The sun has barely ascended, and it has already revealed too much. The animals of suburbia are out in the early morning light, in the tranquil yards and the bloated trees of spring, in overflowing garbage bins and, on this day, in Greg’s sloping driveway. He stands there like a waterboy in the final minutes of overtime, Greg does, just outside his doorway, staring helplessly at one of these creatures. It is crouched behind his car, behaving in an odd fashion, as if it might be having a fit of some kind, some rabid episode. Its eyes are closed, and its body is flexed and rocking back and forth as a quiet grunting sound emerges from somewhere deep in its throat. As his stupor fades, Greg, briefcase in hand, quietly walks down the path leading from his front door to the driveway, neck craning, to get a better view of what he’s witnessing. As he drifts closer, he realizes the thing behind his car is actually Stephen Rivers from down the block. Stephen is a peculiar one—especially when compared to someone as flat and dusty as Greg—always walking around the neighborhood barefoot. If not explicitly banned, he will do this in every store and place of business he enters.

As Greg’s wife explained it to him one night several months back in the dead of winter after Greg saw Stephen walking in the sleet without shoes as calmly as if it had been the beach in June when in reality the temperature was rapidly nearing the teens, Stephen, she said, practices grounding, or earthing as many call it online and in communities that are growing with the pace of a cult in times of great fear and confusion. Apparently, she received the explanation for such behavior straight from the starved horse’s mouth. Stephen, wasting away to almost nothing, informed her he was trying to strengthen his electrical connection to the Earth through its vast amount of surface electrons which is typically impaired by the rubber soles of our sneakers that have become more and more popular ever since the closing days of World War II. And since being turned on to it a year back by a cousin in California Stephen now goes barefoot everywhere, expecting it to improve his health, mindfulness and sleep—he takes his z’s on the ground outdoors when possible but, if indoors, he makes sure to use a conductive system he set up himself though he is quick to let people know he is unsure if he did so properly which somewhat unsettles him.

Because Holly had opened her mouth once by apologizing after nearly running him over with her car as she was trying to text Greg that she was ovulating, he now stopped her all the time, going on and on about how there is too much pain in the world, that he feels too much of it, and that this has been the only thing that helped. He says it made him more sympathetic, and not just to other people either, but to everything on this planet, living or not, because, according to him, everything is alive, everything has the flow of life running through it, atoms from distant stars. At one point, perhaps sensing Holly’s skepticism, he even suggested grounding would help immensely with her PMS. “It helps with everything,” he said. “We’ve become disconnected from the earth, Holly, my dear. You feel that, don't you? That’s why there’s so much illness and disease and disorders we never heard of before. That’s why degenerative disease has outpaced infectious disease, you dig? The Earth stabilizes us, Holly. I had incredible joint pain for the longest time, and since I’ve been grounding.” He snapped his fingers. “Like that.”

Greg clutches his briefcase to his chest. Both arms are wrapped tight around it, his suit bunching up at the shoulders as he makes his way toward the rear of the car, a red Mercedes C-Class, where Stephen seems to be in some kind of distress. The veins in his neck are protruding like worms coming to the surface, one in the zigzag pattern of a lightning bolt. His face is flush with the rushing of blood as if he were trying to lift the vehicle. His cheeks puff once, then twice, before his lips peel back. It’s obvious his graying teeth are now clenched, his jaw locked. It’s almost like a demonic possession; Greg thinks in all sincerity as a hand slams against the side of the car hard enough to make a dent and Stephen’s head goes back—way back—as if his throat were slit. Greg’s about to say something but has trouble finding his voice when Stephen lets out a long and wild moan that is like glass in the veins of anyone who can hear it. The color leaves his face as if down a drain and his head lolls forward, his forehead rubbing back and forth against the car as he whimpers and shudders.

“Stephen?” The word is hardly more than a puff of air. Forcing the word off his tongue, he tries again. “Stephen?”

There is a twitch of awareness, but it could be like hearing a voice in your sleep.


Startled, Stephen jumps up and Greg notices his neighbor’s pants are down around his ankles. His boxers are there too, pooled in the cup of denim. Thick, dark hair covers his legs, almost abnormally so and it looks like there may be a tattoo buried beneath a particularly dark patch. His knees are slightly knocked and bright red with bits of gravel embedded in the skin from kneeling on the driveway. His penis, semi-hard and incredibly large, flops around with his sudden rise, dribbling like a baby, a dab of which flicks upwards onto his powder blue shirt.

Neither of the men can speak, though Greg wants to. He wants to scream. He wants to throttle this man, but he’s still trying to process what exactly is happening. There has to be a logical explanation, he thinks. There has to. We are reasonable men.

Stammering, Stephen lifts his pants up and takes off running barefoot down the block, tucking his penis, and buttoning his jeans as he goes.

Greg looks from Stephen to the car and back, a sinking feeling in his gut as it finally dawns on him what has just transpired. Kneeling down and tilting his head, he inspects the tailpipe and finds it filled with globs of jizz, a drop of which is dangling from the rim a good three inches.

It takes him a while to move from that spot; he feels like he’s thirteen again, catching his mother getting undressed, the shock of it all, though he knew full well what was happening behind that door. Every now and then, though Stephen is long gone, Greg glances back in the direction in which his neighbor ran—curiously, it wasn’t toward his house where he lived with what people assumed was one of his many girlfriends, but rather in the direction of the stretch of land being cleared for apartment buildings that nobody asked for.

The strand of semen finally drops and Greg watches it seep into his driveway. His vision blurs for just a moment and his eyes twitch to adjust it, his world glitching as if it’s a digital landscape. His hand reaches out for the car, but, although there’s still a briskness to the air, it pulls back as if the trunk is hot to the touch. Weak-kneed, he glances at his watch and he’s trembling so badly that he can hardly read it. He has to use his other hand to steady the wrist, but it feels like a wrestling match. 7:05. He’s going to be late for work.

The car door opens with a powerful groan and Greg nearly jumps back, his heart feeling like it’s drifting in and out of its operational duties. Warily, he scans the neighborhood for signs of life, the return of Stephen and his now flaccid penis. Instead, he finds Jessie Sullivan walking her dog Etta Presley, named after her two favorite singers, though Jessie can’t be more than 25 — he had her as a 10th grade student during his first year as a teacher up at the high school and she was a living nightmare, trying to talk her way out of every assignment. She waves and Greg tries to act normal, casual. He attempts to wave back but finds himself giving her the finger instead. Not that she saw, her obligation was already over. Still, he stares at his hand in disbelief. Bending down, he peers inside the car, his eyes glancing over the backseat when he gets the idea to inspect the rest of the car for any signs of tampering.

He throws his battered briefcase with its lone sticker of a local band that some student must have stuck on there without him knowing, which Greg could not peel off for the life of him, onto the passenger seat and cautiously inspects the vehicle. His hand carefully tracing the curves of the hood, his fingers delicately circling the headlights. He whispers to the engine beneath the hood and checks the tires in case they are slashed, he opens the passenger side door, listening for a sound similar to the driver’s side door and sure enough there is another groan. But there are no scratches on the panels, no marks of any kind anywhere, though he doesn’t make it all the way around the vehicle—he can’t bring himself to return to the rear. He imagines it throbbing and sensitive, bewildered. He wonders if he’s supposed to clean up the mess. Was that his responsibility? His job? A jizz mopper? Maybe running the car would do the work for him. He gently lowers himself into the driver’s seat, one leg still outside the car as if he might have to run. For some reason he can’t bring himself to turn the car on—his foot can’t even meet the pedals. He touches the steering wheel, rubbing both his palms against the leather though it feels different today.

He never referred to the car by name to others, but secretly he always called it Rebecca, after the Hitchcock film. He had grown a deep fondness for the Mercedes, finally treating himself to it after a lifetime of Toyotas and Fords. But now, as in this very minute, he has the urge to trade it in. The seat is uncomfortable, like spikes in his back. He can’t get situated, the mirrors no longer lining up with his vision. He keeps glancing in his rearview, trying to adjust it, and from every angle it’s as if he can still see Stephen back there working away on Rebecca. There’s a sudden and sharp pain in his stomach and he jumps out of the car, slamming the door behind him. He doesn’t even bother locking it which is unheard of for him—he locked his car between each trip to the trunk for the groceries.

Inside the house, he throws his briefcase down on the kitchen table, nearly spilling what is probably his wife’s fourth cup of coffee in just under an hour and shattering her nerves. “I can’t go to work today,” he says, a phrase he has repeated far too often lately.

It never bothered him that his wife’s ex-husband was famous, that, even before his death, he had been so revered and respected, a household name that was practically nailed above every front door, though Greg usually ducked his head enough to miss it. High art. Paintings of no shape. Exhibits of transcendence—well if you “got it,” which Greg rarely did. He hardly dwelled at all about his wife’s previous marriage in the seven years they’d been together. It was only when his coworkers and friends pulled him aside to ask for insight and anecdotes about the lionized artist that he was reminded how beloved and admired Brazel was. He could tell when guests were over how they touched things that the great man might have touched himself, how they scanned through photos and scrutinized the furniture for his mark. They wanted to be as few degrees removed as possible and almost envied Greg his marriage—someone even went as far as pulling him aside to say how lucky Greg was to share the same pussy, to which Greg kept his mouth shut, though he dwelled in that memory still, his mind full of retaliatory words and actions.

Still, Holly’s tempestuous time with Brazel was all in the past—Greg had practically shoved it there himself. Keith Brazel was deeply troubled and now he is dead. Holly had moved on—though this took some time, naturally, and there were ample scars, many of them visual—and through it all Greg never questioned her love for him. He knew there were things he offered that Keith Brazel couldn’t: stability, empathy, comfort. If it weren’t for Greg, Holly would be dead too, ten times over. They had experienced so much together in such a short time. Powerful moments. Real transcendence, not the kind you find written on a gallery wall. She relied on him, and him, on her. There was no insecurity there. No fear of inadequacies. Not until he read about the man Mozart’s wife eventually married.

He found it accidentally. He was on the toilet before work, bored, half awake, scrolling through the News app on his phone, tapping through random lists of trivialities in hopes to fill the moment, which was difficult when the material was thin as air. He couldn’t even remember what the list was about. He couldn’t remember anything else on it. He just remembered that number 17 was about Georg Nicolaus von Nissen. The man who married Mozart’s widow. Apparently, he was a diplomat and a historian, and was responsible for one of the very first biographies of the great composer, one that is still referenced today. A man with a full life. A man of many accomplishments large and small. A man with an identity and layers to his soul. His own person. But Greg only learned this after the fact. The fact being that if one were to visit von Nissen’s grave in Salzburg, Austria, and were able to translate the tombstone’s German inscription, it would read, in part, just beneath his name, in florid script that is somewhat out of place etched in stone: “The husband of Mozart’s widow.” Five words. Seconds of breath. A whole life in one sentence. Greg didn’t get off the bowl for another half hour. And now this. A far fucker.

Holly has on a robe with nearly 3,000 illustrated flowers on it. To Greg they all seem close to death, brittle and dry like his ego. “Why? What happened now?”

“You’re not going to believe this.” He’s pacing. He can’t settle down. He pulls a chair out from the table but immediately pushes it back in. He leans against it, all his weight, which doesn’t even amount to 150 pounds.

“What?” Her eyes are still bloodshot from the solid punch of the alarm clock. It reminds him of when they first met, the horrible condition she was in. It was a very tough first two years.

“S-Stephen Rivers.” He finds it hard to even say the name. It tastes like acid on the tongue. He imagines touching the semen in the tailpipe and it feeling just the same. This thing that eats away.

“Yeah? What about him?” she asks with a dramatic roll of her eyes revealing even more bolts of blood.

“I, I saw him out there in our driveway.” He points as if she doesn’t know where it is and, this early in the morning, she might not. She’s like a girl with her head still stuck in Saturday night.


He darts into the hall really quickly, checking to see if Simone was up and heading downstairs to get ready for school with all her boisterous energy and eagerness to devour the remnants of other people’s conversations, but there’s no movement, no noise. In the clear, he returns to Holly, swallowing hard.

“I had just closed the door behind me—you saw me leave—and I’m in my pocket digging for my keys and the moment I pick my head up I see someone crouched down behind my car. For a second, I’m like, what the hell? I’m thinking this person is vandalizing it or something, like slashing the tires, or trying to break into it like with Dave’s car, but then I walk a little closer and notice it’s Stephen back there. I have no idea what he’s doing. None. His head is sticking up just above the trunk and he looks pained or something; he’s biting his lip and making these weird noises. I’m thinking, is he hurt? Did he finally step on a nail or something? Was he beat up? Was an animal under my car? But it wasn’t any of that. He was—Holly, I don’t know how to say this—he was—”


“It’s, like, crazy. Like really crazy.”

“What was he doing, Greg? Don’t leave me hanging here.”

“Holly, he was—”


“He was fucking the car, Holly. His dick was in the tailpipe.”

She launches to her feet. “Get the fuck out of here! You’re fucking with me!” It doesn’t even register to them how loud she is. Her excitement tugs on his.

“I’m not! I’m serious! He was fucking the car. He was down there behind it, pumping away. Grunting, moaning, everything!”

“No! I don’t believe it!”

“Believe it.”

“I’ve seen crazy things, Greg, you know this. You know the kind of people I’ve hung out with. But I never heard something like this. This is insane. Fucking a car?”

“I know, I know. It’s bugging me out. He was all into it, slapping the car’s ass and everything.”

“What’d you do?”

“I didn’t know what to do. I just stood there like, what the hell is going on? Am I dreaming? I think I might have said his name or something because he finally saw me and got all freaked out and just ran off.”

“Did he finish?”

“Yep. He finished. It’s leaking from my car as we speak. I can’t get the image out of my head.”

“We should call the police.”

The statement hits him like a blunt object. “And say what, Holl?”

“You say that he, you know.” She does the old finger through the circle routine.

“Right. ‘Uh, hello, police, um, yeah, I just caught some guy fucking my car. Can you go arrest him?’”

“Yes! Say that! Exactly that!”

“OK, so, then they come down here, sirens blaring, make a whole show of it, bring Stephen out in cuffs while the local news picks it up. We get interviewed, neighbors get interviewed, memes are created, 15 minutes for everyone, talk shows, etc., I’m forever associated with car fucking even though it wasn’t me—“Hey, car fucker!”—and Stephen gets a slap on the wrist and for what?”

“So he doesn’t do it again!”

“I mean, you think he will? After I saw him? Holly, he’s never going to show his face around here again. The guy’s got to be humiliated beyond belief.”

“He’s nuts, Greg. We knew this before today. Everyone did. Mark my words, he’ll stroll barefooted up our driveway and act like nothing ever happened, and how are you going to handle that?”

His shoulders dip, his head lowers. “You really think he’s that crazy?”

“Yes! I’ve seen enough of these kinds of guys. I know what they’re like, and I don’t want to deal with it anymore. I’m done with all that bullshit. That life’s behind me.”

His thoughts can’t even travel to her past; fear has him locked on this hypothetical future. “Like seriously crazy? Like, he might do something?”

“I don’t know, but, yes, he’s seriously crazy and this should be documented, Greg. There’s no reasoning with people like this.”

“Is he violent? Are you saying he’s violent? What if he comes after me?”

“Can you not be such a baby? You want me to call? Give me the phone. I’ll call.”

“Hold on. I mean, how crazy are we talking here? Scale of one to ten.”

“I don’t know; he seems pretty insane to me.”

“What number?”


“Eight? That’s high. That’s like serial killer territory. Dahmer’s a 10. Bundy’s, what? A 9? That’s too close.”

“I don’t know where he is on the scale, okay? Crazy’s crazy. You’re asking a woman who was married to one.”

“Yeah, but Keith wasn’t dangerous.”

“No?” She says this with a little twitch of her eye, an eye that is so red now it could glow in the dark. It’s enough for Greg to fall silent and turn away. He brushes some crumbs off the counter and into his hand, then he tosses them into the sink, slapping his hands clean.

“Yeah, but maybe his crazy is a bit mellower. Like he’s just one of these really hippy dippy people, you know?” he goes on, unable to let it go. “They can seem pretty out there. Like those tree huggers that actually fuck trees. Same type of thing.”

“They don’t fuck trees, Greg!”

“I knew a girl who humped trees.”

“Well, cars are different. What’s there to love about cars? They’re destroying the planet! Stephen barely even drives. Not if he can help it.”

“You said he loves everything.”

“Are you really that scared?”

“I don’t know. Maybe."

“Fine, you want to know if he’s really crazy?”

Greg stands up straight. “Yes.”

“Yawn in front of him.”


“Yawn in front of him. I just heard this on a podcast the other day. If you yawn in front of someone and they don’t yawn back, there’s a good chance they’re a psychopath.”

“Come on.”

“Seriously. It has something to do with empathy or something. Keith never yawned when I yawned. You always do.”

“I don’t care. I’m not yawning in front of him. I don’t ever want to see him again.”

“Well, that’s it then. No one’s car is safe now. Who knows how many he’s already fucked. Who knows how many times he’s fucked yours.”

His heart feels as if it were beaten tender. “What do you mean? You think this wasn’t the first time?”

“Maybe yours is his favorite, Greg. I doubt this was the first time he did this type of thing.”

“What type of thing?” Simone slides into the kitchen, hair a mess, her eyes barely open. She practically falls into the chair.

“Nothing,” Holly says, throwing her coffee in the microwave for 17 seconds.

“I heard bad words.”

“We only use good words in this house,” Greg says, to which both Holly and Simone laugh.

“Why aren’t you at work?” Simone asks


Greg combs his fingers through his daughter’s hair. “Daddy’s car got banged up.”

Work couldn’t be avoided forever, as much as Greg wished it wasn’t so. What he had come to refer to as “the car fucking incident,” or, CFI, occurred on a Wednesday, and, by what felt like absolute necessity lest he were to completely lose his mind, he took that day and the following one off. Now it was Friday, the perfect day to go back—only because he had to—as he could most likely manage a solitary block of 8 hours before the weekend would allow him further recovery from the mental strain he was under, which seemed to increase in intensity by leaps and bounds as time dragged on in that caterpillar way he could no longer stand. Greg always had a tendency to dwell on his experiences long after they were over, particularly and ironically the ones he’d rather forget.

He’d replay them over and over again in his mind, cringing with each remembrance, cursing out loud to himself like some distraught lunatic, the words involuntarily blurting from his mouth in staccato blasts while he was going to the bathroom or washing dishes or shampooing his hair, always thinking, always struggling. “Fuck you!” he’d say grabbing the mail; “Asshole,” he’d say making his breakfast, “Hell no!” “Get the fuck out of here!” “Dumbass!” all as a way to drive the memory out of his head, though to little avail. And the more he relived these moments the harder they were to escape. He analyzed their meaning and his actions, or lack thereof, so severely that he felt pursued day and night, to the point he had trouble breathing. For years it had been getting worse, but nothing like this. The past two days were agony; no matter what he did — blasting music through his headphones; watching his favorite movies; meditation—he couldn’t get the images of the CFI out of his head. For the life of him he couldn’t understand why it troubled him so. He was starting to think that work might actually serve as an escape from himself. A one-day respite.

And yet as he stands out there on his driveway early Friday morning, staring at the car, he can’t bring himself to open the door. At the very sight of the Mercedes, he suddenly finds himself breathing heavily, a curious pain lurking in his chest. He curses aloud like a schizophrenic and demands himself to get in; he bullies himself as his childhood classmates did, as his mother did. He calls himself names; he targets his every weakness with precision; he’s moments away from slapping himself across the face. Finally, he forces his arm forward and yanks open the door in one swift move. Then, before his thoughts can convince him otherwise, he dives in and slams the door behind him, catching a piece of his suit jacket. It feels incredibly hot in the car. Sticky. There’s a smell he can’t pinpoint.

He starts the car, and it coughs a bit as if clearing its throat. As the engine idles, he imagines what’s happening inside the tailpipe. The heat of the exhaust bubbling the dried semen. Awakening it. He’s sweating really badly now. The radio is on, and the morning jockeys are talking about a robot that is hitchhiking across the country as some type of social experiment. They’re taking bets on how long it will survive. They’re calling the scientists deluded. They want people to spot the robot and call in. Not that Greg hears any of this. He’s busy focusing on not passing out. The heat inside the car is getting unbearable. He feels claustrophobic. The roof seems lower somehow. He opens both windows and takes a deep breath. His hands touch the steering wheel then are quickly removed, once, twice, three times. He keeps adjusting his posture, but there’s no comfort to be found. He’s unable to put the car in reverse; he imagines the gear shift is stuck, though he has yet to check. The radio is static in his ears now, digital ash.

He notices all the dirt built up in the floor mats, the garbage in the side compartments and center console. The car needs to be cleaned. When was the last time he took it to get washed? And why is he calling the car it? What happened to Rebecca? The yellow sticker on the windshield says its inspection is due. How old is the car now? Was it time to turn it in? There’s a scream coming from the speakers. It’s absolutely primal. It reaches deep inside him, filling his lungs like polluted air. It expands his ribcage enough that he hears the cracks. With a violent poke he turns the car off and thrashes his head back against the rest. His eyes close, and he takes a deep breath. He tries to relax, to let his body go limp. He breathes some more. Meditate, though that has always been impossible for him. There are two voices in his head now, one saying to get to work and the other saying he can’t make it in today. Then, when he believes he knows just what to do, he opens his eyes and, through the rearview mirror, sees Stephen Rivers walking barefoot down the street.

He freezes, watching Stephen from his trio of smudge and bird shit splattered mirrors. He tries to swallow but it feels like there’s an arthritic fist in his throat, the enlarged knuckles rapping at his larynx. Time has the pace of a desert hour. Somehow, the car is even hotter now. As Stephen gets nearer, Greg slides down in his seat. His hands are now bracing the steering wheel as if his life depended on it; he can hear the leather tightening beneath his grip. His thoughts are phantoms running through the graveyard of his mind. What if Stephen comes up behind him and starts fucking the car again? What if his penis is an anaconda that winds its way through his muffler and finds Greg in the front seat? What if fucking a car feels so good it has to be done again and again and again? What if it’s the new craze? He thinks of Hank’s pick-up truck down the street, the one with the pair of brass testicles hanging from it. Would that repulse Stephen? Would it turn him on? He knows he should get out of the car and say something. He should be angry. A man. Instead, he just sits there and wishes there was a pill that erased memories. He supposes there are. He knew Holly had taken enough of them so that entire months of her life had gone missing. He just wants to forget, too. Why can’t he forget?

Stephen is lingering at the edge of his driveway now. He is standing there at the lip of the apron, staring up at the car. His fists are opening and closing, and Greg’s breath is a ball behind his lips. He wants to gag but is afraid to make a sound. Stephen continues to stare at the car, a lover’s smolder. His hands go in his pockets. Is there a weapon in there? Is he playing with himself? Greg prays for someone to come walking by. Where is Jessie with Etta Presley?

After glancing up and down the block several times over, Stephen moves. He’s coming toward the car. In that instant, Greg had gone as white as snow and just as cold. Is his car irresistible? Is that it? What is wrong with this man? In his mind he shouts at Stephen to turn around, to walk away. Don’t do this. Don’t put Greg in this position. But Stephen keeps coming. And yet he passes the rear of the car. He walks up to the driver’s side and stops directly in front of Greg.

Peering in through the open window, he says, “Hey, Greg.”

Greg, whose head is so far down it’s in line with the side mirror, slowly rises in his seat. “I was, uh. I was just getting—getting ready to go to work.”

“I figured.”

He feels Stephen staring at him, but Greg can’t bear to turn his head. He’s convinced Stephen is here to silence him. To keep the dark secret from spreading. Greg starts the car.

“You know,” Stephen says, “when I was growing up, my mother had a Mercedes.”

Greg nods. “Good car.” The words barely find a way out of his mouth.

“Oh, yeah. Real good. Real good.”

The silences are canyons.

Stephen’s still staring at Greg; he won’t look anywhere else. His hands are gripping the door, his knuckles nearly white. Greg considers raising the window on them. Or would that just anger him more? If Stephen tries anything, Greg tells himself to just throw the car in reverse. High tail it out of there. But then what about Holly and Simone? Would Stephen go after them? Just how crazy is he?

Finally, Greg turns his head. He looks directly at Stephen. And then he yawns.

With all the anxiety of the past 48 hours hovering in the balance, he waits for that empathic response, that feeling of a deeply shared humanity that says we’re brothers in this mad world, we’re here for each other and no harm will come of you.

Instead, he gets nothing, and Greg’s body drains of all color. A smiling Stephen responds, “Tired? You should really try grounding, Greg.”

“Y-yeah. Maybe.”

Stephen’s hands slam against the door. “Come on. Get out of the car. Let me show you how it works.”

Greg is electrified with fear. He yawns a second time as if he had not executed the first yawn properly. This time he exaggerates. A big, long yawn filled with desperation. But again, there is no yawn in return.

“Look at you,” Stephen says, his smile widening. “Come on, open the door. Let me get to you.”

“I have to go.”

“I can help you, Greg.”

“I have to go.”

Stephen is as still as a mountain. Greg won’t look his way. His hands would be shaking if he weren’t holding the steering wheel so tight; instead, the trembling travels up to his forearms, they waver like a flag in the wind.

“I have to go,” he repeats again.

There’s a flash of movement and Stephen’s body lurches through the open window. His hands go for the keys. Greg is leaning as far back in his seat as he can go, his arms up in repulsion.

“What are you doing?”

“I want to show you this!”

“I have to go! I mean it!”

They kind of swat at one another for a moment before Stephen retreats out the window and adjusts his clothes while taking a deep breath. He closes his eyes, and his features go slack. “Another time, then.”

“Yeah. Sure. Another time.”

Greg throws the car in reverse and starts to roll down the driveway. He notices Stephen’s hand lovingly brushing along the hood. When the car reaches the street, bottoming out, Stephen waves to him as if nothing happened. He waves as if he’s Greg’s wife, wishing him a wonderful day. Which it won’t be. Greg fears it may never be again.

MICHAEL PAUL KOZOWSKY is the author of Scarecrow Has A Gun. His children's novels, written as M.P. Kozlowsky, include Juniper Berry, Rose Coffin, and The Dyerville Tales. He lives in New York with his wife and two daughters. Visit him online at www.mpkozlowsky.com.