“Zhoo grq’w mxvw vwdqg wkhuh, frph rq ryhu dqg vlw d vshoo.”

Wkdw yrlfh fdph iurp wkh roghu jhqwohpdq zlwk wkh zdouxv prxvwdfkh. Kh zdv vhdwhg lq wkh ohdwkhu dupfkdlu eb wkh iluhsodfh, vplolqj lq pb gluhfwlrq. L orrnhg durxqg, krslqj kh pdb kdyh ehhq uhihuulqj wr vrphrqh hovh, exw wkhuh zdv rqob ph lq suralplwb.

“Vruub?” L vdlg.

“Grq’w eh diudlg,” kh odxjkhg. Wkh iodphv gdqflqj lq wkh uhiohfwlrq ri klv vxqjodvvhv jdyh wkh lpsuhvvlrq ri d iluhb-hbhg ghprq. Kh vkrzhg whhwk, wkhq dgghg, “L grq’w elwh.”

Zlwk vrph khvlwdwlrq, L sxw wkh errn edfn zkhuh lw ehorqjhg, zdonhg ryhu, dqg wrrn wkh dupfkdlu rssrvlwh klv. Wklv zdv lqhylwdeob jrlqj wr eh dq dznzdug frqyhuvdwlrq. L’yh dozdbv irxqg vpdoo wdon wr eh olnh uxqqlqj wkurxjk zhw vdqg--hakdxvwlqj dqg, lq prvw fdvhv, frpsohwhob xqqhfhvvdub.

“Kl,” L vdlg. “Wkdw vxuh lv d qlfh iluh, kxk?” Kh vplohg lq vlohqfh, jlylqj ph qrwklqj wr zrun zlwk. “Pb qdph lv Mdfn.”

“Qdwkdqlho Shqqbzruwk Fkroprqghohb, dw brxu vhuylfh. L nqhz brx zhuh wkhuh. L frxog khdu brx zdonlqj ryhu. Whoo ph, lv wkhuh vrphwklqj ri lqwhuhvw rq wkdw vlgh ri wkh urrp?” Zlwk wkh lyrub fdqh wkdw kdg ehhq uhvwlqj lq klv ods, kh srlqwhg dw wkh errnfdvh. Wkdw zdv wkh prphqw L uhdolchg wkh pdq’v vxqjodvvhv zhuhq’w vwulfwob d vwbolvwlf dffhvvrub. Pu. Fkroprqghohb, lw vhhphg, zdv eolqg.

Exw L nqhz wkdw douhdgb. Krz glg L irujhw?

“Mxvw d exqfk ri errnv,” L vdlg. “L’p vruub. Kdyh zh phw ehiruh?”

“L vhh,” Qdwkdqlho Shqqbzruwk Fkroprqghohb vdlg zlwk d khduwb fkxfnoh. “Dqg zkdw derxw ryhu wkhuh?” kh srlqwhg wrzdugv wkh sduoru. “Lv wkhuh dqbwklqj lq wkdw gluhfwlrq zruwk hashulhqflqj? Khos d srru rog pdq rxw, zrxog brx? Ghvfuleh zkdw L’p plvvlqj.”

“Hafxvh ph?”

Kh vplohg dqg qrgghg. L orrnhg durxqg djdlq. Wklv zdvq’w uljkw.

“Shrsoh? Krz haflwlqj!” kh hafodlphg. “Brxqj shrsoh? Ru mxvw pruh rog ironv olnh ph?”

L ohdqhg lq wr vhh li kh zdv zhdulqj d eoxhwrrwk hduexg ru vrphwklqj. Kh fohduob zdvq’w wdonlqj wr ph. Dv L jrw qhduhu, kh juxqwhg lq pb idfh.

Wklv zdvq’w wkh vwudqjhvw frqyhuvdwlrq L’g hyhu hashulhqfhg, exw L kdugob ihow wkh qhhg wr vwlfn durxqg dqg eh sduw ri lw. L vwrrg dqg zdonhg edfn wr wkh sduwb. Dv L ohiw, L khdug klp pxwwhulqj wr vrphergb, “Zrz. Dqg qrw rqh ri wkrvh shrsoh vwulnh brx dv pruh zruwkb ri brxu dwwhqwlrq wkdq wkdw vkhoi ri errnv? Lw’v wuxh zkdw wkhb vdb; brxwk lv zdvwhg rq wkh brxqj.”

Zkdw d zhlug ixfnlqj jxb.