In the Garden of Persephone (part 6)

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Zach and Xan meet Crazy Sadie and they cross the bridge.

Gary Graham was studying a new musical arrangement that featured a euphonium solo. He was sure Hannah was capable of playing it but wasn’t sure she would want to. There was a certain frailty about her, he thought, perhaps she was still grieving. She certainly could have done without Xan asking so many questions. Closing his book, his stood up and stretched. His office was filled with various awards: medals for best band director, favourite teacher, Jaycee of the year, a mayor’s award for outstanding contributions to the city as well as several international awards for his band. A lot of people asked him why he wouldn’t consider moving on and he often said he didn’t want to disrupt his family life. The real reason—nowadays—was about to rush in from work.

He could hear a key opening the door to the outer office, where his secretary had her desk and positioned himself on the couch.

“Dana?” he called. And a few seconds later, her pretty face peered at him from around the corner.

 

___________

 

Xan had never thought much about earthquakes until she began to see Crazy Sadie, an unfortunate victim of the state’s lack of funding for the mentally ill, every day. Crazy Sadie was under the impression that the end of the world would be with a bang, not a whimper, beginning with earthquakes where there had never been earthquakes. Michigan, Sadie ranted, qualified as such a place.

            Since Xan considered Port Huron Michigan, her home, to be the centre of the universe, what better place for the start of the end to begin?

            Zach was a humming to something on the car radio. His father had turned over to him the task of driving to training sessions to Canada a few weeks before without even giving him the vaguest reasons why. He had not yet given up the idea that Xan might one day leave the blindfold off as they crossed the bridge. Then no one would mistake him for a kidnapper. Or assume the blindfold was a part of some strange foreplay.

            Xan was looking out the car window. Since Zach was driving, she no longer felt she had to wear the blindfold for the whole journey and left it off until just before the beginning of the bridge. She had said this gave her a chance to look around for Crazy Sadie who seemed oddly shy recently and made Xan wonder if perhaps she hadn’t taken an early retirement out of town.

            “Hey Xan, how about you leave the blindfold off today and I’ll get the ice cream?”

            “No way.” She didn’t even lick her lips.

            He glanced at her sideways. “There’s not going to be an earthquake, Xan.”

            “There might be and when it happens, I don’t want to see it.”

            “But covering your eyes won’t stop it.”

            “No but it will stop you from seeing the world whiz by you as you topple to your death.” Xan opened the glove compartment and took out the scarf she used to blindfold herself whenever Zach persuaded her to cross the bridge.

            “Millions of people have crossed this bridge without even thinking they might fall off.” They stopped at a light and Zach touched Xan’s shoulder so she would turn to him. When Xan was looking into his eyes, he said: “The bridge is not going collapse. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not while we’re crossing.”

            “How do you know?”

            Zach groaned and rolled his eyes heavenwards.

            “Because it has never happened.” He thumped the steering wheel with an open hand. “And besides, these bridges are built with engineering genius.”

            “But they’re not designed to withstand an earthquake. And every time someone crosses it, it vibrates a little and who knows a crucial bolt might come out of place. Until one day. . .” Xan drew her hands together with a sudden, sharp clap. “Collapse.”

            “There are no crucial bolts. The bridge could lose a thousand bolts and it wouldn’t collapse.”

            Xan went back to looking out the window, looking as if she were paying special attention to side streets and quiet corners. She had run out of reasons to be fearful of crossing the bridge blindfolded. They had now crossed the bridge eight times and with each crossing, Xan had to admit she felt safer. Still, she had said, just when you were comfortable, just when you were convinced nothing was going to happen, disaster. Everyone who had been interviewed following a disaster said the same thing. “It was such a beautiful day, nothing out of the ordinary and suddenly we were invaded by aliens.“ And then the mention of aliens had her searching the skies. .

            But she had also said if Zach could hear it from Crazy Sadie herself, then perhaps he would be a little more willing to take the ferry more often.           

Zach tried to visualise the woman in which Xan had put so much faith. He imagined her as he would have imagined anyone who claimed to see the future: she would be of gypsy descent, wear a head scarf not too dissimilar from the one Xan liked to wear over her eyes as she crossed the bridge, she would have large hooped earrings, live in a caravan pulled by donkeys, answer to the name of Madame something-or-other and charge $40 for the privilege of hearing her prophecies. On her days off, when there were no clients or perhaps a flux in her communication with the spirits, Madame something-or-other would take to the streets to preach.

            Or she was a prophetess. In white robes, long flowing blonde hair who ate nothing but lentils and whole-wheat toast with honey. She walked around barefoot, even in the winter, in order to maintain contact with the earth.

            Zach definitely preferred this last one.

            “There she is!” Xan shouted, startling Zach away from his fantasy.

            Zach quickly pulled over and eagerly looked where Xan was pointing. Perhaps this woman had a special message for him. Maybe she could advise him: “Never use an aluminium bat.” If Xan got a special message from her then why shouldn’t he? Zach looked around but could see no one coming close to fitting his visual image.

            “Where?” Zach could only see an old woman wearing a hounds tooth coat in the summer heat, shuffling along the sidewalk. She swayed and seemed to shimmer. Suddenly she straightened to her full height.

            “Earthquake!” the woman shouted, waving a bottle half filled with amber liquid. A few people on the sidewalk hurried past her and then looked over their shoulder to stare.

            “See?” Xan said, punching Zach on the arm. “Told you so.”

            “Told me what?” He rubbed his shoulder where Xan had punched him. He could see the woman had wet herself and even imagined he could smell the nauseating stench of her. Zach’s disappointment was almost palpable.

            “I told you there was a woman who had foreseen earthquakes!”

            “And you sinner!” Crazy Sadie pointed a shaky finger at Xan, revealing filthy nails and hands that hadn‘t used soap for a long time. She was so dirty that Zach was uncertain if it was dirt or her natural complexion that made her so dark. “Will be the first to slide into the cracks to hell!”

            Xan nudged Zach and smiled triumphantly. As if in response, the woman threw her head back and laughed loudly.

            Zach groaned, put the car into gear and drove back onto the street. For a few moment, he was so disappointed, he couldn’t speak. He took a deep breath and said very slowly: “You’re not going to tell me all this stems from the town drunk ranting about earthquakes.”

            Xan shrugged. “What I’m saying is this: If Port Huron, famous for its very high, very long suspension bridge, is the first place to be completely levelled, then by all means it wouldn’t be too incredible for me--for us,” she pointed back and forth between Zach and herself, “to be crossing it when it happened.”

            Zach drove in silence, not relishing this experience of disenchantment both with Xan and Crazy Sadie. He had tried to be understanding. Supportive. He had tried arguing. He had tried not saying anything. He pressed the accelerator a little harder.

            “You know there was an earthquake here in ‘75,” he said eventually. “So it’s not like the bridge is incapable of withstanding an earthquake.” They were now approaching the bridge and he knew he didn’t have long to persuade Xan to leave off the blindfold.

            “That one doesn’t count. Too small.” Very few people had noticed. Of course Xan had noticed. She had been staring absently at a cup of coffee on a table when she noticed the liquid ripple. It was if someone had stomped on the floor next to it, only no one was there. Seismographers weren’t even sure whether or not to call it an earthquake (although Zach had said he guessed that some bored Great Lake seismographers were very happy to have something to do). The earthquake didn’t make the big news or even the evening news. It just rippled coffee in mugs all across the state as if it were the wind and not the earth moving.

            Zach suddenly changed lanes.

            “I have an idea,” he said. “Let’s go back and see what else. . .what’s her name?”

            “Um, Crazy Sadie.”

            “Let’s go back and see what else Crazy Sadie has to say. If you’re so sure about an earthquake, then maybe she’s got a few other predictions we should be taking notice of.”

            “You see the effect she has on people?”

            Zach pulled into a parking lot and turned around so quickly, the tires squealed. In a matter of seconds, they were on their way back to Crazy Sadie.

            They returned to where they had seen the old drunk but when they saw her again, a small crowd had gathered around her. Blocking their view were two women in black uniforms. The two women looked as if they were trying to coax Sadie into a long white van with an emblem Xan couldn‘t quite make it out. Sadie was having none of it. She was shrieking and shaking her head. One of the women turned and Xan suddenly recognised Hannah. She was dressed head to toe in black, in what looked like a smart suit. She was practically incognito. Hannah looked over her shoulder and she did a double take of Zach and Xan. She lifted her hand in a weak wave and went back to Crazy Sadie.

            “That’s that new girl from school.” Xan said, waving back. In the enclosed car, Zach could smell the chicken that still lingered in her clothes.

            “Well it looks as if your Crazy Sadie has no more pearls of wisdom,” he said, almost managing to sound disappointed. “Looks like not even the Sally Army can help.” He put the car into gear again, still hearing Crazy Sadie’s warnings of earthquakes and the end of time.

            Xan twisted the scarf in her hands, then began folding it, seeming to find it impossible to speak. Zach made the turning for the bridge and as they began their ascent, she placed the blindfold over her eyes and tied it behind her head.

            “Okay, okay,” Zach gave up and drove in silence. They were at tree top level and he knew from past experience that there was no way Xan was going to take off the blindfold. If a little earthquake was enough to convince Xan and Crazy Sadie it was earthquake weather in Port Huron Michigan, then who was he to tell her otherwise?

            Beside him Xan sat, blindfolded and white knuckled. Anyone looking at them would have assumed Zach was kidnapping her. Zach drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and looked around him. He had always loved the view, loved the second when he left the US and entered Canada. As a kid he liked to wonder what would happen if he put one foot on the state side and one foot on the Canadian side. What if a baby was born exactly on the border. Would the baby be American or Canadian? Would customs officials measure the baby and how much of him was born in one country in order to decide which passport to give him? Maybe he’d have dual citizenship. He imagined a scenario where a woman would want this for her child and deliberately come to the border in order to give birth.

            Zach’s ears popped and he pulled at the fleshy lobe as if it would equalise pressure within. He could just about make out the “Welcome to Canada” sign. Xan sat stiffly beside him, her feet braced under the dashboard, one hand clutching the ceiling strap, the other pulling the sleeve of his T-shirt. He wanted to make a joke that her pulling on his shirt was interfering with his driving and he might drive over the edge when he got an idea. Just under the “Welcome to Canada” sign, he stopped.

            “What’s happened?” Xan mumbled.

            “Okay chicken little. We’re across.” Zach could barely keep from smiling.

            “Customs already?”

            “Almost,” he said. “Just a few feet from the end.”

            Xan took off the blind fold and opened her eyes. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the light. Zach used these moments to gently pull the blindfold from her hands. She blinked and looked around and found that they were not at customs but at the peak of the bridge, the part which supported them as they were suspended 160 feet above the raging St Clair River. Cars blared their horns and passed them, vibrating the thin pavement beneath them.

            Xan calmly unfastened her seatbelt (she had always said she figured she had a better chance of survival in the likely event of earthquake and collapsing bridge if she could get out of the car quickly and swim to shore) and closed her eyes again.

            “Zach, you will drive me back to safe, solid ground,” she said with clenched teeth. She crossed herself, not caring that she wasn’t even a Catholic.

            “C’mon Xan,” Zach said. “See the world from a new perspective.”

            “No thank you,” she said with as little movement as possible. “I have a very active imagination.”

            “You can’t keep the bridge from collapsing by closing your eyes. Anyway, if you’re born to be shot you won’t get hung. You might as well enjoy the final view.” Zach turned off the engine.

            “What a philosopher you are. Why don’t we just jump over the railing and see if we were born to drown?”

            “Oh come on, what could happen if you got out and had a little look?”

            “Let’s see. You or I could have a fit and one of us could spaz over the railing. Or you could spaz, pick me up mid-spaz and we spaz over the railing together. Or the earth could spaz, crack this little layer of pavement you’re so sure won’t break. . .”

            “Nothing’s going to happen.” Zach looked at Xan. Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut and she looked very, very pale. He had never seen her cry before and suddenly, he was sure he didn’t want this to be first time. He knew he may never understand the reasons for Xan’s fear but he didn’t have to be the one to make them worse. Here she was, keeping up her end of their compromise and here he was throwing it back in her face.          “Here Xany.” He rolled the blind fold. “Sit up and let’s tie this back on.” She turned so he could tie it. “I’m sorry.”

            “I want to take the ferry home,” she said, sniffing.

            “Of course.”   

            Zach turned the key in the ignition.

            The engine started to turn over, then died.

            “Shit.”

            He tried again.

            “C’mon, c’mon,” he pressed the gas pedal, smelled fumes and knew he had flooded the engine. Cars drove around them, their drivers furious.

            “Way to go, Zach-o.” Xan reached across the car and gave him a thump.

            Zach looked over the bridge and it did seem that they were toppling into the river. Perhaps, he thought, Xan had been right about earthquakes all along.

Gary Graham was studying a new musical arrangement that featured a euphonium solo. He was sure Hannah was capable of playing it but wasn’t sure she would want to. There was a certain frailty about her, he thought, perhaps she was still grieving. She certainly could have done without Xan asking so many questions. Closing his book, his stood up and stretched. His office was filled with various awards: medals for best band director, favourite teacher, Jaycee of the year, a mayor’s award for outstanding contributions to the city as well as several international awards for his band. A lot of people asked him why he wouldn’t consider moving on and he often said he didn’t want to disrupt his family life. The real reason—nowadays—was about to rush in from work.

He could hear a key opening the door to the outer office, where his secretary had her desk and positioned himself on the couch.

“Dana?” he called. And a few seconds later, her pretty face peered at him from around the corner.

 

___________

 

Xan had never thought much about earthquakes until she began to see Crazy Sadie, an unfortunate victim of the state’s lack of funding for the mentally ill, every day. Crazy Sadie was under the impression that the end of the world would be with a bang, not a whimper, beginning with earthquakes where there had never been earthquakes. Michigan, Sadie ranted, qualified as such a place.

            Since Xan considered Port Huron Michigan, her home, to be the centre of the universe, what better place for the start of the end to begin?

            Zach was a humming to something on the car radio. His father had turned over to him the task of driving to training sessions to Canada a few weeks before without even giving him the vaguest reasons why. He had not yet given up the idea that Xan might one day leave the blindfold off as they crossed the bridge. Then no one would mistake him for a kidnapper. Or assume the blindfold was a part of some strange foreplay.

            Xan was looking out the car window. Since Zach was driving, she no longer felt she had to wear the blindfold for the whole journey and left it off until just before the beginning of the bridge. She had said this gave her a chance to look around for Crazy Sadie who seemed oddly shy recently and made Xan wonder if perhaps she hadn’t taken an early retirement out of town.

            “Hey Xan, how about you leave the blindfold off today and I’ll get the ice cream?”

            “No way.” She didn’t even lick her lips.

            He glanced at her sideways. “There’s not going to be an earthquake, Xan.”

            “There might be and when it happens, I don’t want to see it.”

            “But covering your eyes won’t stop it.”

            “No but it will stop you from seeing the world whiz by you as you topple to your death.” Xan opened the glove compartment and took out the scarf she used to blindfold herself whenever Zach persuaded her to cross the bridge.

            “Millions of people have crossed this bridge without even thinking they might fall off.” They stopped at a light and Zach touched Xan’s shoulder so she would turn to him. When Xan was looking into his eyes, he said: “The bridge is not going collapse. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not while we’re crossing.”

            “How do you know?”

            Zach groaned and rolled his eyes heavenwards.

            “Because it has never happened.” He thumped the steering wheel with an open hand. “And besides, these bridges are built with engineering genius.”

            “But they’re not designed to withstand an earthquake. And every time someone crosses it, it vibrates a little and who knows a crucial bolt might come out of place. Until one day. . .” Xan drew her hands together with a sudden, sharp clap. “Collapse.”

            “There are no crucial bolts. The bridge could lose a thousand bolts and it wouldn’t collapse.”

            Xan went back to looking out the window, looking as if she were paying special attention to side streets and quiet corners. She had run out of reasons to be fearful of crossing the bridge blindfolded. They had now crossed the bridge eight times and with each crossing, Xan had to admit she felt safer. Still, she had said, just when you were comfortable, just when you were convinced nothing was going to happen, disaster. Everyone who had been interviewed following a disaster said the same thing. “It was such a beautiful day, nothing out of the ordinary and suddenly we were invaded by aliens.“ And then the mention of aliens had her searching the skies. .

            But she had also said if Zach could hear it from Crazy Sadie herself, then perhaps he would be a little more willing to take the ferry more often.           

Zach tried to visualise the woman in which Xan had put so much faith. He imagined her as he would have imagined anyone who claimed to see the future: she would be of gypsy descent, wear a head scarf not too dissimilar from the one Xan liked to wear over her eyes as she crossed the bridge, she would have large hooped earrings, live in a caravan pulled by donkeys, answer to the name of Madame something-or-other and charge $40 for the privilege of hearing her prophecies. On her days off, when there were no clients or perhaps a flux in her communication with the spirits, Madame something-or-other would take to the streets to preach.

            Or she was a prophetess. In white robes, long flowing blonde hair who ate nothing but lentils and whole-wheat toast with honey. She walked around barefoot, even in the winter, in order to maintain contact with the earth.

            Zach definitely preferred this last one.

            “There she is!” Xan shouted, startling Zach away from his fantasy.

            Zach quickly pulled over and eagerly looked where Xan was pointing. Perhaps this woman had a special message for him. Maybe she could advise him: “Never use an aluminium bat.” If Xan got a special message from her then why shouldn’t he? Zach looked around but could see no one coming close to fitting his visual image.

            “Where?” Zach could only see an old woman wearing a hounds tooth coat in the summer heat, shuffling along the sidewalk. She swayed and seemed to shimmer. Suddenly she straightened to her full height.

            “Earthquake!” the woman shouted, waving a bottle half filled with amber liquid. A few people on the sidewalk hurried past her and then looked over their shoulder to stare.

            “See?” Xan said, punching Zach on the arm. “Told you so.”

            “Told me what?” He rubbed his shoulder where Xan had punched him. He could see the woman had wet herself and even imagined he could smell the nauseating stench of her. Zach’s disappointment was almost palpable.

            “I told you there was a woman who had foreseen earthquakes!”

            “And you sinner!” Crazy Sadie pointed a shaky finger at Xan, revealing filthy nails and hands that hadn‘t used soap for a long time. She was so dirty that Zach was uncertain if it was dirt or her natural complexion that made her so dark. “Will be the first to slide into the cracks to hell!”

            Xan nudged Zach and smiled triumphantly. As if in response, the woman threw her head back and laughed loudly.

            Zach groaned, put the car into gear and drove back onto the street. For a few moment, he was so disappointed, he couldn’t speak. He took a deep breath and said very slowly: “You’re not going to tell me all this stems from the town drunk ranting about earthquakes.”

            Xan shrugged. “What I’m saying is this: If Port Huron, famous for its very high, very long suspension bridge, is the first place to be completely levelled, then by all means it wouldn’t be too incredible for me--for us,” she pointed back and forth between Zach and herself, “to be crossing it when it happened.”

            Zach drove in silence, not relishing this experience of disenchantment both with Xan and Crazy Sadie. He had tried to be understanding. Supportive. He had tried arguing. He had tried not saying anything. He pressed the accelerator a little harder.

            “You know there was an earthquake here in ‘75,” he said eventually. “So it’s not like the bridge is incapable of withstanding an earthquake.” They were now approaching the bridge and he knew he didn’t have long to persuade Xan to leave off the blindfold.

            “That one doesn’t count. Too small.” Very few people had noticed. Of course Xan had noticed. She had been staring absently at a cup of coffee on a table when she noticed the liquid ripple. It was if someone had stomped on the floor next to it, only no one was there. Seismographers weren’t even sure whether or not to call it an earthquake (although Zach had said he guessed that some bored Great Lake seismographers were very happy to have something to do). The earthquake didn’t make the big news or even the evening news. It just rippled coffee in mugs all across the state as if it were the wind and not the earth moving.

            Zach suddenly changed lanes.

            “I have an idea,” he said. “Let’s go back and see what else. . .what’s her name?”

            “Um, Crazy Sadie.”

            “Let’s go back and see what else Crazy Sadie has to say. If you’re so sure about an earthquake, then maybe she’s got a few other predictions we should be taking notice of.”

            “You see the effect she has on people?”

            Zach pulled into a parking lot and turned around so quickly, the tires squealed. In a matter of seconds, they were on their way back to Crazy Sadie.

            They returned to where they had seen the old drunk but when they saw her again, a small crowd had gathered around her. Blocking their view were two women in black uniforms. The two women looked as if they were trying to coax Sadie into a long white van with an emblem Xan couldn‘t quite make it out. Sadie was having none of it. She was shrieking and shaking her head. One of the women turned and Xan suddenly recognised Hannah. She was dressed head to toe in black, in what looked like a smart suit. She was practically incognito. Hannah looked over her shoulder and she did a double take of Zach and Xan. She lifted her hand in a weak wave and went back to Crazy Sadie.

            “That’s that new girl from school.” Xan said, waving back. In the enclosed car, Zach could smell the chicken that still lingered in her clothes.

            “Well it looks as if your Crazy Sadie has no more pearls of wisdom,” he said, almost managing to sound disappointed. “Looks like not even the Sally Army can help.” He put the car into gear again, still hearing Crazy Sadie’s warnings of earthquakes and the end of time.

            Xan twisted the scarf in her hands, then began folding it, seeming to find it impossible to speak. Zach made the turning for the bridge and as they began their ascent, she placed the blindfold over her eyes and tied it behind her head.

            “Okay, okay,” Zach gave up and drove in silence. They were at tree top level and he knew from past experience that there was no way Xan was going to take off the blindfold. If a little earthquake was enough to convince Xan and Crazy Sadie it was earthquake weather in Port Huron Michigan, then who was he to tell her otherwise?

            Beside him Xan sat, blindfolded and white knuckled. Anyone looking at them would have assumed Zach was kidnapping her. Zach drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and looked around him. He had always loved the view, loved the second when he left the US and entered Canada. As a kid he liked to wonder what would happen if he put one foot on the state side and one foot on the Canadian side. What if a baby was born exactly on the border. Would the baby be American or Canadian? Would customs officials measure the baby and how much of him was born in one country in order to decide which passport to give him? Maybe he’d have dual citizenship. He imagined a scenario where a woman would want this for her child and deliberately come to the border in order to give birth.

            Zach’s ears popped and he pulled at the fleshy lobe as if it would equalise pressure within. He could just about make out the “Welcome to Canada” sign. Xan sat stiffly beside him, her feet braced under the dashboard, one hand clutching the ceiling strap, the other pulling the sleeve of his T-shirt. He wanted to make a joke that her pulling on his shirt was interfering with his driving and he might drive over the edge when he got an idea. Just under the “Welcome to Canada” sign, he stopped.

            “What’s happened?” Xan mumbled.

            “Okay chicken little. We’re across.” Zach could barely keep from smiling.

            “Customs already?”

            “Almost,” he said. “Just a few feet from the end.”

            Xan took off the blind fold and opened her eyes. It took a few moments for her eyes to adjust to the light. Zach used these moments to gently pull the blindfold from her hands. She blinked and looked around and found that they were not at customs but at the peak of the bridge, the part which supported them as they were suspended 160 feet above the raging St Clair River. Cars blared their horns and passed them, vibrating the thin pavement beneath them.

            Xan calmly unfastened her seatbelt (she had always said she figured she had a better chance of survival in the likely event of earthquake and collapsing bridge if she could get out of the car quickly and swim to shore) and closed her eyes again.

            “Zach, you will drive me back to safe, solid ground,” she said with clenched teeth. She crossed herself, not caring that she wasn’t even a Catholic.

            “C’mon Xan,” Zach said. “See the world from a new perspective.”

            “No thank you,” she said with as little movement as possible. “I have a very active imagination.”

            “You can’t keep the bridge from collapsing by closing your eyes. Anyway, if you’re born to be shot you won’t get hung. You might as well enjoy the final view.” Zach turned off the engine.

            “What a philosopher you are. Why don’t we just jump over the railing and see if we were born to drown?”

            “Oh come on, what could happen if you got out and had a little look?”

            “Let’s see. You or I could have a fit and one of us could spaz over the railing. Or you could spaz, pick me up mid-spaz and we spaz over the railing together. Or the earth could spaz, crack this little layer of pavement you’re so sure won’t break. . .”

            “Nothing’s going to happen.” Zach looked at Xan. Her eyes were squeezed tightly shut and she looked very, very pale. He had never seen her cry before and suddenly, he was sure he didn’t want this to be first time. He knew he may never understand the reasons for Xan’s fear but he didn’t have to be the one to make them worse. Here she was, keeping up her end of their compromise and here he was throwing it back in her face.          “Here Xany.” He rolled the blind fold. “Sit up and let’s tie this back on.” She turned so he could tie it. “I’m sorry.”

            “I want to take the ferry home,” she said, sniffing.

            “Of course.”   

            Zach turned the key in the ignition.

            The engine started to turn over, then died.

            “Shit.”

            He tried again.

            “C’mon, c’mon,” he pressed the gas pedal, smelled fumes and knew he had flooded the engine. Cars drove around them, their drivers furious.

            “Way to go, Zach-o.” Xan reached across the car and gave him a thump.

            Zach looked over the bridge and it did seem that they were toppling into the river. Perhaps, he thought, Xan had been right about earthquakes all along.

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