Allen Howard stomped on optimism-white daisies as he forced his way through the vast burdensome field behind his trailer. Allen thought he must look crazy, viciously scratching his legs and jumping over certain spots, as the tall grass always made his ankles itch and the field was a treasured enclave for snakes. He had begged his father every day to mow the field. Allen would sit at the counter eating his after-school meal of Lucky Charms. He would ask: “Are you ever gonna cut that god-damn field?” His dad would respond, just sauntering in from his night shift at Wal-Mart and placing his typical six pack in the fridge, “I’ll get to it”. But his father never did get to it. But none of that mattered now as it was the last time he would have to walk through the field, Allen thought.
“Fucking bastard,” Allen said to himself as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a cigarette carton. There were only three fat white rolls left. He reached the end of the field and stood on the side of the country highway, cars whooshing by him at sixty miles per hour, and he thought about how perfect it would be if he were to get hit right then and there. He thought about how the funeral pamphlet would read “Gone 2 Soon”. His father would cry and everyone would rub his father’s back telling him not to be sad, that Allen was in a better place now. When really his father would only be upset over the opportunity he had missed. The one afternoon Allen’s dad had yelled at a life insurance salesman: “Thanks for waking me up douchebag! I have to be at work in an hour! Don’t ever knock again unless you want your teeth knocked down your throat.” Allen’s father was never pleasant when he first woke up or when he got off work. Which put Allen in an awkward position as those were the only times that Allen ever saw his father.
Soft waves rock the floater like a cradle. The candles have burned down into pools of wax on the table. The seaweed casserole is salty and so chewy it takes me a minute to swallow each bite, but I don’t really taste it anyway. I am lost in a daydream where I’m surrounded by ferns, clutching at vines falling down from tree limbs, climbing up a mountain of springy earth. All this talk of Victoria has me lost in a green wonderland.
“After each day I get on Victoria, I write everything down. Wrote ten pages last night after we got back.” Uncle George’s faraway voice brings me back. I slump a little in my seat. I am back with my mother, my cousins, and the neighbors from a different floater, Lucy and Mike. We’re all having dinner together in “the cave,” my Uncle George’s floater. We call it that because it’s a big dome of bent reeds with no windows and just one little door.
The next time Don's really, truly awake again, it's in the early hours of the next morning. He must have been out for the whole day.
He supposes he'd walked back to the hotel, but he doesn't remember. He can sketchily recall, though, stepping into the lobby and being hit by a sudden crippling wave of exhaustion despite the few hours of sleep he'd gotten, stumbling into the lift while the television buzzed loudly with the report of a gang shoot-out on the bayou
He pops out into the dark and silent corridor and buys a few packets from the closest vending machine. His first thought, when he enters his room again and looks over the small amount of luggage that has somehow managed to fling itself everywhere, is that there's no reason to stay anymore.
It takes a long time to pack. It doesn't have to, but Don finds himself putting things in then taking them out again, refolding and rearranging. It almost feels like reluctance.
He wonders if it's all another dream. If what he heard and saw was nothing more than one last flashing nightly vision. If everything will go back to normal once the daylight comes again.
He makes it to the bayou in less than half an hour. The run is done on rote.
There's not even a moment of doubt before he spies the glow on the waterfront, a few hundred yards from where the St John's University back gates open out. He twists his arm to see his watch, and subtracts the hour he's still yet to set.
In the distance, he hears the first beat of a drum. It's deep, resonating, pounding in a steady rhythm that matches the rush of blood in his ears. But it's not loud, not very. It probably can't be, in an urban area like this. A chant starts up, sibilant and undulating, though he can't make out the words.