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He could tell that she wasn’t hearing him anymore, the way her body rocked under an assault of tears. He opened his door and stepped out onto the dusty ground. The sun had slipped past the warming spot and now was barely lighting the cooling earth before it disappeared entirely. The road was empty. Samuel stared out at the sagebrush and the patches of snow hiding beneath the bushes. He had the Captain in his head now and then the pictures of the kill team on Phillip the Mexican’s computer screen. He had his own bloody pictures too, the mess that the dead made of themselves, littered like graying garbage sacks on the road. All of that was in his head and Catherine was still in the truck sobbing. He could understand pulling the trigger when the metallic taste filled your mouth and you took the hard bite on the barrel. He could understand it. It was all in the calculations that you make when you’re in that kind of moment.
He walked around the truck and opened the passenger side door. Catherine was bent over herself crying. He placed his hand on her shoulder, which made her shake harder. He stood there for a long time until the night was as dark and chilled as any he’d had to bear on the earth’s other side.
When Samuel paid for the room, the thin, bald clerk at the front desk glared over his glasses at Catherine whose eyes were swollen beneath her bangs. He didn’t say anything though, which relieved Samuel because he was ready to reach across the desk and throttle the man for thinking he knew anything about anything.
Once in the room, they ate the sandwiches that Catherine’s mother had forced him to take, and they watched the television, but they did not speak more than a dozen words. While Catherine watched, Samuel moved onto the floor with one pillow and a mildew-smelling blanket that he’d found folded in the closet. He fell asleep instantly and slept soundly with the river in his mind. The light from the television was enough.
Early the next morning, he woke and moved to the truck where he readied the rods and lures that he’d set in the truck’s back bed. The morning was cool, and he heard and then saw a pair of American Avocets with their long beaks and their high-pitched kleeking sounds. He got lost in his work and then looked up and saw Catherine watching him from their room’s doorway. She was wearing jeans and her father’s coat.
They would let the river speak today, and they would drive further west after that. They would keep going until her mother told them that the reporters had moved on, and then they would return to her home. He would give her mother what she longed for, the going away and coming back feeling.
The Captain was right. More right than the ones who disappeared into the woods or across a border. You stay alive as long as you can, but you do it there, and that was what he would do. He would leave the Captain’s daughter with her mother and he would drive west as the earth warmed its way into summer and then he would find his way to fill the space before he was called back into the belly of the plane that would float and float until the other world was again beneath him.
He walked towards Catherine. “You ready?” he asked
She nodded slightly but didn’t move, and then, minutes later, they were off.