I’ll tell you. But first I want you to open your ears and listen.”

“Whatever.”

“No, not whatever. I want you to mean it,” Larry stipulates. “And you can tell anyone or not, I don’t give a wet rat’s ass anymore.”

I nod in a pretense of submissiveness, just like the Prodigy.

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