by Rudi Dornemann
Lanterns on a line, dipping low enough to the water that we have to either hug the warehouse wall (with its windows of deeper night where the moon can't get) or the crumbled concrete shore of the plaza (with its scorched memorials that remind us of too much). Rena tells me to choose which side tonight.
I can't decide in time; we wind up in the middle. Rena lifts the electric line with the oar while Powell and I paddle with our hands. Slow passage while heat lightning vibrates behind the clouds. Powell doesn't look at me. He hasn't hesitated when he got to choose.
Goosebumps up the back of my arms, a chill like a pinch on the back of my neck: we're in. We don't paddle, just let the current tug us on. It might not work, might be another wasted night. Only two nights left of the week we paid Rena for.
She clatters around under the woodslat seat, comes up with a cassette tape, plastic case yellow as antique ivory. Clicks it into the openface player, slaps play. "Bohemian Rhapsody," echoes tiny off the ranks of basalt going up on either side of the water like steps or arena rows. All the tapes in Rena's shoebox squeak and warble; all are singers who knew what death would take them. We hope to ride some echo of their courage.
And the fog does part, and we do go through, into open water, where the moon is like a low ceiling, its reflection like a shivering floor. Night inverts to day and we're back where we started, but we're back years before the end.
We climb up uncrumbled stairs to an unruined plaza. Within six hours, one of us will melt like fog back into our future, our life after all this is gone. The other will just melt to nothing, to nowhere.
I look at the stranger crowd, the stores, the shining cars. It's been twenty years since ice cream.
Behind me a splash, shouts.
Rena drags herself out of the water. Powell oars away.
"I'll get the boat back," she says. "I'll wait for him. If I'm not here, you wait."
She pulls a soaked roll of old money from her pocket. "Meanwhile, I'm going shopping. Want anything?"
I try to remember which flavor was my favorite.