by Lis Anna
“There are no men in pink thongs rollerblading down the boulevard.” Drew says, staring out of the back window of the rental car.
True. Winding mountain roads ascend into darkness. I’m dying, he says, but doesn’t. He coughs instead. Outside, leaves fall in a masquerade of autumn. He covers his mouth. Decay.
Jacob glances back, offers a tissue. Drew accepts.
When we arrive at the lodge, Jacob checks in. Drew and I stand next to our luggage. He doesn’t have the strength to lift a carry on. He looks out the window, past the car, past the parking lot, into the shapes of primitive rising peaks. Rocks. Old stories. Where he comes from there is only sand. A flat earth that rushes forward to disappear under water.
A night clerk carries the luggage. We tip well. A corkscrew creaks through cork, moaning, grinding. Jacob’s suitcase is filled with wine from a small South American vineyard.
Drew sits on his bed with a thermometer under his tongue. “That’s so cute. That country woman back at that restaurant thought you and Shelby were in love.”
“Yeah,” Jacob says, glancing over at me. I say nothing at all. Jacob pours the blood of christ. Drew coughs again. The sound closes in around us, ringing in our ears, until we remember the Ferris wheel. It's a comforting thought. Drew thinks we ascend to heaven in a carnival. Whatever works.
Later that night Drew dreams about a man who has no face. He wakes in a cold sweat. Jacob gives him the pills.
After awhile it is quiet and Jacob tries to drift off but he knows. He tries to hide it sometimes but really he wears it like a bright red coat. Mentally, he marks off days on a calendar in his head. Beginning with the first. A long time ago.
The pills don’t work. Drew walks down the corridor wrapped in a sheet to get a soda. He can tell the hotel was built before electricity because his dad used to restore old buildings. He is five cents short. Back in the room he wakes Jacob who allows these intrusions because he knows it’s spreading to his brain.
A clear sparkling beverage. All the same. He drinks them at home. Two thousand miles away. Car alarms, drunks begging change. Home sweet home. When he returns, I am leaving. He burrows under the blankets. Coughs.
“It’s the mountain air,” I say.
Too exhausted to do anything else, Drew pleads, “Stay, Shelby…please. You know how he is.”
I look at Jacob who has finally fallen asleep. “You know, I knew him back before his parents were arrested. We used to drink wine coolers by the pool. The one that was always green because they never had it serviced.”
Drew has never heard crickets before. “They’re creepy,” he says, pulling the sheet tight. “They sound like an alien invasion.” He looks out the sliding door, into the blue haze of predawn, “I mean, where are they? And why do they just sit in the dark and make noise. They’re everywhere."
Copyright 2013 Lis Anna
All rights reserved.
Welcome to my world.