The man, Alfredo, is from Colorado, visiting his sister. “Nothing much to do but sleep, sit in the springs.” He gazes out at Turtleback Mountain from where he is submerged next to Linney in one of the mineral baths. “But you already know that, being from here.”
It’s been a long time since Linney has been “from here,” but she knows what Alfredo means. It is why she is “from here” no more. As she drove into New Mexico last night from El Paso International Airport, the landscape was black, a cloth of velvet pushpinned by stars, keeping its secrets. Such suspense for nothing, she always liked to think; when she woke up this morning at her father’s hostel/mineral springs on the Rio Grande and jogged out along Interstate 25, not a car passed her for twenty-five minutes. In the quiet November morning tumbleweeds pinwheeled across the road; cacti dotted the earth around her, holding their arms in surrender.
Waving men, Hok’ee always called them. Linney wonders if Hok’ee knows she is here. He always had a way of sensing her presence, finding her on the exact day she was home for Christmas or spring break. Something her father never seemed to know. He’d look up in surprise from the bathroom of the guest trailer, one of three on the sprawling, shanty hostel grounds, where he would be feeding a plumber’s snake into a toilet bowl or fiddling with the shower head. His long, grey hair would fall out of its ponytail, covering his eyes, blue and flat like metal. Linney, you shoulda let me know. He would drop the snake, the wrench, wiping his hands on his jeans. I would have picked you up at the airport. She always had called; he’d always forgotten.
Alfredo shifts his compact body in the bath; his belly, pillow shaped and curving out from under his breastbone, protrudes above the water before descending. He is the color of caramel; eyebrows like inky caterpillars nearly meet across the top of his eyes. Linney imagines him eating tortillas and beans with his sister at the taqueria in town, his cheeks puffed like a squirrel’s, his onyx eyes flittering under dark eyelashes.
“You don’t like to relax,” he says after she rearranges her limbs, pale, spindly, for the millionth time, from the other side of the tub. Each of the three tubs holds six people, and she is still irritated that although they are only ones here, Alfredo’s leg, arm, sometimes brushes hers. “You need to come back here more often.”
“Here is why I’m like this,” she answers, wanting a cigarette. She and Hok’ee used to smoke in the baths, after they were closed to the public and hostel guests. Not cigarettes, of course. In the dark they would sit in one of the tubs, the water draining, drying minerals lacquered to their skin, and share a joint. Turtleback Mountain stood between them and the rest of the world.
“You wanna climb the mountain?” His arm draped around her shoulders, he would exhale smoke the size of a raincloud into the night.
“Not tonight,” she’d answer, kissing his neck, rubbing the tips of his shiny black hair between her fingers. For years he’d worn it past his shoulders, tying it in a ponytail during football season. She had heard from her father that his mother cut it off after the accident. She was not sure if it was for Hok’ee’s sake or his mother’s. He’s not, you know, retarded now or anything, her father explained over the phone after Hok’ee flipped his truck outside of Silver City last summer. He’s just different.
“What are you, a big-city girl?” Alfredo again. He is harmless, but Linney hates telling the story over and over.
“I live in Brooklyn. The dead-time here...takes some getting used to.”
“I guess you weren’t ever used to it,” Alfredo smiles. His front tooth is gold. It glints when he turns, like a revolver in someone’s waistband. “You left the first time, didn’t you?”
“I hadn’t planned on coming back,” she agrees, standing up.
She may have come back once, she surmises. For Hok’ee. To take Hok’ee back, before he became lost to her.
Now, she is here for her father. The baths begin to get more crowded as the hostel guests emerge from the half moon of trailers and the twelve-person dormitory her father and Hok’ee made from cinder blocks and wood many summers ago. Hippie graffiti?suns and peace symbols and marijuana plants?has grown over the cement since her last trip. The hostel on the river also has grown organically throughout the years, more so during her absence. Now, there is a tepee housing God knows what, new picnic tables and a fire pit in the center, a volleyball net.
She folds herself into her towel as Alfredo looks out over the river, Turtleback Mountain. For years, until she was fourteen, she didn’t even know what was on the other side.
After a shower, Linney will take her father up to Albuquerque for his radiation therapy. At one time, the cancer had been contained in his liver. But at some point, after visualization therapy and meditation and kombuca tea, it had spread to his bones. And he called her.
The main trailer is halved?one side houses the check-in; the other her father’s living quarters. Linney sits on the green canvas couch out front as the stringy-haired receptionist smiles at her indecisively. The Grateful Dead plays on a small CD player, and the girl sways as Jerry Garcia sings about Annie Bonneau from St. Angel.
“Linney, have you met Skye?” Her father emerges from the back room. Under his poncho he is thinner than an erector model. His hair is gone, and Linney can see the pale outline of baby skin under his Bailey hat. “She’s our new day clerk.”
“I’m Ross’s daughter,” Linney says, for clarity. Although she is pretty sure her father stopped sleeping with the college dropout drifters that worked at the hostel in exchange for room and board. Skye places an old thermos mug on the counter.
“I made you some green tea with mint, Ross.” Skye smiles, and Linney wonders why Skye or Hallow or Ripple or whoever doesn’t drive her father to Albuquerque. What he wanted with her. They walk out to the gravel lot, and behind trailer 1, which has the newest beds and plumbing, she thinks she sees Hok’ee, beating out carpets on the old laundry line. It is always his eyes, dark marbles that pressed on her shoulders and rolled in her stomach, that she sees first, then his hair, his body lean and tough like jerky. But when she stops and walks back to the place she spotted him, there are only carpets, old beaded rugs and Guatemalan blankets doubling as rugs and curtains hanging, the dust agitated around them.
“I gave Hok’ee a job here,” her father says in the truck, seeming to read her thoughts. He holds the thermos in his lap like a bowling ball. “The resort let him go.”
“That was nice of you.” She wonders if he saw her when she got in last night, if he followed her during her jog this morning. Why he didn’t come see her.
“It was certainly nice of me to give him a job after working for Turtleback Mountain Resort,” her father laughs. It is small, squirrely. One of the things Linney likes about him. “But, never fear, Linney. We’ve been around long before them and we’ll be here long after their speculative corporate weasel asses go bankrupt.”
“They try to buy you out again?” Linney spots a donut shop and aims the Ford truck, old and creaky and as easy to maneuver as a parade float, to its drive-thru. She orders a coffee and a bagel then feels guilty, knowing her father cannot eat before his treatments. She pushes the thin cardboard cup into the plastic coffee holder and unfolds the wax paper on her lap. There is a crack in the windshield that spiderwebs over the passenger window.
“Yep. Once a month they send their snake oil salesman down.” He sips at the tea. “Always say it’s their last offer. It never is, but it’s always a little less. Still more than anybody should pay for my little shantytown.”
“I don’t understand what the point is of having two of the same resort on either side of Turtleback Mountain.”
“Well, that’s just it. They surround Turtleback Mountain, and they sort of de facto own it. Plus, with their proximity to Elephant Butte, they’d practically own everything people come to the town for. Then they become the town and drive little Ms. Diaz’s tacqueria shop out of business and the thrift store and the coffee shop and then it’s one big fucking ghost town DisneyWorld. They ain’t never gonna buy RiverView from me.”
Her stomach sinks. It must occur to her father that, by her lack of visits, mention of RiverView in her e-mails, that she has no interest in its survival or demise. But maybe he thinks because she’s here, driving him to his treatment, maybe things will be different. Maybe she will fall in love again with her childhood home. From here, it must look different than shiny, dirty New York. Up the ribbon of road a crow glides, landing on a tire carcass. It pokes its beak at the rubber entrails.
At the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Linney’s father jokes with the nurses and introduces Linney.
“I see the resemblance,” Everly, the radiation nurse, smiles. She reminds Linney of an empanada, warm and brown and doughy. She wishes she weren’t still so hungry when her father is so fleeting of substance, so slippery and thin. She remembers when she and Hok’ee tried to paint the walls of her paneled bedroom when she was fourteen. The purple paint smeared and streaked and would not catch, would not bond with the varnished particle board. They smeared it with her hands before wiping it off with a damp towel. She and her father lived in a house then, a few blocks over from the hostel. He sold the house when she left for Columbia University, and put the money into the hostel.
Everly takes her father through the double doors and Linney sits down in the empty waiting room. The floor is buffed like water, the sun cutting through the big slats of old-fashioned blinds that cover the windows. There is too much emptiness here not to think, which is why she likes New York. One must multitask, overwork. Hurry. Be alert. Linney wonders if her father resents her mother’s genes in her, that genetic sequence that itched her to travel, to move, to work for a small clothing house doing PR, after he had trained Linney for years to watch the sky, watch the moon, listen to the earth. Be very, very still.
She goes outside and fumbles through her purse for her cigarettes. She lights one and opens her phone to check her e-mails, not believing she has lived the past 24 hours with the shitty reception at the hostel. According to Facebook, her friends back in Brooklyn are eating at the new Russian place tonight in Williamsport. Peter has texted her: hope your father is okay. She and Peter are not quite up to calling yet, although Linney wonders if she will break the protocol on this trip. On their second date, he mentioned maybe taking her to Vermont to ski at Sugarbush in January. Perhaps he wasn’t really thinking that far ahead. She tries not to read too much into things, like the phone calls and hang-ups she received a few weeks before leaving for New Mexico.
If the calls were from Hok’ee, she could never figure out. The phone number was private, probably a calling card. She wonders how she looked to him back at the hostel, ten pounds thinner, her baby flesh scraped out of her face by cigarettes and espresso and four hours’ sleep. By New York, its vampire energy. Its bite was so quick, so fleeting. So much time was spent waiting for the next graze of its teeth. She wonders why it is so hard to think of him now, her ex, so close, his name on her lips, a forbidden word.
She goes back inside, reading but not reading an old Time magazine until the double doors swing open.
“You make sure he drinks fluids and gets rest.” Everly guides her father back to the waiting room. He is crumpled like laundry; his eyes follow something in the room, perhaps a reflection of light. “He always tries to go back to work too soon.”
“Don’t worry. I’m here now,” Linney says. Her father’s elbow travels from Everly’s to hers, his weight shifted, and Linney and her father walk outside into the high sun.
“They kill you, telling you they’re trying to save you.” Her father toes the ground like a deer, to the truck. His hand grips hers. “They just need to let me be.”
“The therapy is proven,” Linney answers vaguely. For time, she thinks, and time only. A little bit more time together, to pack all the rawness between them with gauze. “The other stuff you tried wasn’t.”
“It’s all in here.” He points to his chest. “And maybe here says it’s time.”
“Do you think it’s time?” She folds her father’s hands in his lap, pushes on them. She remembers when he sang to her, on those days when she was home sick. Old Indian songs she cannot remember now.
“If I had a say, don’t you think I’d want to live forever?” He laughs. Linney laughs, too. She pictures him, in his lawn chair overlooking Turtleback Mountain, a smiling skeleton, the wind humming through his bones.
Skye has made her father some kind of soup. Linney can smell it from the open door of her father’s room.
“You want to ride the horses later, Linney, just wake me.” Her father leans in the doorway. His chest heaves, his chin dip.
“You don’t need to entertain me.” She clutches the metal of the car keys, feels the teeth in her palm. “I’m here for you.”
“Well, ask Hok’ee then.” He turns and closes the door. She can hear his weight hit the bed.
“What kind of soup is that?” she asks Skye, who is drawing circles on a sheet of paper, humming. Her hair has been pushed up into a lavender bandana, and Linney can see her small, wrinkled ears.
“Oleander. It cures cancer.”
“Has it cured my father?”
Skye smiles slightly and does not answer. Linney picks at the piles of business cards on the desk. Faith healers, energy readers, tarot card readers. The dirty, smelly people in sandals who always hung around the hostel when she was a teenager, taking acid and listening to Phish while she tried to study for her AP exams. She thought her father gave them an excuse to be irresponsible, not to bathe, or pay taxes. Kind of like her mother, who according to her father wanted to float through the air like dandelion dust. Her father doesn’t even have pictures of her mother; she resents him for burning them after her mother left. She felt she at least deserved the memory, even if she, and she was sure she would have, chose to reject it.
Your life begins at Linney, her father always said, opening the photo album. The first pictures were of her head, a white grape, poking out from an Indian blanket. It’s your life, Linney. Not your mother’s.
“Would you like to join our meditation group later?” Skye’s eyes search her earnestly, and Linney herself feels dirty, mean. “We meet in the teepee. We meditate and chant and we also pray for Ross.”
“Maybe,” Linney answers. She will probably lock herself in her room in trailer 1 and listen to her iPod until she falls asleep. “I need to take a nap.”
“Seven o’clock,” Skye says. Her hand floats up and waves vigorously.
In the trailer it smells earthy, musty, and her air purifier, which she has brought from New York, is possibly broken, full of the red dust that swirled around the hostel in the dead of night. Outside she can hear some men playing Frisbee. She wets a facecloth with warm water and lies down on the bed, draping it over her face. Tomorrow she will ask to see the books. She needs to see what kind of financial quicksand she will inherit when her father passes. It would be easier, and probably necessary, to sell the land to Turtleback Mountain Resort, where the toilets didn’t back up, the linens were always ironed and white, its employees didn’t look like they were from Fraggle Rock.
But she cries instead of sleeping. The men stop playing Frisbee, and it is quiet. A chjjj-chjjj-chjjj outside her door startles her. His signal. When they were younger, high school, Hok’ee would crouch outside her window at night and mimic the Northern mockingbird. She sits up in bed, touching her face, feeling the swollen, damp bags under her eyes, her nose. She looks in the dusty mirror on the oak dresser, mismatched with the cherry wood clothes drawer, straightens her jeans, her sweater, wonders if she should change, not sure for where, for what. She steps out the door and closes it behind her. At the bottom of the trailer steps he waits, hands in his jeans, his face dark under his baseball cap. His hair curls slightly over his ears before stopping.
“You eat?” He nods over to a scooter. It’s not new, but it’s not in terrible shape. Linney wonders whether her father bought it for Hok’ee. After the accident Hok’ee’s truck was totaled, sold for parts.
She shakes her head. She sees Skye and a few other women in tie-dye caftans, draw-string pants, head toward the other side of the hostel to the teepee. One is carrying a small gong, the kind one might place on a table top.
“You want to go to town? Is the diner still open?” Hok’ee turns slightly, and she follows him to the scooter. His shoulder blades poke in and out of his cotton t-shirt as he walks. Linney remembers her hands on them during sex, choppy waves of bone and flesh. She slides behind him, pressing her body against his. His smell, sweet and sour, is still the same. They move slowly up the back street to the diner on the main street. Everything is as Linney remembers two years ago; the natural foods store, the thrift store, the community center where Hok’ee was the IT coordinator for the after-school computer program back when he was taking classes twice a week at Central New Mexico Community College.
When he slides off his cap before entering the diner she sees it, the crooked worm that juts from his scalp line down to his left eyebrow. He holds the door, his jaw set as she squeezes past him to the booth by the window. She sits facing the street and picks up a menu.
“My dad said you’re working at RiverView now?” She looks at the right side of his face. The eye on his left does not seem to fix, follow her. “I thought I saw you this morning but...we were late for my father’s appointment.”
“Yeah.” He picks up his water glass. “After the accident?I was having some trouble thinking. Headaches. My left eye.”
“Dad said it was pretty bad.” She touches one of his fists, a rock on the table between them. It’s warm; she can feel the slow, heavy pulse underneath the skin.
“Why didn’t you come back, then?”
She looks at the beautiful, symmetric side of his face as he orders, the darkstone eye, feathery eyebrow, the bend of his nose and long lips, smooth jaw. It had never ended with them. She just went away.
“I couldn’t get off work.” She shakes her head, releases his hand. She picks up the menu, orders a coffee and salad. “It was during my internship?I was working seventy hours a week. I was going to come next summer for a bit, but then with Dad in treatment, I managed to get some time off now.”
“And when he’s gone?”
“I was never coming back. You know that.”
When she was here last, two years ago, there had been talk. Maybe Hok’ee would come to New York for a month or two, enroll in classes, see how it went. She had always tried to imagine Hok’ee in New York, but she could never see him, his tall frame filling out his plaid jacket and jeans, his long hair licking his shoulders. He seemed better suited for expansive spaces, where there were hundreds of miles between mountains, towns, where he was not squeezed into subway cars, wrought-iron chairs, twelve-by-twelve studios. And there was his mother, Merona, wanting him to stay in New Mexico, to sleep in the trailer full of cheap gin, beer cans.
The waitress brings her coffee, Hok’ee’s Coke. Linney sugars her coffee, watches the crystals sink into the whirlpool she has created with her spoon.
“How’s your mother?” She brings the cup to her lips.
“She stopped drinking a little, after my accident. She took me to doctor’s appointments and stuff, helped me get around. Everything was real hard for me, and it was even harder for her.”
“Merona always had a hard time,” Linney agrees. Of her own doing.
“I was working at the resort for awhile, after I couldn’t handle the computers anymore.” He shook his head. “But we didn’t see eye to eye.”
Linney doesn’t press. Her salad and Hok’ee’s burger come. When he pours ketchup on his fries, she notices his hand shakes. Once Hok’ee wired computers. He could touch her face and charge her body. He could drive eighty, ninety miles per hour on the winding roads to the Gila Cliff Dwellings outside Silver City and not flip his truck, not be found for hours, oxygen slowly leaking from his skull fractures. Once he was a falcon on whose back she soared in her dreams.
“He’s going to give the hostel to you, you know.” Hok’ee drags a French fry through a river of blood. “He thinks you’re going to change your mind and run the place.”
“Is that what he tells you?” She spears some chicken and arugula. She wonders whether she will have to tell him tonight that she can’t run RiverView, what will happen to the others, Hok’ee.
“He takes care of a lot of people, giving them work. He makes a lot of people happy.”
“He’s a good man,” agrees Linney. “Under a mountain of debt.”
“I miss you.” He leaves the French fry in the pool of ketchup and takes her hand.
Linney figures that for months Hok’ee had to relearn things. His memories, how to eat, dress, comb his hair. To rebuild his strength. And so much still not recovered, perhaps ever. She wishes he would forget how good she was to him when she was here, remember how awful she was when she left.
“Why?” She shakes her head. “I wasn’t even here for you.”
On the way home Hok’ee takes her on the highway The scooter tops out at thirty miles per hour. It feels like they’re moving in slow motion. The craggily hills, cacti, come no closer, and yet they pass the lake at Elephant Butte, the roadhouse where she and Hok’ee played darts and ate peanuts on her college breaks. He drives for seemingly hours, and she lets him, lulling in a dreamy haze state of memory. If she had not gone to Columbia, if she had gone to the University of New Mexico or St. John’s College and built the hostel a website with an online reservation system instead of that ticky-tack page they have now, if she had advised her father on advertising, the hostel might not be sinking. He would still be dying. But Hok’ee?
She wonders if she will tell Peter about the stars at night, the formation on top of Turtleback mountain that looks like a turtle sleeping, the hot-air balloon races at Elephant Butte, whether she will keep them all to herself, along with Hok’ee, and her father. It is her other life, the known world.
Back at the hostel everyone is in the mineral baths. She can hear guests talking, laughing, behind the overhang that obscures the baths from the rest of the hostel. She follows Hok’ee down to the secluded spot under the cottonwood, a little ways away from the baths. They lean against the trunk. He leans over and kisses her. She does not tell him to stop. She wants him, but in a different form. The old Hok’ee. And she the old Linney, back when their world was unknown and anything was possible.
He rolls over on her quickly, his tongue in her mouth, his erection pressing against her leg. She pushes at him as he pulls at her pants, bumping his head into hers. He is not the Hok’ee that would kiss her shoulder, her breasts, linger, before entering. Her heels skid across the dirt as she tries to stand.
“Stop, Hok’ee.” She can feel his hand in her waistband. It would be easier to go through with it, but she cannot give him any hope. “Please. It’s not going to change anything.”
“Get off her.” A voice looms above them. When Hok’ee gets to his feet, wiping a string of spit from his mouth, Linney sees Alfredo, a pistol in his hand. He points it at the ground between her and Hok’ee. “Git.”
Hok’ee looks to Linney, and she nods her head, drawing her knees up to her chest. She listens to him walk up the hill, back to the hostel, hears the scooter far away.
“You okay?” Alfredo slides the gun back into his belt, letting his brushed suede fringed jacket fall over it. He holds out his hand, and she takes it to stand.
“Yeah...just a little weirded out. I guess I was lucky you were back here.”
Alfredo doesn’t say anything, and Linney wonders for a moment whether he had followed them, intended to watch. She quickly walks away from him toward the center of the camp, where the picnic tables and fire pit are. A stack of leftover paper plates rests on one of the tables. He follows her.
“I heard about that guy Ross got working for him now. He’s not right.”
“Well, he had an accident.” Linney brushes off her jeans. “He’s harmless.”
“I heard he tried to kill hisself ’cause his girlfriend left, drove his truck off the cliff.” Alfredo puts a cigarette in his mouth, shaking his head.
Linney feels herself pitch forward, her dinner in her throat, then Alfredo’s hand grabbing her arm.
“You sure you’re okay?”
“Can I have one of your cigarettes?” She slumps on the picnic bench.
He produces a Camel, lights it for her with his Zippo. She inhales and closes her eyes, and she remembers the first few months away from Hok’ee at school. She may as well been in a rehab, so painful was her detox from him, from home. They wrote, talked, faithfully those first few months. Linney had considered transferring to St John’s College in Santa Fe. Hok’ee had even asked him to marry her on Halloween, his words slurred from presumably spiked cider. But the leaves changed colors on the trees, winter came, with snow. So many new things happened. She met friends; she developed a crush on someone in her music class.
The pain had died in phases, rusting out like the junkers behind the hostel her father had always planned to restore, convert into day trippers for hostel guests. But Hok’ee’s pain, she did not calibrate. She had thought best to stay away.
“Who told you that?” She stands up. She can’t tell if it’s the cigarette making her lightheaded or something else. “It was an accident.”
“What was an accident?”
“The truck?Hok’ee’s truck.” She repeats. “It was an accident.”
“Whatever it was, I oughta report him to Ross.” Alfredo rubs the tip of his cowboy hat with his thumb and forefinger. “Who knows who else he might try that with.”
“He won’t.” She stubs out the cigarette on the bottom of her shoe. “I...was the girlfriend.”
“Shit.” Alfredo spits, and his hand comes up. “Man, I’m sorry.”
“You didn’t know.” She shrugs. She pats his shoulders. “Don’t worry about it.”
She goes to her father’s trailer. She walks past the night clerk, who is slurping a bowl of ramen noodles, and knocks. She listens to the shuffle, is surprised that Skye opens the door.
“Is he awake?” Linney asks, peering over her.
“Is that you, Linney?” Her father’s voice is muffled underneath mounds of quilts. The room is small, maybe eight by twelve, with enough room for a bed, a chair, a television. An unfinished puzzle of fairies is spread across the space in between. “Come in.”
Linney steps on the puzzle and plops in the chair, stares at Skye until she exits.
“You never told me about Hok’ee.” She grips the edges of the armchair. A few feet away, her father’s head, a fleshy melon sticks out from the covers. He turns slowly, partially, to look at her.
“Tell you what, Linney? You knew he’d be different.”
“You didn’t tell me it wasn’t an accident.”
Her father stares at the television, some public broadcasting show about the Civil War. He had always wanted to take her to Gettysburg, take her on summer vacation, but he never trusted anyone to watch the hostel. Bad karma, he explained. A pipe would explode, the baths would leak. He had never taken a vacation, as far as she knew.
“People talk,” he says finally. “But nobody really knows anything.”
“It was an accident.” Linney nods. She shifts in the seat, feels like she will throw up her salad. “How could it be anything else?”
“Hok’ee has always lived like his name?abandoned.” Her father lays his head back on the pillow. “You can’t worry about what other people do.”
“Dad, I want the photo albums. Is that okay?” She leans over to him. Her photo albums back in New York start during her years at Columbia.
“Everything’s yours, Linney. We’ll go over the will soon.”
“Dad, I’m so sorry...but I don’t want it.”
“Want what?” He opens his eyes, so blue, and she is surprised how much she already misses him.
“RiverView, Dad?I’m so sorry.” She wipes the tears off her cheeks with the back of her hand, is embarrassed that they still leak on her father.
“Don’t worry about RiverView, Linney. I’m leaving it to Skye.”
“You don’t want to deal with it, Linney. You got a good thing going where you are. We both know that.”
She holds her head in her hand. She feels more abandoned than Hok’ee, more abandoned than relieved. On the television rifles pop, men die in agony. She pushes some of the puzzle pieces under the television stand with her feet.
“Dad, I need to go find him.” She stands up and grabs the truck keys from where they are hooked on the wall. “He’s out there, driving around alone on that scooter.”
“Linney...” He holds up his hand but lets it drop.
She runs out to the parking lot and climbs into the truck. He could not have gone very far. Still, there is so much land to search. The headlights wash out a milky, soft square in the night before being clipped by the black. It closes in on her, unnerves her, until she pulls over and sits in the truck with the engine off, listening for the purr of the scooter. She closes her eyes, hears hawks and insects, sits very, very still.