Washed by a Wave of Wind
M. Shayne Bell, editor 

Chapter 4
Space People
James Cummings 

[p.53]They have just passed the city limits sign and are beginning to cross the salt desert when Cindy says she thinks she sees a bright, white light appear just on the horizon, where the blue glow of the sunset still lingers. 

Don, who’s driving, says, “Where?” Cindy leans over the front seat, pointing. “It was over there,” she says. “It’s gone.” 

Don laughs. “Cindy, you’re such a hysteric.” 

“I am not,” Cindy says. She falls back into her seat, crosses her arms.  “I saw a light.” 

“No one else did,” Don says.

“I think I did,” Jule says.

“You think you did,” Don says. He rolls down the window an inch and lights a cigarette. “What does that mean? Either you saw it or you didn’t.” 

Jule says, “I was looking out the side window. I sort of caught it out of the corner of my eye when 1 turned my head.” 

“No light,” Don says, “is going to just blink out of existence.” 

“Maybe it went below the horizon,” Jule says. 

“No,” Cindy says, quietly. She’s looking out the window. “It just disappeared.” 

“Why are we worrying about this?” Don asks.

A little later, when it’s dark and the salt flats are gleaming on both sides of the road like an endless sea of milk, Cindy says, “I hope we see it again.” 

[p.54]“I don’t,” Don says. “What I hope is that we make it to the coast in this piece of shit.” 

“We will,” Cindy says. “Don’t you worry about that.” 

 

Cindy and Jule have been friends for years, but Jule has only met Don two or three times before. Don and Cindy have been married for nearly a year. Cindy said maybe it was a risk but she thought they’d all have a blast together on this trip. In fact, she was positive about it.

Twenty minutes later, she sits up in the back seat where she’s been sleeping. Jule hears her rustling, which is good because the rhythmic thump of the expansion joints on the freeway is starting to get hypnotic.  He hasn’t been sleeping, although he lies slouched in the corner of his seat with his eyes closed enough that Don will think maybe he is. 

“This is where it was,” Cindy says. 

Jule turns around to look at her. Her long blond hair is mussed, sticking up. Her eyes are sleepy. “How do you know?” 

“I don’t know how I know. This is where it was.”

Don doesn’t say anything. He hasn’t said anything for thirty miles. 

“It was over there,” Cindy says. She points vaguely ahead of them, but it looks to Jule exactly like every other spot on the salt flats. There’s just pale emptiness. 

“I read that book about the space people picking that guy up,” Cindy says. “Those things happen.” 

Don takes the pack from his pocket and shakes out a cigarette. He presses the lighter button into the dashboard. 

“You know what I’m talking about?” Cindy asks. 

“I heard about it,” Jule says. 

“It was a best-seller in the New York Times for months.” 

Don lights his cigarette. “Hey, hon,” he says, “relax.” 

Jule keeps looking at the place where Cindy pointed. It’s getting closer. 

Cindy says, “It’s about this guy-he’s a famous author, you know and he gets taken up into their ships every now and then, and it’s so frightening he can’t remember it. What he keeps seeing are these packs of animals crossing the road. Finally he has this nervous breakdown. It’s just too much. He has to face it. It turns out there weren’t any animals. Those were the times the space people took him.” 

No one says anything.

“It’s a true story,” Cindy says. “Documented.”

[p.55]“It’s not documented,” Don says. 

“Yes it is,” Cindy says. “There’s this statement in the book from a psychiatrist that says the guy definitely is not nuts.”

“I don’t think that’s what Don meant,” Jule says. 

“I don’t care what he meant. Can I have a cigarette?” 

Don takes the pack from his pocket and tosses it over his shoulder. Cindy catches it. “Punch the lighter for me, would you, Jule?” she asks.

Jule pushes the button and hands the lighter to her when it pops out. 

“Here’s your pack,” she says to Don, holding it over the front seat. 

“Keep it,” Don says, and after a minute, Cindy sits back in her seat. 

Jule wonders if maybe they can stop talking then. But after a couple of puffs, Cindy says, “It was right there.” 

Jule looks out into the desert but there’s still nothing different about it at all. 

Cindy says, “Could you slow down a little?”

The car slows almost imperceptibly.

“Hey,” Cindy says, “a rest stop. Can we stop for a minute?” 

“No,” Don says. 

“Oh, corne on. You want to stop, Jule?” 

Jule shrugs. “Don’s driving,” he says. “I guess it’s up to him.” 

Cindy stares at him in the darkness. “Great,” she says. “That’s wonderful. Stop the car, I’m getting out.” She pulls up the door handle; dry, cool air roars into the car, squeezing Jule’s eardrums, tearing at his clothes. Then the tires are screeching against the concrete and Jule is thrown into the dashboard as Don swerves into the rest stop. The car jerks up to the curb next to the toilets and stops. Cindy gets out and slams the door. Jule watches her pick her way down the embankment and start walking out into the desert. He sits there, next to Don. He can’t imagine what to say.

“Christ,” Don mutters, “she’s got my cigarettes.” He gets out of the car, slams the door. 

Jule is nauseated. He can’t get his breath. After a few seconds he gets out and starts following Don and Cindy. 

There’s a strong breeze out on the flats. The air smells like dust and sagebrush. The hard white surface of the ground stretches to the horizon like a concrete stage. They walk in a line, first Cindy, then Don, and finally Jule, and no one makes a move to catch up with anyone else. They can walk forever, Jule thinks. 

[p.56]But after about a mile, Cindy turns around and Don starts to walk a little faster. When he reaches her, they walk side by side. Jule can’t tell if they’re talking or not. 

Then Cindy suddenly sits down. Jule can see the pinprick orange glow of her cigarette, moving up and down. When he finally reaches her, she grinds it out in the salt and says, “This is where they were.” 

Jule sits down a couple of feet away. Don stands, looking out toward the horizon, his hands in his back pockets. 

“Feel how warm the ground is,” Cindy says.

Jule puts his palms on the salt. It’s the same temperature as his skin. 

“I think we should just stay here for a while,” she says, and Don turns around and sits down, facing her. He says, “You believe it, don’t you.” 

She doesn’t answer. She seems to be listening. 

He picks up the pack lying on the ground in front of her, lights a cigarette. 

“They don’t always show up when you want them to,” Cindy says.

“Maybe you’re too stirred up.” 

Don watches her. 

“They aren’t quite on the same wavelength as we are. They have more control.” 

He doesn’t say anything. Jule is feeling the wind. 

“When they feel your mind is ready, then they come. Some people have been taken from moving cars.” 

“That’s nasty,” Don says. 

“When the people come back, they’re behind the wheel and everything’s fine. No one understands it.” 

“I think I understand,” Don says. 

Cindy nods. “Maybe you’re getting calmer. You have to be calm or they can’t get through. I’m calm. Are you, Jule?” 

“I’m looking at the stars,” Jule says.

“Good,” Cindy says. 

Jule is lying on his back now.

Cindy reaches out and starts stroking Jule’s arm. “Can you feel it?” she says. “They want us to be relaxed. Open. So they can make contact.” 

“Shhh,” Don whispers. 

“Talking doesn’t matter,” she says. “They only hear what’s in your mind. That’s all they care about.” 

[p.57]The wind, and Cindy’s hand on his arm, are putting Jule to sleep.  It’s all he needs. 

After a long time, Cindy says, “You see, they’re on a higher level.  That’s what’s so frightening. They know so much. Once you’ve been with them, you can’t be the same.” She’s sitting cross-legged now, palms resting on her knees. “All we have to do is wait,” she says. 

 

During the drive through the rest of the salt flats and on past Wendover, Jule sleeps. He doesn’t wake up until the stillness of the car pulls him gently upward. There are bright, blue-white lights shining into it. Don is leaning half on the seat, half against the door, watching him. Jule wipes his neck and his hand comes away slick. For some reason, sleeping anywhere other than his own bed always makes him sweat. 

“Where are we?” Jule says. 

“Reno.” 

They’re in a parking lot. The light coming into the car is as bright as day, but without warmth. Don’s face is white. 

“How come you stopped?” Jule asks. 

Don shrugs. His long, Levi-covered legs stretch across the hump on the floor, and Jule realizes Don’s feet are touching his own. 

Jule rolls down the window. The air is cooler here than it was on the salt flats. They sit there for a long time. 

Jule looks over the seat, at Cindy. She’s curled up, forearms pulled in to her chest, her hands a shapeless tangle under her chin. In the glare from the parking lot lights her face is blank and smooth. She doesn’t look like Cindy at all. 

Later, when Don’s gone into the diner to get some coffee, Jule reaches back to wake her up, but he doesn’t touch her. He can’t. Not when she’s sleeping like that. 

 

They get to the hotel half an hour before dawn. It’s an enormous, white Victorian structure, built of wood. There are two long wings stretching away from a central section with a huge, shingle-covered conical roof. The uniformed valet takes the car, and they go into the lobby, which is all dark, polished wood and potted palms and oriental rugs. Jule and Cindy sit on a leather sofa while Don talks to the clerk at the desk. There’s no one else in the lobby. A small fire burns in a fireplace with a carved, gleaming mantle. The windows are open, and [p.58]Jule can hear the faint sound of the surf. The sky, he sees, has changed from black to deep, cobalt blue. It’s cloudless.

Don comes back with a key for Cindy and one for Jule. “The bellboys are busy,” he says, and they pick up their bags and follow him up a vast staircase.

Within minutes, they’re lost in a tangle of narrow white corridors. Cindy drops her luggage. “I’m pooped,” she says. “I think we’re going in circles.” She looks at her key. “Are we on the third floor?” 

“Read the numbers,” Don says, pointing to a door which says “394.”  He’s still holding his bags.

 “I’m not thinking,” she says. “I can’t think anymore.” 

Jule says, “Maybe we’re in the wrong wing. I thought this was where the courtyard was supposed to be.” 

“Better keep walking,” Don says. 

“We’re lost,” Cindy says. 

Don starts walking down the hall. 

“We’ll get there,” Jule whispers. 

Cindy jerks her bags up from the red carpet. 

They walk and walk but they don’t find it. The numbers on the doors go down, then back up again. Finally Cindy throws her bags down. “This is a joke,” she says. “Where the fuck are we?” 

Jule can see Don’s face getting blank, empty. He says, “Listen, I’ll go down to the lobby for instructions.”

“He got instructions,” Cindy says. 

“I guess we need more,” Jule says. 

“How are you going to find us again?” she says. “We’ll just be stuck here. Don’t they have a courtesy phone or something?” 

Don is staring out a tiny window, smoking a cigarette. The sky is pale blue, now, Jule can see. 

“Just hang on,” he says to Cindy. 

She’s smoking now, not looking at him. Jule watches a tiny cylinder of ash drop and spatter the carpet. 

Once Jule’s around the corner he starts jogging and it doesn’t take him long to find the stairs leading down to the lobby. 

He races down, two at a time. “We’re lost,” Jule says to the clerk at the front desk, a boy of maybe eighteen with bleached blond hair. He’s out of breath. “We’re really lost.” 

Jule listens carefully while the clerk explains how to find their rooms, drawing a map on a cocktail napkin. Then he’s racing back up [p.59]the stairs. Coming down the hall he sees Cindy still sitting on her suitcase, talking in a quiet voice to Don, who is across from her, looking at the floor. 

When Jule reaches them, she says, “I’m absolutely awake as hell.  Want to swim?” 

“Later,” Jule says. “I can barely walk.” 

Cindy sighs. “Then lead on, leader,” she says. 

Jule studies the map the clerk drew. 

Suddenly they’re counting down the numbers on the doors, and their own rooms are in front of them. 

Don opens the door. 

The room is big, with pale carpeting bordered with roses. The wallpaper has garlands of roses up near the moldings, and the comforter on the bed is satin, with the same pattern on it. Near the bed is a small, round wooden table with carved legs and three matching chairs, and on the other side of the room, a matching desk and vanity. 

“Oh,” Cindy says. “This is something.” She walks slowly across the room, looking around, and sets her luggage down by the window, which is enormous, with white shutters which have been pulled back. It looks out over the tops of palm trees to the sea. She just stands there. 

“Come on,” Don says to Jule. “Let’s go next door and get you set up.” 

Jule follows him into a room which is much smaller, with a thin, faded Persian rug and rattan furniture. He sets his suitcases down on the bed while Don goes over to the window and opens the shutters. 

“It’s going to be a nice day,” Don says. He takes a pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket, shakes one out, lights it. “I’m sorry,” he says, turning suddenly, holding up the cigarette. “Is this all right?” 

Jule nods, and Don unlatches the window and pushes it open a little. 

“The ocean was black a little while ago, and now it’s pale blue,” Don says. “It just reflects the sky. It’s not any color at all.” 

Jule sits on the bed and starts unlacing his tennis shoes. He pulls them off, puts them together and slides them under the bed. 

Don throws his cigarette out the window and walks over to a chair a couple of feet from the bed and sits down. “You look tired,” he says. “I shouldn’t keep you awake.” 

“It’s okay,” Jule says. 

Don slides the cellophane wrapper of his cigarette pack down, [p.60]making tiny crinkling sounds. “Sometimes I want to know something about people,” he says. 

Jule watches him. 

After a minute Don gets up and ruffles Jule’s hair. “Co to sleep,” he says. “You need it.” 

“I guess I do,” Jule says. 

 

That afternoon, Jule finds the door to Don and Cindy’s room ajar. He knocks.

“Come in,” Don says, and Jule goes in. The room is filled with white light, and a thin, hot breeze is coming in through the open window.  Cindy is gone, and Don is sitting up in bed. His skin is dark against the white sheets, exactly the color, Jule thinks, of the stone-ground bread he buys sometimes. 

Jule sits in the wicker chair next to the writing desk, across from Don. “Where’s Cindy?” he says. 

“On the beach.” 

“I thought she’d get me up,” Jule says. 

Don yawns, takes a cigarette from the pack on the nightstand, and lights it. The smoke moves up into the sunlight, twisting. He picks up his watch from the nightstand. “Two o’clock,” he says. “You’re right on time for breakfast.”

 Jule looks out the window. He can hear the waves, but the water looks motionless, like plastic.

 “What I want,” Don says, “is ham and eggs. Ham steak. There’s a difference.” 

“I’m sure they’ve got it in a place like this,” Jule says. 

In the restaurant, the waiters wear tuxedos. The place is cavernous, topped by the conical roof Jule saw as they drove up. There are fifteen or twenty people scattered among the tables. Jule wishes Cindy were here. He wishes she wasn’t missing their first meal in the hotel. 

Don orders ham and eggs. “Tell the cook to slice it thick,” he says to the waiter, who looks to Jule like all the other personnel of the hotel, like a surfer. 

“I’ll tell the chef,” the waiter says. 

Jule orders French toast and coffee. 

“You can have whatever you want,” Don says.

“French toast is all right,” Jule says. 

“Waiter,” Don calls to the boy, and the waiter comes back. “He wants [p.61]ham steak and eggs instead of French toast.” Turning to Jule, he says, “Don’t worry about money.” 

Jule puts his napkin on his lap. 

When they’re eating, Don says, “The thing about Cindy is, you have to take her with a grain of salt.”

“You do?” 

“She doesn’t always say what she means.” 

“Oh,” Jule says. 

“It’s something you just get used to.” 

“How come you married her?” Jule asks. 

Don laughs. “Because I love her.” 

“What do you love?” 

Don leans back in his chair. “Let’s see,” he says. “I love her tits. I love her long blond hair. I love her sense of humor.” He looks at Jule. “I could go on but none of that’s it, really. I just love her.” 

“I’m not sure what you mean,” Jule says. 

Don sips his coffee. “You two are pretty close,” he says. “You’ve known each other a lot longer than she and I have.” He pushes his plate back and lights a cigarette. “What do you love about her?” 

“I guess I love the way she tells the truth,” Jule says. 

Don smiles. “You’re really a trip,” he says. 

 

Cindy’s reading a book when they get back to the room. She’s still in her bikini. Her hair, which is wet, is pressed to her head and gleams like pale metal.

“Listen to this,” she says, as they walk in the room. ‘‘‘Together they passed down through heat and cold, through ice and snow and wind, and then further, to the still blue place, the place where nothing moved. There they sat, for days, or perhaps years, for time could not reach them now. They sat in silence, waiting for the others. Waiting for the dance to begin.’ Isn’t that great?”

“Cool,” Don says. He goes into the bathroom and closes the door.

“What are you reading?” Jule asks. 

She shows him a fantasy novel with a silver cover. “It’s about a warrior and his lover,” she says. “After fighting all these battles there’s nothing left to fight, so they go over the mountains and down to the Plain of Silence. Something’s about to happen.” 

Below the window, Jule sees a courtyard full of palms. There are spots of incandescent blue—a pool. 

[p.62]Cindy says, “Can we for God’s sake go swimming now?” 

“Let’s do it,” Jule says. 

She slams the book shut. “I could spend the whole damn day in the ocean if you want to know the truth.” She picks up her towel from the bed and starts walking across the room. 

Jule glances at the closed bathroom door. “We shouldn’t just leave him here,” he says. 

“He doesn’t like swimming, Jule. He’s here for the tennis.” 

Jule is still a little confused by the twisting corridors of the hotel, but Cindy seems to know them now. “This place,” he says, as they cross the lobby. “It’s like something in a nightmare.” 

“Upstairs?” 

“Yeah,” he says. “Those halls.” 

The sea is warm. There’s almost no shock to his skin when Jule enters the water. They swim fifteen or twenty yards from the shore and rest, bobbing on the swells. “I just love this,” Cindy says. “It’s paradise.”

“I wonder what’s down there,” Jule says. 

“Sharks?”

“Whatever,” Jule says. 

“Oh, God, Jule. Do you really think anyone’s ever been attacked on this beach in front of this hotel, in all the years it’s been open? I mean, it’s famous. Where you have to worry is Australia.” But a few minutes later she suddenly jerks below the surface, comes up gargling, and manages a half-squeal before jerking under the water again. 

“Cindy,” Jule says, “that’s not funny.” 

She laughs and throws water in his face. “You can’t tell what’s down there,” she says, looking down. “You can’t see a thing.”

“Will you shut up?” Jule says. 

“The ocean’s huge,” she says. “And actually sharks are almost everywhere. Look,” she says. “It could be forty feet deep. Or more. Plenty of room for big ones, even.” 

“Shut up,” Jule says. 

“The truth is, it has happened.” 

“Cindy,” Jule says, “I’m going back.” 

“Oh, Jule,” she says. 

He just swims, closing his eyes, taking long, smooth strokes as if he were in the pool at the YMCA. 

On the beach, he lies down in the hot sand, letting it sting his back, his legs. After a few minutes Cindy comes up and lies down beside him. [p.63]He can feel the coolness of her wet skin, next to him. Although his eyes are closed, he can still see the sun, a field of scarlet rimmed in black. 

Later, when he’s starting to drift, Cindy says, “This is when you wonder if maybe the space people might decide to take you up.” 

Jule doesn’t say anything. 

“It’s so quiet. The sun melts you. Maybe they watch for moments like these.” 

Jule thinks of himself melting, like wax, mixing with the sand. 

“I’m not trying to scare you,” she says.

“You’re not scaring me,” he says. He burrows his hands into the sand at his sides. It’s cooler, three or four inches under the surface. He lets his hands lie there, like great, fleshy cicadas.

Cindy begins to hum. It’s a song Jule has heard but he can’t remember it. She just keeps humming, and he lies there listening, floating on the sound. It seems as if the hot breeze is making that sound.

“Oh, Jule,” Cindy says, after a long time. “I think they’re close. I think they’re right here.” 

But Jule is dreaming now. He’s floating on a green sea under a yellow sky and there’s a fin sprouting from his back which goes deep into the water, into the coolness below. He’s not frightened at all.

 

Cindy’s gone when Jule wakes up. There’s no one else on the beach. The sea is like the sound of his own breath in his ears. Above him he can see a single palm frond, black against the azure sky, moving. 

He’s drenched. His skin, white in the glare, is mottled with streaks and pinpricks of red. He walks down the sand and into the water and lets himself hang there, his toes just touching the hard sand on the bottom. 

When he’s cool, finally, and starting to shiver, he walks from the water, picks up his towel and suntan oil, and walks back to the hotel, entering through a side door near the rear. The halls seem dark after the sun, silent, muffled. The texture of the carpet feels too smooth under his feet. 

After changing into shorts and sandals and a t-shirt, he goes next door. Don’s lying against the humped-up pillows on the bed, wearing faded cutoffs that look pale against his skin. There’s a room-service tray with some dirty dishes laying on the table. 

“You’re pink,” Don says.

“I fell asleep on the beach,” Jule says. 

[p.64]“That’s bad.”

“I dreamed I was floating on the ocean and it was just like you imagine the ocean will be but it never is. It held me up. It was like a mattress going up and down. The sun wasn’t too hot.  It felt good.” 

Don lights a cigarette. “Funny,” he says, “since you were baking yourself.”

 “I was part fish,” Jule says. “I had a fin coming out of my back, one of those long, trailing fins. It kept me steady. I could feel things in the water with it.” 

“Creepy,” Don says. 

“It wasn’t. It went down maybe thirty feet.” 

“Christ,” Don says. 

“If anything touched it, it was sexual.” 

“Some dream,” Don says. 

“It was different. It was like being a woman.” 

Don lets the smoke out of his mouth in a jet. 

“I was just waiting,” Jule says. “I was waiting for something to touch it. Whatever.” 

Don says, “What do you think it meant?” 

“I don’t care what it meant,” Jule says. “I wanted to tell you about Don rolls over on his belly, resting his chin on the back of his hand. 

Jule goes to the windows and pushes them open, first one, then the other. 

“I want them closed,” Don says. 

“It’s terrible in here.” 

Jule sits next to him on the bed. Don’s eyes are pale blue in the sunlight, almost cloudy-looking.

“I don’t think Cindy will be back for a while,” Jule says. 

Don doesn’t say anything. 

Jule lays a hand on Don’s back. “You’re sweating,” he says. “What were you doing in here?” 

“Sleeping,” Don says, after a minute. 

“It’s getting cooler now,” Jule says. He reaches down and touches Don’s mustache. He runs the tip of his finger along Don’s lower lip. It feels cool, like the surface of a leaf. 

“Yeah,” Don says, “it is.” 

 

Jule is lying on a lounger in the courtyard. The pool is blue glass, [p.65]the sky a mottled, milky black. The palms, knife-edged, are a darker black. Jule can feel them steadily absorbing the tepid air. In the glossy undergrowth, tubes of blue-white plasma hum. Below the surface of the pool the jets send out slow clear plumes of water. The tiles twist. 

There’s a wind in the courtyard, a soft one, blowing straight down on Jule. It makes the tingling in his skin go away. 

Cindy comes in after a while from the row of cypresses separating the courtyard from the beach. She’s still wearing her bikini and her skin looks dark, darker than Don’s, as dark as mahogany. She comes over to the lounger and Jule draws up his legs. She sits down on the end. 

“Jule,” she says, “I love you.” 

The wind just keeps blowing down on them. 

“If you’d been walking with me,” Cindy says, “you would have gone as far as I went. I went halfway to Tijuana. Jule, this beach was made for walking.” 

Jule listens to the buzzing of the lights. It seems to be what makes the tiles twist, steadily, like clockwork. 

“You can see the lights of the city,” Cindy says. “The further you go, the more you can see. It just spreads out in back of you.” 

Jule clasps his arms around his legs, pulling his shins up close to his thighs, which makes the skin on his knees burn. 

“I wish you’d gone with me, Jule. After a couple of miles I wished you were there so bad I couldn’t stand it. But I just kept walking. The city got even bigger. Isn’t that funny? It’s huge. It’s enormous.” 

“You should have thought about Don,” Jule says.

“After a while, I wasn’t thinking about anything. Not even you. I stopped looking back at the city. There’s a stretch of desert. The sand goes right into the sea.” 

“I’ve been thinking about Don,” Jule says. 

Cindy crosses her legs. Jule can see her profile, her dark skin, shiny with oil. The lights from the undergrowth gild it.

“I’m not going back,” Cindy says.

Jule can feel something unravelling. 

“I’ve made up my mind. I couldn’t tell you, Jule. I’m sorry.” 

“No, no,” Jule says, sitting up. “Don’t say it. Don’t say anything like that.”

 She looks at him, smiles. “I’m not leaving you.” 

“I know.” 

“I’m so happy right now, Jule,” she says. 

[p.88]Jule touches her back, strokes it. 

“Jule, you’ll talk to Don, won’t you?” 

He doesn’t say anything. 

“Will you do that?” 

He keeps stroking her back. 

“You’re going to find out a lot.” 

He strokes her. 

“I guess you have to,” she says. 

They don’t say anything after that. They sit for a long time, in that wind coming down out of the sky. Then they walk together back into the hotel. 

 

As Cindy and Jule walk into the bedroom, Don comes out of the bathroom carrying a plastic bag with his toilet things inside. His toothbrush falls out and he bends down to pick it up.

“Hi,” he says. He goes over to his suitcase, which is lying open on the bed and tucks the bag into one corner. He’s wearing nothing but white shorts. 

Cindy walks over to the little table next to the bed and sits down. Jule follows her. They watch Don take his shirts down from hangers in the closet and fold them carefully and lay them in the suitcase. He walks back and forth in front of them. 

“Don,” Cindy says, “stop.”

“Okay,” Don says. But he doesn’t stop. When everything’s packed, he zips up his suitcase and stands in front of it. He looks at Cindy, then at Jule, and Jule closes his eyes. He hears the sound of the suitcase sliding across the sheets, and that’s when Cindy does something. Jule is sure of it. When he opens his eyes, Don is sitting on the bed next to the suitcase, which is standing up on the mattress, and he’s looking at Cindy. It’s like his motor stopped, Jule thinks. 

Jule thinks about the blackness of the sky outside the hotel, about the void that surrounds them. Anything dropped into it would just vanish completely. 

“You’re not alone,” Cindy says.

Don just sits there, looking at her. There’s a furrow between his eyebrows as if he’s thinking, or trying to remember something.

“I promise,” Cindy says.

She loves him so much, Jule thinks. He can’t imagine it. He’s almost afraid to look at her. 

[p.]87After a while she gets up and walks out of the room, closing the door behind her. 

Jule can feel something coming into the room, like water rushing into a dam. 

Don is shaking, Jule can see. He’s shivering as if he were freezing. 

“Come over here,” Don says, patting the bed by his side, and Jule gets up and sits next to him, which is better. Then Don puts his arm around Jule’s back, and after a minute, Jule puts his around Don’s. They just sit there. It feels good, having their arms around each other like that. 

 

“She’s taking us somewhere, Jule,” Don says. 

He’s not shaking so hard now. Jule tries to picture warmth going from his body into Don’s. He wants to pull the blanket up around Don’s shoulders. 

“It’s okay,” Jule says. 

And Don says, “Maybe it’s okay.” 

They’ll do this a lot, Jule thinks.

“What I don’t understand,” Don says, turning to look at Jule, “is where.” 

“Here,” Jule says. “She’s taking us right here.”