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sparkle + blink 37
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Contents
curated by Josey
cover

Lee & Christian Lee Wong

featured artist Chelsea

"Tides" - screenprint on paper

Siamak Vossoughi

My Father at the Bakery

1

Moneta Goldsmith a fairly public vow

Alex Peters

to be more monastic On Cabbages and Other Traits of Patriarchal Life Birth Story

7 9 13 17 19 23 27

Maria Allocco

Moneta Goldsmith Cerberus Smiling J. E. Freeman Julia Jackson

The Stoop from Wise Men

Cassandra Dallett Making Love To The Minotaur Laura Joakimson

ones who carry the weight of the sun

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Traci Chee Steve

e t L ig Qu i

htning is sponsored

by

lagunitas.com

Quiet Lightning
A 501(c)3, the primary objective and purpose of Quiet Lightning is to foster a community based on literary expression and to provide an arena for said expression. QL produces a monthly, submission-based reading series on the first Monday of every month, of which these books (sparkle + blink) are verbatim transcripts. Formed as a nonprofit in July 2011, the board of QL is currently: Evan Karp founder + president Chris Cole managing director Josey Lee public relations Charles Kruger secretary Meghan Thornton treasurer Kristen Kramer chair Jacqueline Norheim art director Nicole McFeely outreach Brandon Loberg design Sarah Maria Griffin and Ceri Bevan directors of special operations If you live in the Bay Area and are interested in helping—on any level—please send us a line: evan@quietlightning.org

Quiet Lightning

tour through town
In 2013, Quiet Lightning is teaming up with a different literary organization each month in order to bring together the many outstanding series and organizations of the Bay Area literary world, and to introduce its various audience members to programming they might like but not yet know about. For these reasons, we will create customdesigned shows that combine the defining features of Quiet Lightning with those of each month’s partner organization. This month’s collaboration with Feast of Words is the second show of our Tour; in keeping with their traditional format, we’ve selected one set of readings to be followed by a group writing exercise and an open mic.
For details on the Tour T h r ou gh T own visit our website:

quietlightning.org

S SSS
at

SSSSSSSSSS

SS

My Father the Baker y

An appreciation for the bread was an appreciation for the work of baking it. An appreciation for the work was an appreciation for the life engaged in it. All roads led to people. That was what I understood about communism before I understood anything about dialectical materialism or surplus value. A trip to the bakery was not just a matter of bread. Don’t let them fool you, he said in his actions. Breathe in the smell deeply. That smell is the work of a life. You should know that when you smell it and taste it. You should have an awareness of it when you eat it so that your work, whatever it is, will be as meaningful to the people as bread. What about Joseph Stalin? people said. This was in America in the 1980’s.

Before you ask about Joseph Stalin, you should take a trip to the bakery with my father. You will see how it is: The bread is better-smelling when it is connected to the work. The bread is better-tasting when it is connected to it. Before I knew anything about the means of production, I knew that a man walked into another’s workplace with pride
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and delicacy. Pride in their work and delicacy in the recognition of it. It was true for a bakery and it was true for anywhere else. It was just that at a bakery you felt the result of your effort. What about when you look at the baker and you see everything other than their work? I said. They are more than their work after all. Doesn’t that make their work small? Doesn’t that make the smell and the taste of the bread small? This was when I was thirteen.

It is as small or big as you make it, my father said. And I saw that communism was a soft place for your heart to land. It was a hard place in history, but it was a soft place for one man’s heart to land, a man who wanted to remember that between the bread on the counter and the bread in his stomach, there were a million worlds, and it was impossible to know all those worlds but it was possible to believe in them, and what all those worlds had in common was work. It was true that life was more than that, but it was a good thing to start with. You stand the chance of remembering the life of a man when you remember his work. I’m not going to need any help remembering that, I thought at thirteen. It’s all over. I can’t go five feet in any direction without remembering the life of man, at home or at school or out in the world going past their workplaces. It’s all there is. There were even
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times when I tried not to remember it so much, like when we would go to a restaurant and on the way there I would tell myself to focus on the food instead of wondering about the lives of the people there. What my father’s approach had was balance though. The bread was not nothing and the lives of the people working at the bakery was not nothing. It did not have to be one or the other. And any time two things are not one or the other, they stand the chance of feeding each other. It takes a certain kind of genius to approach a bakery like that. To remember that the bread is good but the people are a little better. That’s all communism was to me when I was a kid. What I noticed though was that while we were there, the people would follow along. The transaction was still capitalist, but there was something else: The bakery was the site of a very small revolution because a man who had a very big revolution inside him knew just how much of it to let out. And it was a revolution that had in it something new but also something old. It had in it everyone’s first visit to a bakery, and a wonder about the whole thing, the cooking and the process and the possibilities of bread. And it was the old thing of how one person’s wondering can remind everybody that the place they are has a lot of room for wonder, that it may have as much room as any place, and nobody had to know that there was communism behind it. Because the truth was there must have been people like that before the Cold War, before Karl
Si a ma k Vossou gh i

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Marx, before the Industrial Revolution. There must have been people who walked into a bakery and the wonderful smell of the bread hit them just like it hit everybody else, but along with the thought of how wonderful the bread would be in their stomach, they thought: This smell is somebody’s life. In Iran in the middle of the 20th century, a boy like that became a communist. At other places and times, he probably became something else. But whatever he became, it was probably something that wanted the truth of the bakery to be named, to be acknowledged as freely and openly as the smell of the bread.  When I was thirteen, it seemed like too much to try to name and acknowledge. It was because I was trying to do it all at once. I didn’t know that you could only really do it for the bakery you happened to be in at the time. You couldn’t acknowledge all the bakery smells in the world at once so you couldn’t acknowledge all the lives connected to them either. But you could do something for the one where you happened to be, and that seemed small to me when I was thirteen, but still I knew that it didn’t seem that way when I went with my father. The bakery seemed like just the right size then, and so did our town, and so did our house when we brought home the bread. We would lay the food out and everybody would start eating, and for a minute I would think about the families I’d heard of who took the time to pray together just before eating, and it seemed like kind of a nice thing and it would even cross my mind
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to suggest that we do something like that, and that would last right up until I looked at my father and I remembered that he’d started his praying much earlier that day.

Si a ma k Vossou gh i

5

6

M MM

MMMMMMMMMMMM

M

y public to be m o re m o n as ti c
i don’t know what true love is but last night at the Cafeteria
i overheard a woman order a ‘Thousand Island Ice Tea’. A THOUSAND ISLAND ICE TEA.
 From where i was sitting, i couldn’t see who the woman was, but it would’ve been clear to anybody that she was first/second/third wife material, so what i did, i sidled up close, real cozy like, and i said to her: ‘why don’t you and i make a train-wreck of these next 15 months or so, then go our separate ways?’

a fa i r l

vow

7

8

AAAA

AAAAAAA

On C a b b a g e s and O t h e r T r a i t s of Patriarchal Life un se
se n t

let te r to

a friend in a parallel u

niv e r

I. Most days I wake up and forget my dreams on purpose. Not that they haunt me or anything. I just don’t think they’re very important. II. There is a tribe of Borneo Hunters who practice black magic whenever they want to get rid of an enemy or an old lover who still disturbs their spirits. They will take a block of wood fashioned from their enemy’s liking, and they will leave it out in the middle of the forest where it slowly deteriorates, unobserved. Meanwhile it is believed that the enemy, wherever she may be, deteriorates along with it. III. I lay with myself a while in bed a lot of the time, wondering if the earth will finally fulfill itself and vanish.

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I know I’m not alone. My typewriter whispers from the far reaches of the bedroom that I am too serious. I avoid the gaze of my Goethe in the corner, of my Rimbaud in the original that I have never read, of a busted record player languishing beneath the cloying odor of dust. IV. What if the story of the world is nothing more than a tablet dropped in a glass of water? V. I used to wake up to the sound of children playing in fields. I would run away as fast as I could to some dim region of coffee and neck-ties, whatever the fuck the opposite of the Elysian fields is.  (Remember when we made snow-angels with a ceramic rooster on somebody’s roof in Utah? When we danced all night on a stripper pole in somebody else’s party van?)* VI. Today I wake up and wonder what time it is instead, even or especially when there is no place for me to be.
*  Originally there was a phrase in this that was cribbed from Goethe’s Werther - making a liar out of me in stanzas III and VI. But now I can’t remember what phrase it was that may have drove me to this entire madness to begin with. So here is another phrase or two from my Goethe, taken at random:

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VII. It’s true, I probably indulge in myself too often. Laying in bed like a spoiled child, ignoring the responsibility of last night’s dreams. I do not read my Goethe, it’s true. There are no clocks in the house where I live. I do not reach for my phone or worry whether so and so has called today. But it happens sometimes that a nursery rhyme or a tango will take shape out of the silence. It never makes much sense, not even to me, and they are not very original lyrics. Still, it always reminds me that there is maybe no such thing as tomorrow, and as long as my heart is going to behave like a sick child I better give it everything it asks for. VIII. I would love to visit you in Brooklyn. IX. Are you aware that the Great Salt Lake in Utah is only 13 feet deep? (I still believe, in my heart of hearts, that one day a cabbage can be more than a cabbage.) …There are times where I feel so vividly how Penelope’s impudent suitors slaughter oxen and swine, cut them up, and roast them. There is nothing that could fill me so
Ale x P e t e rs

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completely with a quiet, genuine feeling as those traits of patriarchal life that I, thank God, can weave into my kind of life without affectation. How fortunate it is for me that my heart can feel the plain, naive delight of the man who puts on the table a cabbage that he has grown himself, and for whom it is not merely the vegetable, but all the good days, the fine morning when he planted it, the pleasant evenings when he watered it, taking his pleasure in its thriving growth—that he enjoys again in one comprehensive moment.

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MM

MMMMMMMMMMM

B i r t h St o r y
Over 12 pounds, and purple I emerged— Alien baby with the liver of an old man. Drop by drop they exchanged my blood with bags of strangers’. Foreign was the flesh of my mother’s breast. Lips a slit, eyes shut, We need to wake her up— Doctor said. Doctor Ordered my mother to pinch me Hard.

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So on my fresh skin, digging her fingernails in, mother carved new moons. I clung to black— a frozen star, still in the dream-world. Doctor Handed her a three-inch needle. Push it in— He ordered, Deep. So she stabbed the soles of my feet. Still asleep, I whimpered. Clean white walls Promised the best medicine. This was America, in the 80s— The men she trusted knew no better than to slice my mother open or sit seething in the waiting room— a sole static TV set on re-runs of Father-knows-best.
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My mother listened to their instructions. She tried to do it all right—for love. Papered the walls with thin new stories, Windexed family photo memories, Learned how to put up blinds. Before my mother’s touch, were man-made machines Wires for my veins— thick suction-cups stuck: like nipples they’d fondle, heartbeats into a line of their beeping erections. My day-old body Dependant on them already Did not want to Be of this world. My parents prayed to the Holy Mary, and though Father was a former priest, My mother, ordered by God or simply another man in white on high— to stare at her sentenced hands as they nailed her baby, Must have won Mary’s empathy. It was five days of IVs before Doctor’s last words:
Ma ri a Allocco

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If she doesn’t drink your milk— We have to pull the plug. So I lit up, sucked it up— the 15th of August a holy holiday besides Christmas when Catholics go to church: They call it Mary’s Ascension, so I am Maria, after her. When I think of Suffering— the baby, karma that is mine, my first cry a conglomerate echo of all my past lives— What I know of this story I’ve been given are these lines, and in this one: I survive.

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M MM

MMMMMMMMMMMM

C e r b e rus S mi li n g

M

Each day holds at least one moment when I imagine my own  excruciating death. Today I choke on my own penchant and passion for naming things; tomorrow cocktail waitresses spray me  with gin and tonic as I cower naked and bemused on the hard wood  floor. I turn on the faucet and a tornado swirls in the wrong direction,  searching my body like an early autopsy. Another time I was under a  wave back in the summer of my youth, trying to make it cover me  like the kind of cheap blanket they use when nobody wants to get  warm. One day I dream I’ll be smothered at my desk by a gang of Italian super models. Space debris will fall from the ceiling.  I only own one photograph of my Brother and I together. We are
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flat on our bellies, framed by a pile of leaves in a deserted field.  Our best friend sits on top of us,  on top of the leaves, taunting and triumphant, enthroned and embutterflied. You can hardly make out my sloppy face in the picture; There is a dark substance that marks one side of my mouth— dried blood maybe, or mud, or possibly a shadow.  I am the third head of Cerberus peering out from underneath, arguing that I am there. All three of us appear to be smiling but It isn’t easy to tell. I hardly remember this day at all. 
October 3, 1996

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JJJJJJ

JJJJJJ

T h e st o o p
It’s nice to sit on a sun lit stoop and watch the neighborhood walk by,  pleasant in the bath of light the afternoon makes to keep me warm. Accepted if the owner of the house doesn’t mind me sitting here with my pen and notebook, writing.   I am long haired and grey a bit disheveled but friendly. At least the dogs think so as they pass. I can tell by the look they share with me and the slight tug on the leash to approach and say “hello,” if their humans will let them.   Even they smile at me, some of them, the humans. The dogs like me, so why not.   I’m just a vagabond on a stoop in the sun.   I smoke some tobacco if I have it. A bowl of pot I always have. Hippy habits never die. They don’t even fade away.
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Even on a windy day a sunny stoop is friendly. It blocks the wind if I sit high enough on the steps protected in its alcove eye to eye with whomever passes.   I grew up on stoops on the streets of Brooklyn and Queens, in New York miles and years away from here in the summer twilights listening to ball games and rock and roll from the radio in some open window swapping stories and lies and what I thought was true laughing with the kids who were my friends back then.   Then and there I knew, we knew, everyone who passed by. We lived there. These were our stoops, our streets. Our folks were just a shout away. But that was then, not now. Not here.   Here now on this stoop in San Francisco it is another century and if my younger self as I was then passed this stoop he would not recognize me, though I’d know him and smile. Maybe he’d even smile back or say as I might have then “What are you looking at old man?”
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And me being me, I’d say, “You kid, Why? You got a problem with that?” which we, being us, would make us laugh. And maybe he’d sit on the stoop with me and we’d shoot the shit telling stories, and lies, and things we think are true.      Yes a sunlit stoop in the afternoon is a beautiful thing. I can read a book, listen to some music or catch up on the news though that might spoil the mood. I can watch the people passing by with their shopping bags and flowers talking on the phone or in pairs in idle conversation holding hands and dream of me and me and yesterday laughing, sitting on a stoop.

J.E. F re e man

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JJJ

JJJJJJJJJJ

fro m

W is e M e n

Youssef first spotted her at the Saturday market, a woman with hair the color of a hundred overlapping shadows. Most of the guiris he saw were blonde, their hair either fine and natural like sand, or gleaming with the iridescent sheen of some newfangled chemical. But this one was different. She passed her hands over avocados with an unspoken tenderness, caressing the near-purplish skin of the fruit with an affection that reminded him of his mother. Her cheeks were ruddy and flush; they inspired in him a heat so intense he began to sweat. She was English, of that he was sure; it was all in the way she cocked her head, the way she kept her eyes forever on the shoreline, as if expecting her past to be there, waiting for her on the beach. He knew that feeling—he embodied it. For years his mother had been nagging him to marry; to find someone with the right hips. But his mother still lived on the Mediterranean’s opposite shore; she did not know the harshness of this new place. The woman lingered at his towel not more than a minute, but it was an important one. Her chin was hard, her frame angular. She had almost
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passed him by but something called her back. He saw her hesitate, pass her hands over his spread of plastic jewelry and burned CDs, as if counting something. She smelled different; she smelled of strong soap, and below that, of licorice. She smelled the way he imagined her skin might taste. He felt the heat return. He stepped back behind the towel, spreading out the cameras and cell phone covers and the metallic sheen of long flashy necklaces. “Good morning,” he’d said, and she’d just barely raised her eyebrows. It was enough. Mustafa caught him looking, his eyes lingering on the narrow curves of her body, and shot him a glance. “She’s too old for you,” he said. “And too white.” Youssef knew he was right. But he memorized her face all the same, the breeze of hair that curled behind her ears, the slight dusting of freckles across the bridge of her nose. This was a woman whose secrets he could bear.

The second time Youssef saw her, it was after being chased off the beach by a Polícia Local. Mustafa was gone that day and he had been alone on the Paseo. When the call came up he made straight for the closest alley. He merged in with the crowd, young people coming home for afternoon lunch with
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their families, and most of the pubs on the street were closed for siesta. All but one. She was standing inside, wiping down the window that faced the street. Youssef slowed his pace. Her hair was piled on top of her head in an unceremonious mass, her cheeks red with effort. Her shirt was thin, ripped slightly to her bust. None of it was intentional, he could see, but that was just it. She exuded an ease with the universe, with her place in it, that he envied. And then, almost without warning, she looked up. Youssef froze. Was she looking at him? Did she recognize him? Could she even see him? She was mouthing something, waving her hand. He adjusted the bundle on his back and waved back. She waved again, pointed. He turned. A man in green was making his way down the street. Youssef didn’t wait. He hoisted the bundle above his head and walked up the steps to the pub. She opened the door for him and pointed behind the pub. “Drink?” He didn’t know what to say. He had been a religious man once; he was never one for alcohol. She kept an eye on the window. Youssef sat at the pub. He could see a man in the back, polishing glasses. A few men sat in the back corner, enthralled by some foreign sport on the television. The pub was otherwise quiet. The man in green passed by the window and kept walking. “What’ll you have?” the woman asked. “You will have something?”
Ju li a Ja ckson

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The man in back chose this moment to come forward. “What was all that about, Linda?” he asked. He nodded toward the window. “That policeman seemed in hot pursuit.” Youssef studied the bottles on the back wall. “What of it?” the woman said.

The man looked at him. Youssef kept his eyes averted. He hoped Linda couldn’t tell how his body radiated. He fairly trembled. At long last the man spoke. “Just be sure he pays,” he said, turning to leave. “They rarely do.” Linda clucked, leaning forward to wipe down the counter before Youssef. It was licorice, that smell, sweet and dark and powerful. Here she was: lady of her own domain. Still he trembled. “So what is it?” she asked. “Beer? Wine?” She leaned closer. “Whiskey?” Youssef felt his arms shake, his temple sweat. A fever of the likes he’d never had. He reached for his bundle and stood up. “What’d I say?” she asked.

He was already at the door. When he got outside, he shook himself into the night, thinking, Linda, Linda, her name is Linda.
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C

CC CC

CCCCCCCCCC

CC

to the minotaur
On our last night in the Bahamas we took the Extasy to bring us closer maybe some sex on the beach to erase the damage done in lives back home. The shit came on slow and sick in my gut like hallucinogenics do. forcing me to squat on the toilet pushing droplets of pee to ease the pressure the twisting of poison passing. It was without the usual euphoria the reasons why I love you so bit but not un-fun
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making love

in this dark house on the edge of the world waves crashing unseen a black sky of stars. I saw my man as a Minotaur a centaur mythological muscles browned in the Caribbean sun the wind howling over white rock giant scorpions looming, I was sure Medusa’s slithering head would spring from the Milky Way. My Venus nude wrapped in a sheet we fucked on the porch his face scrunching into demons coconut masks me trying to muffle my shrieking laughter so as not to wake my parents. His face above me was all crazy white teeth glowing hazel eyes scared the shit out of me I called him Terminator Cop his head melting metal bullet holes reshaping the side of it morphing in the dark and I was open wet sticky salty.

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I tried to sponge off with a soaked dirty towel sprayed perfume gagged on the smell ate butter pecan ice cream left handed to kill the taste but still I stank. Somehow he came again and again and I did too seeing patterns shifting squares into triangles into worms into ropes and snakes all brightest day glow like old school posters I traveled the world’s waters swaying in boats in hammocks rode the wind in China, Mexico in shanty town fishing boats bursting with color and fishy smell. From the toilet I said things like we really are in Narnia, Aslan and he made me roar with laughter trotting around making hoof sounds creating a horse ass on his buff body till I laughed out more pee. with sunlight
Cassandra Da lle t t

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hot showers, no sleep, but planes to catch, customs to clear, I wonder when we reach Oakland will you still carry me on your back pull arrows from your quiver kill the beast that lurks in the teal green sea lay me naked on a star lit porch love me even with your face falling off.

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LL LL

LLLLLLLLLL

L

s w ho c a r the wee ig ht of t he su n
for the as yet nameless Fukushima fifty faceless job, circling, unenola gay fliers, fukushima bound.   “no morality in war” tibbets said. no sentiment   in business; just a geiger counter and the fragile ground.   to force the body not to flee—who remembers cherynobyl, mon   amour? 5.6 roentgens per second. “off scale.” telyatnikov   received his medal
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on

ry

for bravery, two others, posthumously. four,   the number that burned— down’s syndrome up—germany. deer racing from the   red forest. cost of oil wars or black lung. None costless. bill us, then, we   breathing women, men, pouring saltwater over icarus, the sun

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TTTTTTTTTT

Ste v e
They meet each other three days before the world ends. Charlie’s knifing open a can of chili and reclining against a boulder with a small fire of twigs and brush at her feet. Her legs are bare and dirty and brown. Water is scarce and no one uses it for bathing anymore. Steve is hungry enough to risk talking to her. He creeps hesitantly out of a ditch, clutching a walking stick made out of a cactus rib, looking underfed and exhausted. Everybody looks that way, these days. But he’s the skinny plaid-shirt-wearing sort of boy she might have liked when she was in high school, when she had time to like boys. So she lets him live. The first thing she says to him is, “Sit down.” She cooks the chili on a hot rock. She splits it with him and even gives him the first bite. The stuff is lukewarm and probably expired, but when he puts the spoon in his mouth, his eyes sort of roll back in his head and Charlie can see he’s savoring the way the beans and chunks of meat and cubes of tomato dissolve over his tongue.

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The first time Steve touches Charlie he’s handing her a scrap of cloth. There’s a gash on her leg. They were sneaking into an abandoned diner and she got caught on the ragged edge of a broken window. The building is mostly concrete and inside it’s cool and dark and the tables are upturned and the chairs are gone. Steve stops rooting around behind the counter when he notices Charlie crouching and grasping her thigh. He takes his only spare shirt out of his pack and yanks it in half. The threads snap one after another with little popping sounds. When she takes it from him, their fingers brush. Her skin is chapped and peeling. All of a sudden he feels hot again, burning around his neck and cheeks. He’s glad of the darkness because she can’t see him blush.

When Charlie tells him about her family, they’re lying face-up on a slab of rock. It sprouts out of the desert as if it has been growing there for thousands of years, and it’s warm against their backs as they stare up at the stars. A strange thing is happening with the sky. It’s the clearest it’s ever been, maybe in the history of the world. They can see for lightyears. There are galaxies spinning so close they could reach up and rip them right out of the sky. The Milky Way drenches them with light so dense it’s nearly slurpable.

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“My little brother died,” she says. “I mean, not because of all this.” She gestures to the horizons, which are dark, as if there are clouds huddled there on the edges of their vision, though they both know those are dust storms. Maelstroms of rubble spinning in an ever-tightening spiral, with them and all that’s left of the world at the center. “It was a dirt bike crash,” she adds. Then: “I wasn’t there.” And: “Sometimes I think the last thing he saw was clods of dirt.” Steve doesn’t say it, but when he thinks about the last thing he’ll see he hopes it’s Charlie.

They have their first kiss when they find a Volvo by the side of the road. It’s dusty white and riddled with bullet holes and most of the windows have been shot out and there are corpses piled twenty feet away, but the thing runs. Like, it runs! They don’t even stop to bow their heads or anything, they just look at each other and all of a sudden they’re flung into each other’s arms and they’re grasping wildly, lips pressed and bellies close and knees all knocking together.

It’s the last night. They’re reclined in the seats and the gritty desert wind is blowing through the broken windows. Their hands are clasped over the e-brake. Steve is curled on his side, looking over at Charlie. The corner of her mouth twitches.
Tra ci Ch e e

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He reaches over and brushes the back of his hand against the curve of her cheek. She stares at him. She scratches the side of her face, and on her skin her fingers leave red lines that fade slowly. “Why didn’t I meet you sooner,” he says.

Charlie considers, squinting her eyes. Steve was a database manager before the end began. He didn’t wear a suit to work and he spent a lot of time on Facebook. He didn’t cook. There were puffs of dust collecting under the couch and in the corners of his rooms. On Thursday nights he played board games with his friends and their laughter and the rattling sounds of ten-sided dice filled up the tiny apartment and spilled out golden through the black windows. She says, “So we wouldn’t have time to hate each other.”

Now all that’s left is broken air conditioning and shattered windows and a fast car on a flat summer road, damp hair and sweat speckling the edges of their faces and their shirts sticking to the car seats, breathing hard and run-for-your-life. Here at the edge of the world. The hills are crumbling. Bits are breaking off and tumbling down. Huge waves of dust and debris billow through the flatlands, earth-borne clouds filled with thistles and weeds, with all the little animals surfing on skipping rocks and scraps of bark.
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Only a rough circle of blue sky remains, and in it the white sun is like a hot pale eye. Steve is driving because he’s always liked the rolling of the earth under him and why stop now. Charlie’s all legs and knees and elbows in the passenger seat with her hair whipping around her cheeks and ears. Steve puts his hand over her hand. She smiles grimly. The noise is thunderous: mountains crashing down in explosions of rock and tree and snow, mushroom clouds of wildflowers and gravel, birds rising singing into the sky like flecks of ash. Steve stares at the road. The asphalt is fractured and mosaic, the dotted yellow hammered into tiny pieces. Charlie leans forward and opens the glove compartment. The drawer bangs open and its contents spill into her waiting hands: a ballpoint pen, an old receipt for gas, a yellow envelope stuffed with papers from the dmv. “harold jensen,” she reads. She has to shout just to hear herself. “233 alamo drive, santa monica, california.” They wonder who he was. Why he was so far from home. Where he thought he was going. If he was, like everybody else, trying to find someone before the end. The world is shrinking. Tsunamis of soil and stone rush inward, encircling the road, the car, the two of them. Charlie flicks the papers out the window one by one, fwip fwip fwip devoured greedily by the wind.
Tra ci Ch e e

37

“good-bye harold,” Steve says. Charlie laughs. It’s the last laughter the world will ever hear and it’s bitter and full of music. There’s a hurricane of rubble heading towards them, and they’re heading right back at it. He stops watching the road. He turns to her, touches a fingertip gently to her face. “i would have liked to hate you,” Steve says. There isn’t much time left. The sky is disappearing. The sun is masked by dust. Behind them, swells of wreckage—pipes from city sewers and statues missing their legs and ancient stones dappled with runes—are catching up. The gap is closing. Charlie grabs his shoulder. She looks sad and angry and beautiful. “i know,” she says. And: “me too.” Steve pushes his foot down on the gas pedal. They start to waver on the road. Rubble and ruin converge on them. In the clouds, they can see lamp posts and rubber tires and thousands of scraps of paper like frantic white birds. They look at each other, and when the world closes in around them with bricks and boulders and shattered glass, they fly out through the windshield holding hands.

38

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- march 19, 2013 -

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