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It does. And there’s ice forming on the fine but not unnoticeable hairs of my upper lip. “Why is it you’re always out here,” I say, “idling?” “Waiting for the storm to pass,” she says, pointing to a house downstreet. “Listen.” She kills the engine. First I find a fading voice on the Kwik Stuff loudspeaker, a cashier yelling, Go ahead pump 3! Pump it up! Then, it’s the rattle of traffic over the Missouri River. Finally, I hear yelling. I see lights in what must be her house flipping on and off, flares flashing bright like a brain hooked up to a computer and you’re watching it think, or sleep. “Why don’t you leave?” I say. “Go somewhere.” “Here works. Plus, who’s got gas money?” The wind blows into my ear. I shift weight to feel my toes. “So, you just gonna stand there and freeze?” she says. “It’s unlocked.” I sense a face in the window behind me, watching as I climb into shotgun. The song plays, and I sit, idle. I wonder how I’m here. And why. I feel anxious, like I might puke. Then I look— the face in the window is the dog’s. All that snout fog. It doesn’t show, but she’s an ancient, regal breed, companion of choice for Egyptian queens. “I got gas money,” I say, reaching for my wallet. “Gin money, too.” ______ On the thirty-second drive from our block to the Kwik Stuff, I learn her name—“Kareen, like when the car goes off the cliff”—and, thanks to the glare of the red-light on her crow’s feet, I learn that she might be fifteen, twenty years my senior. The last time I went out, over a month ago now, I left the grad student soiree halfway through, took our Civic home alone, my coat covering the passenger seat like a tarp for my climbing vomit. I don’t know what it is, this dizziness that’s been hitting me each time I leave the house. Triple Thrift has no health plan. But here, with the idler, I feel strangely fine, even hungry. “What’s your name mean?” I ask. “Like, how’d you get it?” FICTION | 13


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