Maddy was asleep, a smile on her face. Cliff slid out of bed and padded, naked, to the hall. Curiosity always got the better of him in a new place, and most girls didn’t seem to mind. He had already seen every room of Maddy’s small apartment except the spare room. Maddy was … perplexing. Tall, dark, her face oddly proportioned, as if she had been made by someone who had had women described to him but who had never seen one. Different in bed too. Earlier he had felt like his entire body were about to explode. Afterwards he had patted himself down, just to make sure he was all there. Her décor…. Her books had never been opened, the TV was dusty. Only the bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen had seen any use at all. He eased open the door of the spare bedroom and slipped inside. The only light came from the hall.

He took a few steps in, waiting for his eyes to adjust. There was not a sound except his own breathing, but he felt as if the room were crowded. This might have been a bad idea. The door closed with a snick and the light came on. Maddy pressed herself against him from behind, pinning his arms with hers. He was staring at a stone idol that almost brushed the ceiling. It sat with legs crossed and arms curved forward as if to catch whoever stood in front of it. Its teeth were large and sharp. Eight eyes, or, rather, empty sockets where they should be, seemed to stare right at him. Masks, censers, diverse weapons, and other paraphernalia lined the room, but he could spare no attention for it. The idol seemed to be flexing its muscles. Maddy was flexing hers too. She whispered in his ear.

“It’s me or the god,” she said. “Join me, worship him, or join him a different way.” She turned him around and stared into his eyes. “Choose.”

“You’re freaking me out.” He pulled back and she let him go.

“Goodbye Cliff,” she said sadly.

“Wait.” He licked his lips. Rough hands seized his shoulders. The nails were sharp and long.


I got a letter from Grandma today. She’s making butterflies on commission. The cafeteria is free, she says, but she can buy great ethnic food with the money she earns. She likes Jamaican meat pies. She says the ones she gets now are much better than those we used to buy in Toronto. She thinks they are more traditional. I said it stands to reason.

I told her about you. She doesn’t really understand the Internet. I explained it is like a combination of writing letters and making telephone calls. Then she said she worried I was spending too much money on it.
I told her money can’t buy me love. But then I reminded her I just pay a flat fee every month. She was cool with you being so much younger. When she was coming up it was commonplace for women to marry much older men. Of course, then, they often had no choice in the matter. I didn’t tell her you were bi, but I did say we hoped to meet someday.

She said she saw Elvis last week. He was singing at some kind of impromptu outdoor performance. I don’t understand how they plan those without cell phones. Anyway, she said he sang Stairway to Heaven. Wish I’d been there. Not really, but I would have loved to see that concert.

It’s so nice they can write us now. Heaven isn’t what she expected, but she says her cousin Thelma shouldn’t call it a sweatshop. Grandma worked in one before the Depression. The real one. She made shirts. Up there, they don’t have to work at all, and of course they don’t sweat. It’s just that they need money if they want luxuries. I guess it’s His way of making sure souls maintain a good work ethic even after death. Or maybe he just needs the help. She said she’s made a lot of black swallowtails, so the next time you see one, it could be one of hers.

No, she could not get His autograph for you. All three of Them are working, like, 24/7. I know you were joking, but I asked anyway. The best she could do was Voltaire. She said he is easy to talk to, if you know French. I believe he thinks she’s hot.

To answer your other question, you definitely should write your sister. Even though it’s been years, I bet she misses you as much as you’ve missed her. Why wait?

The End

For parts one and two of this story please visit my author archives or click here:


Belinda and I walked along Merrick Road. Passing the site of the where the old Cajun man’s shoe repair store had been I felt a pang. I had only been away a day but now I knew I could never touch anything here again.

The ghost of the old Cajun man was sitting on the bus stop bench outside the house with the telephone pole with flower wreath on it making motions like he was feeding the pigeons. The birds poked in the sidewalk cracks looking for anything edible.

“His name is Roland,” Belinda said. “Call to him.”

 My pang worsened. I didn’t know where it was I was feeling it. There was no “me” left to have a pang in the gut. I had been shopping in this man’s store for years and I did not know his name. The dentist’s office and chain store sandwich shop, which now stood in the stores place, added an unsightly insult to my injury.

 “Call to him,” Belinda repeated. “He needs you. He is too far gone for me to reach him.”

 “Roland?” I asked. “Hello. How are you today?”

 As he looked up the pigeons took flight in a disturbed flutter.

 “You can see me, mon cherie?” he said. “I never knew you knew my name.”

 “Ask him to come to you. Take his hand,” Belinda said.

 I slowly extended my palm.

 “You must be lonely,” I said. “Come.”

 He stood, walked over to me, and took my hand.

As his fingers closed around mine Belinda removed her crystal rod from her pocket and waved it in the air. Roland, Belinda and I disappeared and reappeared in the cave. Men and women in trench coats like Belinda surrounded Roland. With crystal rods they directed him, like an errant cattle to a dark alcove of the cave. Roland ambled into the darkness with a strange obedience. There was a flash of light and I knew he was gone. Where I did not know.

 “Why did you do that?” I screamed.

 “We were only helping,” Belinda said. From the look on her face I knew she was lying. They were only helping themselves and using me, I realized. But why? I only knew it had to stop. It had to stop now.

 -End of Part Three-

Buzzing black flies careen into the dusty plate-glass window. Through it, I see him park his Harley by the ancient pipe-cactus at the side of the road. He opens the door. It jingles and a blast of hot, dry air circulates the aroma of coffee, frying burgers, and burnt bacon. Before the door closes I feel, more than hear, the thrum and warble of the thing over the bend, though there is a sound that carries above the tinny classic rock coming from the little speakers in the booths.
Marla, that’s what her nametag says, extends her lower lip and blows a lock of her curly raven hair out of her eyes. Green eyes. Green eyes clearly frustrated with the customers. She notices him in a second, sure as a kangaroo rat knows a plump cactus blossom has fallen to the desert floor. She leaves her station, coffee pot in hand, and greets him.
He clanks his dinged metal thermos on the counter. This guy isn’t here for science, or profit, not on that bike. Curiosity or art, maybe. But I don’t think so.
“Damn if I know where my next cup is coming from,” he says. “Better fill ‘er up.”
Her body language screams disappointment. Those green eyes search for something more. I think of all the last stop diners I’ve been to. All the signs that said “last gas for 200 miles” and I laugh, then stop myself.
I came for the thing that opened up round the bend. But I was heading away, out of town, when I stopped in and saw her.
I understand why she wants to go. She’s seen the interviews of prospectors and storytellers and their tales of beauty and wonder on the other side. Those that come back. The lucky few that do, show up in random places. Tuscaloosa. Perth. Johannesburg are the hot spots, lately. Those that aren’t mad, have been “touched”. I guess you can call it that. Touched with a bliss that is apparent and infectious even from a TV screen.
What is it about this guy? Is he a Prospector? A treasure seeker? A thrill chaser? Just another pilot of purple twilight doing it just because? I want to ask him, maybe convince him to take me along, but it will ruin their moment.
She walks with him outside. That whine and warble is louder now. The government men will be here soon and I don’t want to be around when they do. Being detained is not pleasant.
I watch them kiss goodbye. Why he doesn’t stay with her or take her with him, I don’t know. Guess I never will. Some people just have to drive.
He speeds off, trailing a cloud of dust. When the sound of his engine fades, I will go to her, or think of something witty to say if she comes to refill my coffee. There is nothing here for her now; soon there will be nothing for me.

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