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Julianne squinted against the glare as she approached Scott’s desk. “Hey,” he said after she’d deposited her check, “I’m having a cookout this weekend, if you want to come. It’s really casual, just a neighborhood thing. I think we’re just grilling burgers and watching baseball.” A little too quickly, Julianne replied that yes, sure, she’d try and stop by. Inside, she unsuccessfully told herself not to get her hopes up. He’d invited her. That Saturday afternoon, she crossed Scott’s front lawn in a pair of beaded flipflops, armed with a glass bowl of fruit salad. She heard music drifting around the side of the house and followed the meandering sounds of voices to the backyard. All of Scott’s neighbors were there, and there he was, holding a drink, standing in the middle of a semicircle of people who lived next door and across the street and catty-corner from his house. When he saw her, he raised a hand. “Hey!” he said, and stepped forward to meet her. “Here, let me take that.” He took the bowl of fruit salad in one hand and set it on the patio table. “Thanks for bringing this.” His eyes lit up as he turned back toward her, and for a moment Julianne thought he was going to say how excited he was that she was here, how it was so nice to see her outside of work, how they should do this more often—but then his gaze traveled past her, and she realized his grin was directed over her shoulder, at another group of people who had just arrived around the side of the house. “Hey!” he called, greeting them with the same ebullience that he’d greeted Julianne, that he greeted everyone who was his guest. “Thanks again for coming,” he said to her, and stepped away to meet the newcomers. Julianne watched him that evening as she made small talk with the neighbors and the Beach Boys drifted from the stereo across the darkening grass. He was a gracious host—that was all. * Two hours after Rick’s conversation with the doctor, the van stuttered to a stop, the driver informing them that he could take them no farther. They got out and looked at the road, which stretched ahead of them for a few hundred yards before cracking into chunks of concrete and then disappearing altogether, as if swallowed by the gold grass. Julianne looked around and saw dry plains stretching away from her and a blur along the horizon that may have been a copse of trees. There was no sign of civilization in sight. “This is where our journey begins!” announced Dr. Miles, and he hefted his bulging backpack and led the way forward along the broken road. Rick followed, and Julianne was about to do the same when she heard an engine cough and turned to see the van sputter away down the road they’d just come from. Its clatter faded away until it was no more than a speck. *

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Profile for Oakland Arts Review

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

Oakland Arts Review Volume 4  

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