Kakorrhaphiophobia
words and pictures by
R.B. Moreno


The morbid fear of failure. Imagine a sufferer reporting to the clinic for treatment, knowing that the first thing he will have to do, at the reception desk, is give them the name of his complaint. Think about it.
Peter Bowler, from The Superior Person’s Second Book of Weird and Wondrous Words

The parking lot is empty. The pavement shimmering. The man shoeless. Or rather, half-shoeless. The man has only one shoe. The man also looks familiar, like most artists in Colorado. Almost exactly like a Village Voice writer in whose periphery Benjamin has been wandering for a couple of years now. Michael Mooney, with his cascading red beard and considerable paunch. Mooney’s visage hadn’t changed last month in Texas, at the long-form journalism conference where Benjamin won a minor award for an essay on frozen food that might contain human hair. “Using Guerilla Tactics to Explore Urban Subcultures,” read this year’s program. Saturday. 8:50 a.m. to 9:25 a.m. Again Benjamin had overslept, refusing to guzzle diet cola and listen to Mooney opine about middle-aged people who prefer to copulate in horse costumes. Or the guy Mooney’d just profiled for Outside. The guy who actually, positively, verifiably hunts deer in Mississippi, and films other black men doing the same. But of course, Benjamin would write the same story. Would laugh courteously on Sunday, at appropriate moments, whilst Mooney downed pitchers and steaks and regaled a girl from the Dallas Business Journal at the shopping center not quite within walking distance from the Hilton. In fact, Mooney might take an interest in the shoeless man. And his companion, the taller fellow in cutoff jeans who’s muscled into the glare just now, stirring up a canyon wind with his gesticulating. Benjamin can only make out wisps of their conversation, but he decides it involves marijuana.


Benjamin puts away his notebook. Francine is back.


Francine, an inconsolable poet, has begun selling cheese out of her Subaru. She found the job on the MFA listserv, and, after studying the ad and Francine’s penciled notes for several minutes this morning, Benjamin has a new understanding of things. Namely that this company should be paying his girlfriend for copy editing, not running her car into the ground. Also that lactose intolerance—Benjamin is lactose intolerant—holds about as much water for Francine as the Mormon Church. Francine’s inventory, Benjamin has learned, includes three soft cheeses wrapped in special cheese wrapping paper imported from France. There’s Camembert (“creamy undertones and buttery characteristics topped off with a nutty mouth feel”); Truffello (“sirenic qualities”); and another with a reddish-orange rind that makes Benjamin gag not so much on the flavor but the name: ColoRouge (“quite complex”). Francine pretends to love them all but prefer Truffello, which contains trace amounts of real truffle oil. Or maybe her taste for Truffello has some basis in reality. Anyway, she is in fact—positively, verifiably—a “cheesemonger.” The various social networks made it so. “Monger” sounds to Benjamin overly theatrical (even histrionic). But he’s getting carried away with the parentheticals. None of this is important now. His girlfriend’s failure to get an assistantship is almost behind them now.

                 


Fuck.

   
What?


It’s just that there’s not enough ice.


Maybe we can get some at Jax?

   
Francine doesn’t answer. Benjamin senses that he should be helping. He turns back to the Subaru’s trunk, wrestles a third cooler into the trunk. Long and blue, like a regular cooler but coffin-sized. Francine disappears again behind the storage unit’s Roll-a-way. He follows. Inside, two teenagers and a woman with scissors and stickers and cardboard. A narrow plastic table; an aisle dividing stacks of cheese boxes. Mountains of them, hiding something like a refrigerated Volkswagen. The smell is that of a storage unit filled with boxed cheese. No one says anything; the hum is deafening. Francine pries open the refrigerator, begins adding sample wheels to a half-box of retail wheels. A safety box, Benjamin thinks to himself. The wheels go for $8 at Whole Foods and $5 at farmer’s markets. Prohibitive, even for the high country, except that six wheels can be bought for just $12 with an online coupon that has everyone worried. The coupon was the scissors woman’s idea, Francine explained, after some vigorous sex last weekend. She had suggested they add a day climb to one of her sales trips. She could expense the gas.


On their way out, the scissors woman looks up with a big smile. She says something Benjamin can’t make out above the compressor noise. But her upturned lips recall last weekend’s company picnic. The joke about strawberry cheese. Her husband had poked some jelly into a hunk of Camembert, then fed it to his wife with startling sincerity, everyone watching.


Benjamin waves. The woman waves her scissors.



ENDOPHASIA n. — Inaudible speech.

ENGASTRATION n. — Stuffing one bird inside another. I don’t explain the definitions; I only report them.



Francine and Benjamin will be late. This becomes obvious near Loveland, where I-25 jogs through a couple of really tight S-curves. Their engineer had artistic differences, in Benjamin’s daydreaming, with the usual Eisenhower Interstate.


Fuck! Oh, fuck!


Benjamin is at fault, or at least failing to commiserate. Red lights have begun to twinkle and also to curl Francine’s lips, but not in the same manner as her boss. He shakes his head. He breathes carefully—labored drafts of air, but without theatrics.


Fuckfuckfuckfuck. The word seems to sting Francine’s eyes. They dance between the road ahead and the road behind. The Subaru swerves sharply into the right lane; roars forward; slams to a halt. On the left, a fuzzy pair of dice gains ground. The word is repeated and Benjamin begins to talk over it, then catches himself.


Benjamin wants to tell Francine that the thing she’s saying no longer carries meaning. His mother, he was about to add, might have vomited back there, all over the upholstery and the manuscripts and a thick layer of cat litter trapped in the floor mats. Or recited a prayer. But as this commentary takes shape Benjamin detects a certain potential for unimaginable violence. He grows quiet. He braces, feels a sweat gathering beneath his ball cap, reflected now in the passenger mirror. It’s from the Department of Journalism and Technical Communication: a bad marriage but the bill is breaking nicely. It would be a shame to lose such a hat. Another swerve. There is honking in two different octaves, which really does the trick. Francine goes livid, pounding her thin wrists against as much Japanese molding as her arms can reach.

   
Shut up! Shut the fuck up! She’s going to kill me. They’re not going to let me in. This is your fault, Francine adds, in a rising tone. We don’t need fucking gaiters.


Reckless; hysterical; much fortune telling. This is what Benjamin records later, in his notebook, on the trail to Emerald Lake. Yet at this moment in our story she refuses to look his way, so that the devil incarnate, despite the obvious, remains for him anonymous. He had insisted on gaiters at Jax Mercantile. The trail report said to expect snow drifts. He can’t read this woman, despite their several months of companionship. He’s not even sure if she’s pretty.


He thought she was pretty, looking down from his grading in the attic bookstore on College Avenue last autumn. Then, as now, her ponytail sprouted from a knot at the back of her skull, and her jeans and leather boots, entwined on an ottoman, looked elastic. That much he could see from the attic. But with Francine’s mouth crumpling, and her gums bared, Benjamin notices once more the patch of darkness rooting between her incisors. He should ask about that. He could open with his own checkered dental history. He would somehow turn the conversation toward lactose.


Do you want to call the casino?

   
Yeah, can you dial?

                


An important-looking man in coveralls and a Stetson stands astride Central City Parkway, hailing traffic. The line snakes for a quarter mile, then buries itself abruptly in a hillside bunker. The occasional convertible bolts past, but Benjamin notices, in shading his eyes, that these bleached-looking heads wind up making U-turns farther up the valley, at a stoplight.


Benjamin is nervous—alert to his duties as copilot, unsure of what to advise. Certainly tired of the bag of peppered jerky he’d found wedged under his ass, at the junction with I-70. But Francine’s lolling head seems unconcerned—after the silent rocket ride through Westminster, Arvada, and Golden, and the makeup talk that followed—about whether this is actually Fortune Valley Casino. It looks more like a battleship: five stories of cavernous concrete pinned against a landslide; the whole thing buttressed, it would seem, by metal sheeting and a row of shops dating back to the Gold Rush. As the Subaru draws closer, Benjamin realizes the false fronts aren’t shops at all—just variations in the casino’s façade, bearing signage. YOU ARE WELCOME HERE ALL THE TIME! MOST JACKPOTS IN COLORADO! GOOD LUCK AND GOOD FORTUNE!


I think that’s it, babe.

   
I can’t read that. Can you read that? Francine has dreadful eyesight. She points at a smaller sign rolling past, with red lettering. Benjamin squints. The garage’s entrance is poorly lit, but … WE PROVIDE EXCELLENT SERVICE TO 21+. IN ORDER TO PROVIDE A RICHER EXPERIENCE FOR OUR GAMING GUESTS, WE ARE A 21+ PROPERTY. THANK YOU AND GOOD LUCK. FORTUNEVALLEYCASINO.COM.

   
It says they don’t let in kids.

   
Bullshit. Kids always want the Camembert. But Francine’s voice has gone just as soft, and Benjamin hears a trace of curiosity in the modulation of her indignation. He has a short laugh, despite himself. They might have some fun after all.

            


He’ll take his chances on a walk. The stairwell smells of piss, but Francine is nervous about losing the Subaru’s perch on the battleship’s rooftop, a parking lot of staggering breadth. Fortune Valley’s after-hours party, billed A Midsummer Night’s Dream, won’t get underway until sunset. Romeo Delight, a Van Halen cover band, is already screaming out a sound check. He can feel the vibrations down through the fourth deck, now the third. The stultifying interim facing Francine and other vendors—tie-dyed shirts, ornamental crockery, dream catchers, wines infused with fruit, and a Budweiser tent—has a singular explanation, Benjamin is realizing: the casino’s crew boss. Pressed purple shirt; something like a satellite phone chirping on her hip; visibly anxious at Francine’s failure to bring along buckets of sand to weigh down the cheese tent, in case of tornado.


The spiraling descent leaves Benjamin a little dizzy, then grateful for a burst of sunshine and the waving arms of the Stetson man. Francine wants an iced coffee. He’s not sure where to find coffee in a town strung out on cocktail shrimp, from the look of the other purple-shirted people, and the Budweiser girls. But there, look, a Starbucks just a half-mile out, pulsing like a landing strip on his Kyocera. It’s a Japanese knockoff with notoriously bad reception. Somehow, the Internet comes in at four bars. He returns the phone to his coat pocket and checks for his notebook. He begins wandering down the valley.


WILLIAM BENJAMIN (BILLY BEN) COZENS TRIED HIS HAND AT MINING AND PROSPECTING BUT SOON AFTER HIS ARRIVAL HE WENT TO WORK FOR JACK KEELER, WHO WAS IN THE MERCHANDISE AND SALOON BUSINESS. COZENS SERVED AS CLERK AND BARTENDER. SOON, BILLY BEN MET MARY YORK, THE FIRST WHITE WOMAN TO ARRIVE IN WHAT WAS THEN MOUNTAIN CITY. A YEAR AND A HALF LATER, ON DECEMBER 30, 1860, THEY MARRIED. THEY HAD THREE CHILDREN.

COLORADO WAS ORGANIZED AS A TERRITORY IN 1861. IN 1863, COZENS WAS ELECTED GILPIN COUNTY SHERIFF AND HELD THE POSITION UNTIL 1865. IT WAS DURING THIS TERM THAT COZENS FACED HIS GREATEST CHALLENGE, PREVENTING A MOB FROM LYNCHING HIS PRISONER. A MOB APPROACHED THE JAIL, LOCATED IN WASHINGTON HALL WHICH HE ALONE CONSTRUCTED OF HAND-HEWN TIMBERS, AND DEMANDED THE KEYS TO THE JAIL.



Benjamin is easily distracted by historical markers. Francine, it should be said, finds distracted men endearing. Presently, for example, he’s forgotten her coffee. His eyes roam slowly over a jail cell with floor-to-ceiling bars. A gravel floor, which seems cruel. Whitewash for the river rock bearing Cozens’ timbers. Lengths of hastily-folded muslin shrouding upper and lower bunks. It’s a mockup, probably, but the pulverized iron door looks genuine. The door hangs ajar, Benjamin scrawls in his notebook, as if someone’s just walked free.


He feels comfortably alone in the labyrinth of Washington Hall. (GALLERY, said the banner on the sidewalk. DO NOT SPIT ON THE SIDEWALK BY ORDER OF THE HEALTH BUREAU.) The air in the old house smells stale and undisturbed—just a slight, watery gurgling coming from somewhere unimportant. He puts away the notebook and steps across the cell’s threshold. Sniffs again. Crouches against the lower bunk, then runs a hand along the edge of the bedding and plunges deep, just to be sure. Cold. He returns to the marker’s narrative, grazing the iron latch with his shoulder. A little shower of rust disappears into the gravel.


BILLY BEN REFUSED AND SOMEONE YELLED, “THEN WE’LL TAKE HIM.” BILLY BEN DREW A LINE IN THE STREET WITH HIS BOOT, AND WITH A COCKED REVOLVER IN EACH HAND, SAID, “I’LL KILL THE FIRST MAN THAT CROSSES IT.” EVERYONE KNEW BILLY BEN WAS A BRAVE MAN, DEAD SHOT WITH A RIFLE OR PISTOL AND A FAITHFUL OFFICER OF THE LAW. COOLER HEADS PREVAILED AND THE MOB DISPERSED.


            


The history is yellowing and poorly rendered. Still, Benjamin senses the eagerness with which the writer met his task. The excessive capitalization. The way the references to gun-slinging slip from Cozens into a fawning Billy Ben. He wonders about a missing serial comma, whether the writer was more accustomed to bad news copy. And he sighs, thinking again of Francine. He asked her once whether she couldn’t get some ideas for her poetry from the hundreds of faces that will by now be crowding in close. All those red-faced men snatching at the soft cheese and the silk tablecloths meant for decoration. He had remarked, without much tact, that from a distance it looked a bit like Japanese bukkake. To which she had sighed, too. Not so much at the comparison, Benjamin realizes now, but at the reminder that her future now depends on poetry. And that she hates—well, is that fair? Yes, it is fair. She hates writing poetry, Benjamin thinks to himself. She should have been a lexicographer.



METOPOSCOPY n. — Judging character from the appearance of the face.

METROPHOBIA n. — A morbid dread of poetry. It is believed that most cases can be traced back to a specific traumatic incident involving enforced exposure to the genre.



He takes a turn at the wheel for the ride north to Francine’s parents’ cabin, along the Peak to Peak Highway. The moon is out, gibbous and bright as snow. Francine cradles a beer. She goes quiet watching the light play on water. Counting up the places false and real. First Los Lagos, then the sheen off Barker Reservoir, Mud Lake, Lakewood, Glacier, Duck, Tumblesom, Silver Spruce, and with Estes Park coloring the sky, Lily and Mary. There are signs Francine can’t read and doesn’t need; she and Benjamin have memorized the topographic map on College Avenue, the one in the sandwich shop across from the bookstore. She loves fingering the fourteeners and also the pockets of glass. The millions of blue-green acre-feet going places she can barely imagine.

   
There’s my cat, says Francine.

   
Huh? Benjamin’s thoughts had returned to Michael Mooney, who might pass on a good word about his legacy idea—one writer tracing the steps of a man who shared his name, in another century. Maybe High Country News, or—

   
Yeah, remember? Mary the Cat’s named after the lake up here.

   
Oh. Benjamin steals a glance at the water, suddenly wanting to tell Francine about Mary the Pioneer: the woman every mountain man wanted to please; how she made Cozens quit the law and open a ranch and befriend the Jesuits, that old huckster. And would you believe it? He started naming things—

   
Fuck. I hope Jennifer got the key.

   
Benjamin lets the air between his teeth begin to whistle. I’m sure she did.

   
I should call.

                 


The clapping of baby hands is almost ordinary with the air conditioner turned up high. Benjamin is on his back in a cotton t-shirt, mouth agape. The slits of his eyes have come to rest on a seam in the cabin’s ceiling. An extra-chilled, 8,000-foot breeze rustles a sheet covering Francine’s legs, clamped vise-like over Benjamin’s thigh. Benjamin is aware of a pleasant warmth there and very nearly asleep. He prefers bedding down like this: sleep comes easier, but mostly because naked Francine winds up clinging to him through some horrible dreams they both try to ignore.

   
FLIT-FLIT … FLIT … FLIT-FLIT. What is that? The question barely materializes. The clapping is rhythmic and lulling, so much so that he’s begun to enjoy it—joining in with wavering arms from a hammock in Olympia, back in 1980, watching his father fix a pair of sprinklers to their overheated trailer. It wasn’t the best idea; the water got under the rooftop and warped the ceiling in the—


FLIT … FLIT-FLIT. Benjamin’s eyes go wide, sucking in light. The moon is mostly gone from the pines, the screen porch, the woodstove, the upright piano-cum-liquor cabinet, and the point above Benjamin’s nose where something is traveling with surprising speed. As his eyes adjust to the dark, he gets a glimpse of the animal’s wingspan—enormous. A bat. A fruit bat, maybe. That’s impossible. He realizes, with slow alarm, that the thing is trapped. Resigned to strafing the vent above the headboard, then out to the front room, then back to the bedroom through a second door. Above the beating of wings and the rush of air, Benjamin can make out chirping.


This had happened once before, during his freelancing days in Washington, before he went back to teaching—in the vast, unfinished basement on Georgia Avenue that he’d shared with a luggage boy from the Marriott. Feral cats had ripped holes in their window screens. Benjamin awoke to the sound of his laundry money being poured into a sock. The boy’s brow was glistening, and he held a finger to his lips. Benjamin thought he was being robbed—was about to offer the boy some real money—when the sock took flight. It only hung near the water pipes for a half-second. Just long enough for something fast and brown to seize hold, then crash to the linoleum, where it flapped for a while. The boy said he’d used the same trick back home, in Nigeria. Benjamin wasn’t sure if it could be true, but it made his column that week—all about harmless Chiroptera, his place in literature and his good work in your backyard.


Francine is waking up; he can feel her moving. He can already hear the scream she will utter, and so Benjamin acts quickly. He lifts her knee, counts to onemississippi as the bat’s orbit clears the bedroom, and springs for the first door. He pictures the blind bastard rounding the corner in the dark, telemetry going haywire. Thump. Then the second door. More thumping, and a muffled retching. Francine sits up.


What’s that?


Nothing. Just a dream.


Me or you? The cold lifts her bleached hair into a halo. Benjamin’s never grabbed at hair so thin.


Both. I don’t know, babe. It’s over.


What are you doing?


I’m doing you.



LENITIC: a. — Living in quiet waters. The aspiration of the kakorrhaphiophobiac (q.v.) lexicographer.

LEPID: a. — Charming, elegant, amiable. While watching your butterfly-hunting cousins gassing and impaling their catch for the day, you could perhaps engage them in light conversation, in the course of which you might express genteel surprise that lepidopterists are themselves so rarely lepid.



Benjamin is not the kind of person who reads Michael Crichton, particularly not the trashy stuff about sex and airplanes, but the commotion had somehow recalled Jurassic Park, then Airframe. And the line worked just right. Francine half asleep and half addicted, from the way she moved against him. The bat gone, completely vanished along with the open Camembert he’d chucked down the disposal in the morning, just in case. He mulls this over on the drive south, listening to his girlfriend read aloud from Peter Bowler’s The Superior Person’s Second Book of Weird and Wondrous Words. Hardcover, vintage 1992, with illuminations and some mold growing along the spine. It accompanies Francine on sales trips like a totem. Her poetry—from the few pages Benjamin’s seen—deviates only slightly from Bowler’s oeuvre. Multisyllabic words, non sequiturs, a lot of indentation. Benjamin finds the mold kind of funny. Last night downright worrisome. He keeps this to himself.

   
They’re early. Benjamin helps unfold the silk tablecloths. He offers some extra sand to the guy with the crockery. There is no screaming.



INDIANS CUT OFF COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN “THE STATES” AND DENVER DURING THE FALL OF 1864. COZENS WAS ACTIVE IN RAISING TWO COMPANIES OF “90 DAY MEN” TO QUELL THE UPRISING. HE WAS COMMISSIONED CAPTAIN OF COMPANY C AND SPENT THE WINTER ON THE PLAINS ESCORTING MAIL AND EMIGRANTS. IN THE SPRING OF 1865, HE RETURNED TO GILPIN COUNTY AND SERVED ANOTHER TERM AS SHERIFF. AFTER HIS TERM ENDED, HE WENT EAST FOR TWO YEARS. UPON HIS RETURN, HE SERVED AS CITY MARSHAL OF CENTRAL CITY FROM 1873 TO 1875. WHEN HIS TERM EXPIRED, BILLY BEN, MARY AND THEIR CHILDREN MOVED TO A 320-ACRE RANCH THAT BECAME A POPULAR STOPPING PLACE FOR PEOPLE TRAVELING TO AND FRO.

                 


Benjamin studies the marker once more. He’s got the Subaru today but Francine says the crowd on the rooftop is getting out of hand. She wants an iced coffee. He won’t stay long. He just wants a look upstairs. There’s a second mockup down from the jail cell, this one depicting Central City’s mining and prospecting years. A miniature, rock-strewn hillside bathed in amber light, with real water flowing from somewhere offstage. He runs his hand through the flow as it hits a ladder and empties into Cozens’ sluice box. Another trough feeds a steel pan. He fingers the pebbles collected there.


The gallery’s upper floors, Benjamin discovers, advertise expensive photography—horses, windmills, battered pickups. Colorless but stunning prints. Caballo Negro, on canvas with flared nostrils, goes for $595. The mockups, by contrast, seem garish and marooned. In one foyer he finds the curator sitting quietly behind a pitted desk. It’s Cozens’ desk, an oak behemoth, the first judge’s bench in the West, says the woman. Something about her eyes. How long has she been here? Longer than you think, comes the answer. But what are her hours? The woman doesn’t like that question. Her gaze shifts to a tiny monitor flashing live video—the banner on the sidewalk, the jail cell, the back of Benjamin’s head.


Something else I can help you with, son?

   
At the door, before he steps into the sunlight, Benjamin finds a series of older prints he hadn’t noticed before. A crowd at an overturned locomotive; an aproned butcher on what looks like the street outside, hands in his pockets; a rich boy staring at a pack mule. And down at the end of the boardwalk, the sheriff himself, his gut protruding like a sow’s. The last images seem frightening, prophetic. Central City from on high, dated 1872, the valley stripped naked of everything but mud and tenements.


Then a charred and smoking landscape: THE FIRE OF MAY 21, 1874.



COZENS WORKED MARVELS IN THE PRESERVATION OF PEACE. MINERS, CITIZENS, AND DESPERADOES ALIKE HAD FULL RESPECT FOR HIM AND ALTHOUGH NOTED AS AN EXPERT WITH A REVOLVER HE NEVER SHOT ANYONE IN ALL HIS CAREER. HIS VALUE AND JUDGEMENT OF MEN AND HIS STAND FOR JUSTICE ARE UNDIMMNED IN THE ANNALS OF THE STATE, AND HE REMAINS FOR ALL AN ILLUMINATING EXAMPLE.



At the park entrance, a brown and shriveled ranger leans into the Subaru to warn Benjamin about the trail report. Snowdrifts in July. Climate change, who knows. Can’t begrudge old Mother Nature, enit? Anyhow, you be careful with this pretty wife of yours. Common sense, enit? Kids gettin’ turned around comin’ off the lakes, late starts and all. He lingers by the window a bit too long. Francine doesn’t say anything.


At the overlook where they get out the bagels, Emerald Lake is radiating a whole spectrum of green—jade, turquoise, sea green. All of which makes Francine abruptly nauseous. Benjamin gets a little too close to the edge with his camera. When he turns back, he spots the backs of Francine’s gaiters kicking through the next switchback. She’s left behind a Trufello wrapper clinging to a piece of granite. Benjamin winces. Stares at the wrapper for a time, then at his phone. No signal.




On the way down they do get a little disoriented, and there is crying. Benjamin feels pretty sure the trail is underfoot. Francine insists on asking a hairless, pimpled teenager and his girlfriend, in soccer cleats, which way to Bear Lake. That way. The kid points downhill, into the blackening dusk, and shows her the topography from his Garmin. Francine nods without looking. Tells the girl she’d best be careful or she’ll get hurt.


Or you’ll twist an ankle, says Francine. Benjamin hears something else entirely.



KALOPSIA n. — A state in which things appear more beautiful than they really are. Presumably love.



Much later—months and months and even years into the blackness, out of the blue—when Francine calls Benjamin to say that advertising a hike with a woman nobody recognizes is fucking inconsiderate, and that she’s had to explain their breakup to most of Colorado singlehandedly, friends he’s probably forgotten about, and that she’s lost some weight over the stress and quit selling cheese but keeps writing all the same, writing just acres and acres of poetry teeming with new language, and that one of these poems, the one about the dead butterflies (the dead what? no, why would he ask that?), well anyway, it’s been picked up by this journal in the Carolinas, and isn’t he sorry about leaving her like that, just brushing his hands and letting her fall to the ground, like so much dust?

                 


The line goes quiet. Benjamin holds the Kyocera tight against his eardrum. He’s standing on a bright expanse of pavement. He can make out voices—shrill and indistinct. He draws a line in the street with his shoe.


What? I’m having trouble hearing you.

   
Benjamin says the thing Francine has trouble hearing.


After all that? That’s all you have to say.


This is what I’m saying, says Benjamin.


This is what Benjamin has to say.

                                                                           

table of contentsON6_contents.htmlON6_contents.htmlshapeimage_1_link_0