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by Brent Powers

Sometimes just waiting does it. Someone will show up. At the very least City Patrol asking to see your papers. Here in the predawn hours what can an unescorted lady be doing? What is she thinking? What can she possibly find of interest in public sculpture?

Yet how often there at the entrance to the école has she stepped into a car and driven away into another life? The statue does after all represent the god who shows his son the world he must enter, where he will forget himself and become entangled, perhaps lost.

She asks for a cigarette. The man does not smoke. But neither does she. The smoke, rising in a snake dance of veils and phantoms reminds her of a vanished and sad antiquity, of dry bones filled with spooks.

They are coming to the newer part of the city. It always feels colder here, and she huddles up in her parka.

“Do you want the heat?” he asks.

She shakes her head.

She wants… what does she want?

Not this, not this.

The cold lights sling by, trailing hair. There is an almost palpable dark beyond which is somehow like a muddy hand that holds the day down.

New Town always makes her swimmy and stupid. She thinks of what it would be like if her husband left her here. She knows he has done his best, all he can, and yet she feels betrayed.

The man is looking at her. He keeps turning and looking at her as he drives. Will he run into a post? She sees him compacted with his own car, folded up into the metal. When he hit the post the car tipped over the railing and fell down into an underpass.

A simple husband with two sons, one already selected for the priesthood, the other for his firm. Now he is some kind of fantastic meat roll to be fried in butter. He is food for the mutant workers.

She is dizzy with black dreams. A stream of tiny insects flies out of her mouth when she tries to speak. He doesn't notice. The man lives in ruled-off daylight, in the comforting myths of science. He will take her wherever she wants to go and leave her there. Perhaps it will be one of those cafés in the corner of a tall glass hotel. They serve distinguished coffees and wrapped food.

“Here?” he asks.

“Of course.”

When she gets out she smiles regretfully and walks toward the café. The man drives off.

By now the dawn burns behind the city, turning the buildings briefly into silhouettes.

In the café she takes a coffee and some breakfast snack flavored with anise. She adds a pinch of salt to the coffee, then milk and sugar. She goes to a table at the window and watches the dawn.

Nothing happened last night. It ended moments ago. The man will drive to his work, to his life. In the late afternoon, filled with vileness and his ears still ringing with commerce, he will sit for a moment and look out the window, down at the safe plots of the living, and wonder if he should go home.

Copyright © 2009 by Brent Powers

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