There's a hole in the screen that lets in the small bugs and the handle on the crank window is broken so it can't be opened anymore. The walls are paneled in dark brown wood bearing water stain halos and the thin carpet smells of dirt and mildew where the rain soaks in.

On the table an open jar of peanut butter draws a fly; a knife leans against the rim, tip at the bottom, a sticky purple fingerprint on the handle. Across the narrow floor a thin mattress bears a checkerboard pattern of steam engine scenes woven into the fabric in reds and oranges.

Sunlight pours through the trailer's windows making luminous streams of the dust and smoke in the air.

A greasy frying pan on the white-gas stove is cold. His fingers come away smelling of bacon.

He touches her dishes, the clean ones in the cupboard. He raises a coffee cup to his lips and lets a drop of lukewarm liquid touch his tongue. The pillow is still on her bed. Against his face, he breathes her in. She's everywhere here, but not here.

"We missed 'um," Raymond says, peeling away the thin aluminium door. He takes a step up, then rocks back out. "They musta left after breakfast."

"Yeah," Blue says. He rifles through the pockets of a coat on hanging on an open cabinet door, his eyes playing aimlessly over the word "Patagonia" while he feels nothing but lint.

When his feet touch the ground Raymond asks him, "Is it what you expected?"

First he says, "Yeah," to keep the conversation to a minimum. When they're in the car and driving he says, "No," but he expects Raymond isn't going to remember the question.


"No it wasn't what I expected."

Raymond takes the entrance to the highway. He says, "I thought she'd have some family we could talk to."

Blue takes out his cell phone, hits Sandy's number on the speed dial and presses the phone to his ear. When it rings once he thinks better of it and terminates the call.

"She's got no family," Blue tells Raymond. "We're her family."

"Then why would she go? She's got nowhere to go to. Why would she leave us if we're all she's got?"

He tells Raymond, "She's afraid. They're all afraid before they understand."

"Oh," Raymond says, and Blue imagines a dim bulb trying to illuminate the vast empty expanse that must be the inside of Raymond's head. Raymond says, "I remember when I wanted to run away. I hit Trent with a deck plank when he tried to lock my room door. Laid him up for days. He forgave me, though."

"Praise Father," Blue says as a reflex. Raymond parrots.

Blue reaches into the glove compartment and takes out the silver gun. He pushes the slide backward with a finger and sees the brass round in the chamber. Rechecking the safety, he slides the massive metal frame under his belt. It's uncomfortable so he puts it in his inside coat pocket. It weighs down his jacket, pulling it off his shoulders. So it puts it back in his belt.

Eyes saucer-sized, Raymond says, "You're supposed to check in with Sandra before we arm ourselves. Father has to ask God's permission..."

"We are not arming ourselves. I'm taking the gun so you don't get into trouble with it. Turn around here. We're not going home. I know where she is."

Raymond obeys the senior acolyte's directions without question.

Blue knows he won't be able to stand the silence, and after a short time Raymond asks, "Where are we going?"

"That bar. The one where she met that guy."

After Blue's instructions to remain in the car, Raymond pulls up in front of Jackie Keelen's.

"Wait--Blue," Raymond stops him when he yanks the door handle and pushes it open. "There's some other reason you asked to go after her, isn't there? I know--I mean, Father knows. I'm supposed to watch out for you."

Blue gets out of the car, leans a forearm on the roof and ducks his head down to stare at Raymond behind the wheel. "Why? This is God's work."

"Father says it stops being God's work when you get emotional. You're not being emotional, are you? You're not jealous of that guy she's running to see, are you?"

Raymond shuts his mouth and bangs his forehead once on the steering wheel.

Blue knows everything he needs. They won't let him go out again. It's now or never. He tells Raymond, "She doesn't have much time and we have a lot of work to do to prepare her to be our emissary to heaven."

"But you don't want her for heaven. You want her for you. You're in love with her. I gotta call Sandy, Blue. She's gotta ask Father to get you help."

Blue crouches. He's supposed to love Raymond, but he doesn't. He's supposed to love all his brothers and sisters, but Jennifer's made something different inside him. Discord came into his heart through her smile. It weakened him. Now he can't live without her and all his training, all his life is ruined.

It's all gotta end. New recruits keep running away. Old timers are losing the calling. Father doesn't talk to them anymore and when he does it's crazy. The family is rotting from the inside out. Someone will save them.

"I hope this doesn't hurt," he says, pulling out the gun they way they taught him in basic training, pointing, trying to relax against the blast that makes you jerk and lose your aim.

It's louder than he remembered. People across the street start to run.

He fires a few more times without looking.

Blue walks into Jackie Keelen's. The people inside freeze, their eyes locked on his hand. All except two people at a table in the corner. They glance at him, then go back to themselves. They're who he wants.

He slams the heavy pistol onto the table and sits beside the man Jennifer calls Phil.

Jennifer purses her lips and shakes her head disapprovingly.

Phil finishes his drink in one gulp and stares into Blue as if he's made of glass.

"So why'd they call you Blue, Blue?" Phil says.

Blue smiles, puts his elbows on the table, folds his hands, and nibbles one of his knuckles staring at Jennifer. Police sirens whine in the distance.

Jennifer says, "Blue catches runners. When they run away from Father, Blue brings them back. True Blue. That's right, isn't it?"

"That's why you're here? To bring Jennifer back to your prison of a church?" Phil says. "To bring her back to a God you have in chains on a hospital bed? What I want to know is what about this fucked-up arrangement makes sense to you--do you really think the world works the way that schitzophrenic madman says it does? He can't even feed himself. He doesn't remember his own name and you idiots are on the autopilot instructions he gave tripping with Timothy Leary twenty years ago. That's what's fucked. Everything changed out from under you and you had no will to change with it. You have no heart."

Blue looks away from Jennifer for a second. "For blasphemy--"

Phil sneers. "Blasphemy is death. Well you're too fucking late, blonde boy. We're already killed and dying. You're too fucking pigheaded to see it. So go ahead and shoot, asshole. Shoot everybody. Make your heaven on earth. Get rid of everyone who wants to fix your stupid-ass theories. Then when there's nobody to help you, you can drown yourselves in your own piss screaming to God to teach you to swim."

There's nothing in Phil's speech Blue hasn't already imagined. It all came in when Jennifer smiled. It drowned him when Jennifer kissed him goodbye and told him she was going home to heaven, a trailer in the park.

He asks Jennifer to come with him, back to where everything is safe and right.

"Only for you," she says. "I can't be there anymore."

"This is what you wanted," Blue says, and he ignores her pleas. "You don't love anyone. You came to destroy everything."

When he leaves the bar the police are stationed outside. A couple of blue-uniformed officers are looking into the car. They've found Raymond.

They shout something to Blue. A command. It's not what he wants to hear. His earth is no longer heaven.

So he does exactly the opposite.

Previous episode: In the time you have Next:The day she lost the light First:Somewhere there's a god who wants me

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.