Weeks of bobbing in transit. Curled up in a pod, hot and harshly cleaned, like a train seat or an incubator, some place where I’m growing, bigger or into something a little new.

 

 

We yawn against windowpanes and paw through magazine material, ripping out the pages like shucking vegetables, but there’s nothing to eat but more crackers and nuts at the end of it all.

 

“Maybe it’s getting to be time to catch a flight,” says Big Pharmakos. “Back to Dodge City. I’d say we might otherwise be about to find ourselves going, as they say, nowhere.

 

So we do. We take off from some English factory town and now we’re airborne, acting like we’ve just spent a whole epoch immersed in The Wicker Man, holed up off the coast of Scotland, seen a man burned for the glory of Island Noir, and now we’re heading home with heads full of New Material.

 

“Look at the Atlantic, far below,” coos Big Pharmakos, and, sure enough, I guess, there it is, out the window, 30,000 feet below.

 

We rip through more magazines, and eat more nuts and crackers, and then the plane starts going down

 

and the ocean starts coming up.

 

We plummet, tipping into a nosedive.

 

The pilot comes on the intercom and says, in a calm childy voice, that he’s “sorry ladies and gentlemen, but it’s been brought to my attention that I am at present too depressed to continue flying this plane. I’m going to land us before things get really bad.”

 

He does. We glide to a smooth halt on the ocean, and, almost immediately after turning off the engine, he zips away in a lifeboat and is gone, wearing a hat that completely obscures his head.

 

The rest of us hang out in the landed plane, looking toothily at one another, calculating how long until someone takes the first bite, probably just a shoulder or forearm at first, but then …

 

a fleet of lifeboats comes for us. We get in, and they disperse in dramatically different directions.

 

********

 

“All we ever do lately is sit around and talk about Astral Weeks,” moans Big Pharmakos a few days later, a hazy coastline at last coming into view.

 

I don’t answer. I’m wondering about accommodation, a bath and a bed and fire escape instructions on the back of a dead-bolted wood-paneled door, you know. The city gets astonishingly bigger and brighter than I’d expected it to get, doing that ocean thing where you think you’re close to land way, way before you’re anything like close.

 

But now we’re here. The boat spills us out. By this point it looks like we’re the only ones aside from the driver. Perhaps the others drowned or expired along the way, or there weren’t any, and now the driver’s gone too.

 

A row of Motel 6’s, side-by-side, flanks the harbor, arranged in a jagged skyline whereby some are taller and grander than the others, like relics from an occupation or previous dynasty, a little like The Bund in Shanghai but, like I say, they’re all Motel 6’s with nothing in between or, we soon see, behind.

 

We walk the streets like sailors on shore leave, trying to determine how best to spend our speck of time and money before consignment to life at sea begins anew, as if it hasn’t yet been long enough.

 

We walk down alleys of Motel 6’s and up hills of them, through flatlands and ghettoes and suburbs, a factory quarter and what looks like a prison quarter, churches, a zoo, Motel 6’s one and all, through a night fraught with humidity and insects. All the Motel 6 signs show different prices, some with HBO and WiFi and Continental Breakfast and even a Heated Pool, and others without.

 

People shuffle from one Motel 6 to another, heads down, hurrying like they’re afraid of or late for something.

 

Cars are parked in poor or odd parallel jobs along the curbs, and buses rush by, stirring up puddles.

 

“Kind of corny,” mutters Big Pharmakos, gesturing at the buses’ destination marquees, which read CITY OF SUPER 8’S.

 

I laugh, then look at my feet and a puddle as I yawn, then look back up at a new passing bus. Now its marquee seems to read CITY COLLAPSE, but I can tell that Big Pharmakos still sees it as CITY OF SUPER 8’S.

 

This ever so slightly cools my good vibe.

 

“Let’s get in one of them,” I say, recognizing the way I feel now as the feeling of being watched by people in ground floor windows.

 

“Where should we stay?” replies Big Pharmakos. The joke, if it is one, does not remain long in the air.

 

“Let’s walk from one to another and compare prices,” I say.

 

Big Pharmakos hesitates, sweeping the row of signs, then turns and says, “No. I’ve been here before, I think. I think I know someone we can stay with.”

 

He starts walking up the street. I run into the nearest Motel 6 and book a room, get inside, dead-bold the door, and peel back the blinds to watch him walking, still not out of sight, apparently unaware that I’m no longer walking with him —

 

and then something I can’t explain happens and I’m no longer sure if I’m in the room looking out or on the street looking in, or if perhaps several days have passed, during which a great number of things, all unrememberable, have happened to or because of me, or, time perched right now like a canoe atop The Falls, are about to.

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