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   Jiminy Cricket, I’m tired.
   I have a brief image of how and what I shot. I had no idea a pistol would do what it did, kick so hard. I’d fired past this kid, and he’d been so angry. We’d been thrown together but in effect apart since I’m still walking and he’s out cold.
   And fuck me, I’ve come out even this far to get away from them. Here the air smells harsh and scoured. Under that frozen clarity there is a strain of burning – not unpleasant – but also an undertone of spoilage. I suppose that’s a good sign? In summer it’d be a whole lot worse. Right now the snow has put down a lot of the stink, mashed it into the ground and laid down on top of it. And left all the dull colours sharpened. Corners and walls have edges now.
   I could be glad to be alive but there is also gasoline in the air and I’m tired in my body. It isn’t yet overwhelming. And so that’s what keeps me standing up: that I’m not done yet. And what keeps me going is I soon will be.    Meanwhile, standing is hard and cold and I can feel the heat of fever. So fuck all that, I will go inside.
   But I stay where I stand anyway.
   Which is odd.
   You see, the doors to this place are wide open. I even have money. Inside someone’s turned a shopping cart upside down and left it beside the entryway. Maybe it’s been pushed aside already? And beyond lies very dimly the claustrophobic cornucopia of a tiny corner store supermarket. I think perhaps we are saved.
   Hello, says the kid, and I jump so far in fright I fall over.


Page 13

   The day is the darker for all the walking I’ve done. I’ve had it. Granted, a landscape populated only by the plus-size structures the people left behind has an element of the spiritual to it, but that’s just awe. I should be looking for food, not rolling my hands around a ball of nothing attempting to invoke—whatever bullshit she’d sold me as her prize for—
   You know, I didn’t even do anything for her, not really. This has been some fool’s errand. And it takes standing atop a dusty flyover to see that?
   I start the trudge down, kicking my toes against the roadway to shift my feet further forward inside my shoes. I’m going to have blisters tomorrow.
   Meanwhile, I am damn thirsty, and if that was an open doorway I spied up ahead, it better not have been open like that when I came past the first time.
   Wait a minute.

Page 10

  “Goddamn,” says I, hands on hips.
   The trudge back has been long and the day has grown darker with it. What the fuck was I thinking. Standing atop a tangled and tiny flyover, I wince at the memory of me standing atop a rise. There I’d been rolling my hands around a ball of nothing because I had been attempting to invoke… powers. I should have invoked a car or a taxi. I start the trudge down.

   The ugly roadway is joined by two on either side that rise up from under the flyover, and they all squeeze into a lesser roadway between stolid, three-story apartment buildings and, paradoxically, collections of palm trees. Coming off that long walk through the open, sliding down here between this urban outskirts blight is both disheartening and welcoming. I’ll at least be able to lie down once I get back.
   Meanwhile, I am damn thirsty.
   So I’m watching about and thinking even the grubby snow looks tempting and then there it is. At street level on the right, half hidden behind the hump of a steeply rising driveway between the buildings, huddles a darkened convenience store.
   And like any other invitation, the front doors, poster-emblazoned glass doors on rails, have been left slid all the way open.
   That better not have been like that when I came past the first time.