Preparation For The Next Life
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muscles, towing its owner across the court. The owner walked leaning back, holding the thick leather leash wrapped around his fist. The animal turned its obscene head towards Skinner, who watched it curiously as it panted at him with its jaws open and pink things hanging out. Time had gotten away from him in the heat. Skinner checked his phone, which had condensation under the screen, and frowned, confused. He hobbled down the ramp, squinting at the relentless cars going by, the low rooftops.
digital sign in front of the Valley National Bank said 4:59, 70°. She decided that this was the sign she had been looking for. Now I’ll turn, she said. At the next street, she made a left, crossing behind a strip mall, hearing the hum of refrigeration out back of the loading dock and dumpsters, and started heading north. She was on a smaller road and it was very dark and quiet and felt like the country. The road was lined with hedgerows higher than her head, so she was walking along a dark
heads and seeing that she was going into a Chinatown, a thicket of vertical signs, the sails of sampans and junks, too many to read, a singsong clamor rising. No English. There were loudspeakers and dedications and banners for Year of the Dog. Voices all around her, calling and calling. Here, here, here, come and see! Someone spitting in the street. Crying out and running along next to her, pushing and pleading, grabbing the sleeve of her jacket. They put flyers in her hands and she dropped them.
shoes, a phone number, waiting beneath an underpass, the potato chips long gone, lightheaded. They picked her up on the highway by a plain white shed, a sign for army-navy, tires in the trees. A Caravan pulled up with a Monkey King on the dash and she got in. The men took her to a Motel 8 and put her in a room with half a dozen other women from Fookien and a liter of orange soda. She listened to the trucks coming in all night and the AC running. They gave her a shirt with an insignia and a
talking about her. In her mind, it was a day of blue sky, and she could smell the asphalt and the field and the lunch truck. Some Latina girls asked her, Are you with it? Hey, yo, you wid it? And instead of ignoring them, she stared back at them and said, I don’t with nothing. She pretended she didn’t see them, but she was scared. The fear came in and out like a radio signal. When it faded out, she went back to being sick. She picked up the phone and listened to the dial tone and put it down,