DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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The Gathering Begins

The red Datsun truck churned up gravel pellets, leaving a haze that rose into a mushroom-shaped dust cloud. Jason wiped a mug and stared through steam and the fogged kitchen window. He didn’t drop the dish towel when he raced out the front door. “Freddy,” he hollered. “Will’s here.”

Jason gaped at the slight-built girl who slid out of the passenger side. Her wild hair stuck out in stiff spears, and her thick, black eyeliner and chalky cheeks told him she was a city girl. He wondered what she was doing with Will. She didn’t smile when she looped a strap over her right shoulder and balanced a day-pack on her left hip. Her choppy hair, huge eyes, and tiny body reminded Jason of pictures of pixies he’d seen in fairy tales—and in rock groups on MTV. He grinned. “Who’d you bring with you? Tinkerbell?”

The girl glared at Jason then glanced at Will.

“Be good.” Will’s hoarse voice emulated the sound of the truck grinding over the gravel. “Cavale here’s been through some rough waters.”

Jason threw his head back and laughed. “Didn’t think there was enough water to wade ’tween here and Denvie.” Then he slapped Will on a shoulder and surveyed his brother. Even though Will wore a plaid shirt and blue jeans, he no longer fit into the landscape. His body still looked hard and lean, yes, but his hair was now sculpted close to his head and his manicured nails edged pink hands no longer sporting callouses. His body also sent out sweet-spicy odors that made him smell more like a woman than a man, Jason thought. It awed Jason to compare his now coiffured brother to the mud-streaked boy who smelled like a terrier when he’d led Jason through the hills. Still grinning, Jason sighed and spat on the ground. Then he looked back at his older brother. “So, you’re movin’ up, huh? Goin’ to be a big East Coast exec?” While he looked over Will, Jason caught Cavale’s movements. She’d turned away from the two men and looked at the green hills.

“Just getting by, Jason.” Will smiled. “Doing what I can.” Will rubbed his shoe in the dirt and stared after it, as if he were searching for something.

“I’m glad you got the position.” Jason clapped his brother’s shoulder again. “But I admit, we’d hoped for help with the harvest this fall.” He twisted the dish towel and looked toward the hills. “I just don’t know how Freddy and I can do it all ourselves. He’s a good kid, Freddy, but you know. He wasn’t made for this kinda life.”

Will cleared his throat. Jason looked back at him. “Well, you know,” he said in a hushed tone. “Cavale could use some cash.” He grinned. “She wants to go to KSU next fall. I doubt she’s saved enough money for a semester’s tuition, let alone boarding. Give her free lodging—and I imagine she’d give you a bargain on labor.”

Jason snorted and threw back his head. “Aw, g’on. She’d be afraid of breaking a fingernail. And she don’t look that strong.”

Will shrugged. “She’s worked as a waitress. So I doubt a fingernail breaking would bother her.” Then he grinned and nodded at Fredric, who stood on the porch and held ice tea . “Besides, she might inspire that one to work harder.” Will grinned again.

Jason shook his head, glanced at Cavale then at Fredric.

“Besides, she’d be my substitute—I could manage to pay her wages,” Will said, grabbed his duffel bag, and strolled toward the house.

“I’m into aesthetics, absolutely.” Cavale slurped soup while she chatted with Fredric. “I was president of the art club, yadda, yadda. I want to study sculpture, so I never checked out CU’s math department.” She considered Fredric kind, even if he was rather a nerd. Still, she couldn’t get into talking about Calculus. Just the same, she preferred watching his chubby cheeks stretch and bulge while he chewed the sinewy mutton than looking at Jason’s jeering eyes. Fredric, at least, seemed to like her.

At the mention of CU, Fredric’s eyes bulged. “I’ve never been to Colorado.” He chomped again on the mutton. “But I’d like to see it. Maybe I could get a scholarship to CU.”

“You might check out Boulder first.” Cavale shrugged. “You might not like it. It’s a pretty town, but many weird people hang out there.”

Fredric laughed. “I bet you think we’re weird, too.”

Cavale stuck a cracker in between her lips to hide her grin. She glanced at Jason and Will, who both sat on the porch, smoking and blabbering in muffled tones. A hundred dollars a week wasn’t much, but the rent and food were free. So she’d be able to save most of her salary. It’d work until she could mingle with Manhattan people and get a better deal, a place in town and a cleaner, easier job. She was sure the townspeople weren’t as strange as the two farmhands here who smelled like sheep urine and seemed oblivious to the thick, black slime under their fingernails. Just the same, she figured, it’d do for now.

That night, she thrashed on the lumpy bed. Once she fell into a restless sleep, she dreamed she and Jason stood on a bluff overlooking a white city with Byzantine buildings. Her father was locked in one of the alabaster structures there, and she and Jason planned to help him escape. While they jaunted down the slope, she tripped over a lump of limestone and tumbled into Jason’s arms.

She awoke trembling. Drawing the quilt around her breasts, she thought again about Jason and hoped he wouldn’t bully her as he did Fredric. She looked out the open window at the moon. Tonight, it was a gibbous moon, and a moon-dog circled it, shimmering in a spectrum of color. While she watched it, the moon seemed to grow larger, expanding as if were growing so large it’d inhale the entire earth. She closed her eyes before she saw it grow so large that it’d suck her into it, too, and she tried hard to fall back asleep. Of course, she couldn’t, so she lay there awhile, wondering about her father and why he’d suddenly appeared in her dream. She hadn’t dreamt about him for a long time. She’d drop him a line once she’d been here awhile. The more she thought about writing him, the more she considered that perhaps, she’d wait until she’d enrolled in school. That way, he wouldn’t be as apt to contact Aunt Miriam. That woman would send the police after her.

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