It was when his boss called him an Indian that it stuck. “Te portes como some stupid pinche huevón Yaqui.” He was only three years out of high school, and it was a job in the city’s paint shop everybody envied him for having. It was the boss who had parents from Sonora, who had the face like a mask to scare away demons, who was dark chocolate brown and real short, but he was right to be pissed off and yelling. Geronimo wasn’t doing the work he was supposed to, he wasn’t keeping up his end. It’s that he didn’t like the job. He didn’t like a lot about where he was, the large and small where, and right then he suddenly got the answer to the big why too. He was not of their world because he was an Indian. It was what he wanted to hear, a secret note passed loud, hours before he was about to lose the job. Except for that boss, and possibly some dudes he played summer league basketball with from Ysleta way back when, he didn’t know any Indians. But he didn’t think he looked Mexican, he wasn’t from there, and he didn’t think he looked Anglo, because he wasn’t from them, and both were way fucked up anyway, and so he didn’t want to be related to either of them. Indian heritage explained it better. It gave him good night’s sleep. He preferred being an Apache like his tocayo, the one who was famous. He’d been up there to the reservation the first times when he was real young, with his best friends César and Jimmy and their parents. Fishing in the big lake, stocked with trout, army tents next to the mountains and the tall green pines. He didn’t like to fish, didn’t really want to eat that trout, but he liked the camping out part, he liked the refrigerator cold at night after a sunny day, so after the city job was over he started driving his ’72 Cougar the two hours up there solito until he had a favorite, almost personal campsite. He took a carpenter’s ax and hacked off branches and collected twigs and made a crackly fire and ate smooth peanut butter on flour tortillas by it, powdered donuts and pan dulce from the day-old-bread store, and went to sleep early and got up at dawn and wandered, watching hawks though at the time he thought they were eagles, and walked besides the tall grasses, the breezes shaking voices out of them, stopped at trickling creeks which he listened to for so long because he swore he would eventually learn to translate the words he heard in them. His hair got longer, until it was long enough and then even too long. One night on his back, zipped up into a sleeping bag, he was staring at the stars when he saw them, their meaning, and he realized how stupid he was. He was a stupid, a tonto, a kemmosabe.

What he did was ride out, travel the West. He got lost in the Gila and survived for days. Walked in what felt like a hallucination for miles of what all looked the same in Death Valley. He dove into the clear down to your toes Pacific Ocean north of La Paz and, way up the same coast, sneaking onto Malibu Beach. He floated around the Gulf of California, fished for corbina that he did like to eat, and in Mexicali puked up a bad carne given to him by a puta who didn’t like the clean, pretty woman he came into the bar with. On his way to Canyon de Chelly, he picked up a killer girl hitchhiking who only spoke Navajo and spent two days with her. Twice he abandoned blown-up cars–warped head once, camshaft the other–outside Yuma and Deming, in that brown moon desert. He slept alone and too cold on the banks of the Columbia, the biggest river he ever saw, climbed trails northeast of there with bells around his neck to get close to green lakes, where he drank the purest and coldest water, slept with his back against the Blackfeet’s Rocky Mountains, the Canadian border. He went down over a mile in a mine shaft in Mullan, Idaho, where he lifted up a sheet of plywood and squinted down a hole so bottomless, wide enough for a man, it was the blackest eye you could ever see. He played poker one night in hotel in Medicine Bow, Wyoming, and won. After he beat the fucking shit out of this dude in Denver–he kicked him in the face when he got him down–and ran, he was shot at near Raton Pass, and he was chased but he got away clean. He had his wheels stolen in LA, and he stopped just short of stepping on a coral snake in Blanco. He got stung all the time by scorpions. He’d eaten sweet huckleberries off the vine that stained his tongue and lips and sucked juicy tunas off nopales. Eaten deer and moose and goat and javelina and buffalo. Slept in mystical Chaco Canyon below a pack of coyotes who even howled in his dreams. He saw a grizzly stand on his hindlegs across a river big enough, gracias a Dios, saw a red fox, several bobcats, wild turkeys, armadillos, lots of turkey vultures, real eagles. He drove to Hueco Tanks and climbed the rocks and sat there, until it was way past dark, after his first true love told him she was pregnant, and then a few more times after they were married in the office of a justice of the peace in San Elizario one afternoon–she didn’t want their sacred and legal vows in Spanish–and then lots of times later when he didn’t have any work. They’d go visit the abuelitos, las tías and los suegros and primos and his camaradas and her comadres on both sides of the Rio Grande. None of them believed him very much, or else they just didn’t like it. He could see them shaking their heads when they didn’t say it to his face. So many of them not too happy that he kept saying he was an Indio–was he joking or serious?–and worried about his beautiful wife and his happy children. When he worked, he worked, but sometimes he didn’t, and either way there was never money.

He should have stayed employed with the city? He wouldn’t be on the ride, going places nobody and especially not he himself would have expected to be going. If sometimes he wasn’t believing himself as he was talking, it was too late to do anything about it and stop. Then, it was happening right up against his eyes, not in his head, not made up. He mostly believed it. There was all that he didn’t and couldn’t tell honestly and openly, so much he would only tell a few very particular friends–estas movidas weren’t for children or women or parents, many people shouldn’t know. Of course he liked living the way he did.

So interesting! The lady on the plane sitting next to him was gushy friendly, listening as much with her eyes and mouth. He didn’t mean to be an interesting native of the Southwest. He was trying to make light conversation, small talk. He hadn’t said much of anything. She didn’t think so. She’d been visiting her daughter in college and it got her to thinking and talking. She was saying how she was getting older, how the gray in her hair just wouldn’t stop but she would not dye it, because she refused to be afraid of the natural, healthy aging process. She was telling him about her life, what she had done when she was younger, and she would shift from defensive to apologetic. She told him about a daughter in college, who, she said, loved what she called the desert region. But you, she said, it’s like you have lived a life most of us dream of.

She was sitting too close, squished against him in the middle seat, her breath a gust and her body heat humid. She wore concentric silver hoops on her ears that tingled like chimes. Not one seat was unoccupied on the airplane. Her words were so close it was hard to drop the subject. Maybe it was that she’d gotten to talking for such a long time. Whatever, something about what she said right at the start, about him, made him want to close his eyes. He never wanted to go to the east coast. The land of those people. He wasn’t even curious. He needed to picture in his mind what he was going to do. So he yawned. Sleepy, he told her.

The lady nodded, her feelings hurt. Get your sleep, she said. Much as I wish I could, I never can.

Outside the port window, slipping away behind him, a rainbow belted the horizon, the red orange yellow green and purple, into a deep blue that climbed up to a blue Chihuahua sky, a Navajo blanket. Beneath, clouds rose and fell like the pure dunes of White Sands.

It was LaGuardia when he woke up, New York City, cars and trucks which eventually tuned out like the sound of an air conditioning unit, radial tires on bridges and in tunnels a New Age music, on into the brick and concrete gravity of the buildings, even the low ones high, blotting natural light. Night was not the synthetic black of the vinyl seating in the backseat of a taxi, not a gray of shade in a hot desert, but the pale fuzz of shadow, of whispered deals, of squinting at visions he couldn’t attach words to, and sneaking into fantasy places he didn’t have the ability to imagine.

He slammed the yellow door at the Port Authority and ran, splashing blackened puddles, down moving escalators, and around the sweeping people in orange highway construction vests, brooms on the stairs. He was hot in its tall and wide insides. He bumped into a shoulder and another shoulder, and a bag, circled suitcases, stumbled against a baby carriage–people, every angle, every left and right, these people holding plastic grocery bags as luggage, plastic store bags with Christmas presents wrapped in red and blue and gold, faces from no where he knew who were cold because it was cold, a wind that seemed chemically treated to be colder still. He stood there and stood there, wearing all of his three sweaters, squeezing his hands, even though he was too warm everywhere else.

She was under a Russian fur hat that warmed her forehead and her ears, wrapped in a plush burgundy coat that reached the black boots. Her eyes, the emerald of glacier lakes, were out in the wilderness, exposed, images internal and external hitting them so fast most wouldn’t see how frantically they quivered. They found him: It had to happen. Like birth had to happen, like death has to happen. When she held him, she told him she loved him, told him she loved him so much. I’m so scared, she said. She said, I’m so in love with you, I am too in love with you.

In a cab again, traveling down Broadway, less than ten fingers to Christmas, Santa and cradles, happy children, happy mommies and daddies, babies, a baby, she kept prayer cards on her lap and muttered, counting rosary beads: Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen. That wind outside the cab swept the sidewalk of take-out trash and flyers and newspapers, even shook the padlocked wrought-iron grills and aluminum pull-downs. They got out under a scaffold walkway, X-braced on the street side, corrugated tin roof above. He found a glass door, a light on behind it making its color porcelain, this stained swirl of graffiti calligraphy decorating all equally, numbers blocked above it matching the address he’d gotten when he called an ad he read in the Voice–a cash only bed-and-breakfast, way cheap, suspiciously available–and, her clutching him, he buzzed and it buzzed back and it was an office building, its inside the same city that was outside, and into an elevator door more like a ship, splintering wood flooring, black buttons. They took it to the top, the 8th, where it became an art gallery. Polished hardwood. Welded sculpture. Watercolor and oil paintings of broken naked men and naked women, smears of bodies, alone and together. Their room was a shape with no parallel sides and not the same length and the walls were painted different shades of orange and there were cheap Persian-style throw rugs and lead pipes to hang clothes on and a thick, tall picture window, too cold to touch, which framed images of buildings and lights in them and dark sky and they lay on a rolled-out futon on a straw mat.

Her breasts in his face, their flesh the butter of fantasy, the warm of sleep, her waist and hips the wafting curls of scent, her sighs not sounds but visual cues–love, woman. She was an instinctual shape, she was the innate and learned want of body pleasure, of want to tongue clitoris and nipple. She wanted to leak milk from her breasts like he did from his penis, and she sucked them with him and their saliva, mixed, stirred a juice, the essence of sweet, which became a hallucinogen transporting them into a heaven of space and a time both unremembered and always known but never visible, and they were man and woman, singular and pair. They were drenched in the spill of sweat and vagina and semen, all the slick inside of mythic womb that is private and protected, indescribable and familiar, its secret revealed, a mescaline calm, its absolute understanding in orgasm, rippling too in the mind like a contraction of birth, the squeezing and releasing, the mysterious desire and satisfaction of the egg and seed, of earth and God.

When they wandered out for a dinner it was a morning, not night, its gray the wet and dry dust of the city’s sidewalks, its shine the silvery lead of scuffed grates and worn manhole covers, that storm of iced wind tossing crushed water bottles and even filtered cigarette butts but which this time only cooled them, bent their pacing. They walked, and they ate, and they went back into the ill-shaped room, now like a spring pasture, the stars reflections of windows in the high buildings across from them, where they became as blurred as oil paintings and then there was a cab and he wouldn’t get out there with her but he saw her, the hat, the coat, the boots, walking away on the tiled placita under the sign that said Madison Square Garden.

Alonzo was from Lajoya, Texas, and he was seated at the bed and breakfast’s table-for-ten, waiting for Vinika, who was from Philadelphia. She was a muscular big woman, and he was hungry thin and seemed taller than he really was. They had been staying in the room next door. Alonzo said he was a poet and an artist and now he was also doing Web design. Vinika killed cockroaches and rats for an extermination company. They met on the Internet. He’d started the communication with her through an African-American Women Only chat room. He laughed, looking up over the hand hiding his mouth as though it were a tall wall. When Vinika finished what she was doing, she stood next to Alonzo. A saggy, pocked suitcase was outside their room door, zipped up, a limp handle ready to be gripped. Alonzo had promised her the Trump Plaza, but the rooms were all sold out. It wasn’t the money, he said, because he had the money. He only found this place at the last minute, it was the only thing available, the whole thing was the last minute. It was these holidays, he said. Vinika smiled as she stood next to Alonzo, though she wasn’t looking at him. Then he got her bag and the two of them walked the long hall decorated with the unframed art to the elevator and then Alonzo was back.

We kind of heard you, Alonzo told him. Man! We plain out listened, like, you know, how couldn’t we? Every little cosita. Vinika says to me, I want that, I want him. Hijo de su! You made me feel bad! She wouldn’t do shit with me so we laid there hearing you two going, pues you know, sometimes whiles we was trying to sleep on these floor beds and then sometimes también when we’re like waking up. I want that man, Vinika says to me. We were laughing sometimes, and a veces we just go like wow, those two are too much. Ay, when your woman camed out, down the hall, you know, to the bathrooms, a silky pink nightgown. Hijole! I’m sorry man, but she was fucking hotter than pink, a fucking killer masota. Como Raquel Welch, like that fine, good as la Salma. I’m thinking this dude, you know, you, like you gotta be some kinda movie star, or a rocker, or a rico suave, a vato who don’t need to shine it up and that’s why he’s bad, some shit like that.

You two so fucking in love, verdad? Se puede ver, you can see how you’re in love. And
now you got no choice. You got to. Every dude, any dude. Yeah, you are fucked up now. She loves you too much, guy. She really loves you, and que la fregada madre you’re screwed. It’s like some movie. This is like some story out of fucking New York City!

They fastwalked its winter streets, a spin of dirty light, the squinty outdoors, as it bent and tweaked past the edges and over the tops of buildings and buildings. It was Alonzo talking, talking, and Geronimo sedated by the blows of her body against his–her lips wet, her eyes dazed–and numbed by images close and far, smaller and larger, distorting the new ones entering through his stunned sight.

Hey it’s the Beats, man, and watch, Hettie Jones es la mera mera. La mommy of vatos like me, she’s all hip mix Jew and Afro Nueva York. See I went over to her place because I found out where it was. It’s what I camed here for reallys. Besides Vinika, who didn’t know shit to care, man. And I yelled out her name, and luego she was like looking down out the window. She talked to me for reals, guy. Just talked at me, told both of us to come up into her crib, says I was doing good. You watch, cuz you’ll see how she is. She convinced me like inspiration, meeting her is why I know I got my song now. See like if it weren’t for the Beats, I wouldn’t be knowing this shit and I wouldn’t think ni nada about poetry and doing it. You gotta link the history, guy. It was probably The Subterraneans for me. I never been with no black girl neither, no black people in the Valley, you know what I’m saying, right, and that’s what I was doing, with, you know, la Vinika. I was like all hot for an experience of her. Like she was gonna be saxophones, and trombones with those mutes, like jazz riffs and snapping fingers and little tiny espresso cups. But she like bombs rats! Which is even cooler, man, verdad? También funny! Gonna write it, guy, gotta write it. Poems, poetry! El canto de Alonzo del valle, that’ll be the title. She was a tough chingona cookie, who didn’t wanna give it up to me. Ni modo. I was afraid she was gonna kick my puny brown ass. You though, ay, it’s gonna happen! I’m telling you. She loves you too much, so you better get used to it. I’m sorry to tell you, I’m sorry, brother, but I’m a truth-teller poet. Just think if she were an ugly! You’re a lucky dude! You’re gonna have a beautiful baby! And you love her too. I know you love her. Of course you love her.

“Never Montana, though once I was in Houston, but I’ve lived in Wyoming,” Hettie Jones told him. Her smile seemed bigger than her apartment, too big for her body–she had to be the shortest person in the city.

“In some ways, yeah, Wyoming’s like Montana,” he said.

“I thought they were almost the same place.”

“Everybody does, but they’re not really. It’s not just trees either, though I think Montana has more forest, more tall mountains.”

“It’s not like the Mexican border,” she said.

“No ways,” he said. “No cold like this ever. It’s nothing like the desert, even when it gets cold.”

“I liked being in Wyoming,” she said, “but I didn’t want to live there. It’s not New York.”

“It’s not.”

Jug wine was in chipped coffee mugs and he’d rolled what Alonzo had offered and that was almost done.

“She has to not have it.”

“It’s what I tell her,” he said, “and it’s like she’s talking to somebody else on the phone.”

Hettie said, “It’ll be a mess. I went through this with Roi.”

“It’ll be done when I go up there to the clinic, near her home.”

“You should have made her stay here,” Hettie said. “You should’ve stayed with her until it was done.”

“She said she had to go home first. I’m going up there to meet her.”

“She’s looking for a reason not to. There’s no other explanation.”

The blue lights that tipped the tallest buildings, the red ones that blinked under airplane wing, seemed as solitary in the heights as hawks and eagles and turkey vultures. The life that gripped beneath him and Hettie Jones and her tar-papered roof wailed sirens, carhorns, and Bing Crosby’s Christmas music.

“I don’t feel real,” he told her. “I never even thought of being here before.”

“You’re here, real or not,” Hettie Jones said, shaking her head.

Hettie’s friend, a millionaire and more, picked him up for a party in a black Lincoln Towncar, its pro driver wearing a billed hat. The millionaire was a handsome man with long hair the color of those intellectual wire glasses, and he wore jeans which on him were classy–dry-cleaning clean and ironed–and his laugh was as glamorous as the woman beside him, and his lilting voice, both speedy and calm, too generous. A long black overcoat, a fabric with texture like a flower’s petal, made him dressed. The woman leaned against him, a faint glow of bad in her blue eyes, a low-cut black gown that absorbed streetlight, which clung to her body in the way she didn’t to him, so independent and willful in voice–she spoke Spanish to Geronimo with a Castilian accent. A suntan made her seem like she was a Californian but she was from so many places, it was hard to follow where she was from. She was on her way to the Hamptons for X and she was on her way to Miami for New Year’s and then she was going to Paris but she had flown in from Monaco. The Hamptons were on Long Island, she explained, glancing at the millionaire. The millionaire told her where Geronimo was from and she nodded her head, intrigued. Really, she said.

In front of Elaine’s restaurant, the millionaire and his date hugged and kiss-kissed the cheek of Robin Leach, the TV show personality, who was getting into a white stretch limo. Geronimo politely shook his hand, too, before the chauffeur closed the door. He stayed behind the millionaire, his date going off on her own, when they went into the restaurant–it was just like the New York on TV and in movies–and a black tuxed maitre d’ sat them at a round table and they ordered drinks. Pat Riley, the basketball coach, was near the bar, and close to his ear he heard that that man standing there was a Kennedy, and so was that woman over there. As they sat down, he was introduced to the millionaire’s friends, the owner Elaine, and Norman Mailer, who took the empty chair a few to Geronimo’s left.

Mailer, pudgy and gray but a man who didn’t seem to think of himself this way, elbowed into the pressed tablecloth holding a straight Scotch like it was a cigarette and asked Geronimo what he was doing in New York. Mailer nodded while Geronimo told him, and he was both sympathetic and unimpressed. Love, he said, was the only trouble that was worth the trouble, and of course it is as much raw instinct, the biochemistry of mating, simply not in your control. Mailer told the table he had just got back from Texas and Arizona and he asked Geronimo if he knew the writers there in El Paso, that McCarthy. It was a gunslinger question, like did he know John Wesley Harding. He answered that a man he’d just met, Alonzo, had introduced him to Hettie Jones here in New York. Mailer told the table he’d been out West only two weeks ago. Didn’t seem to him there was anything of the East there, even though they try to import it like they did women a hundred years ago. I’d feel culturally abandoned there, he said. Mailer held back some before he asked him what he was. Geronimo took a second too. He’d always liked to tell people he was an Indian, but, just to see, he told this Mailer he was Mexican. But the name, Mailer asked, it’s Native American? No, Geronimo told him, it’s Spanish, it’s because it’s a Mexican name. Mailer didn’t believe it entirely, but, to move along, asked Geronimo about his family. He said he was a father, and he had a wife, but, well. Mailer told him how many children and wives he’d had, and the table of men laughed, and so did Mailer, and he and Geronimo didn’t say anything else to each other.

Yes, he told Hettie’s friend, he wanted to leave the party too, he was ready to go. What he wanted was to get sleep and the next morning be on a bus. A few hours later, late afternoon, he wanted her to be waiting for him at the station. He wanted her to kiss him and he wanted to kiss her and wanted it to stay like that. He wanted them to go to her apartment where he would ask, only to be sure, if the appointment at the clinic was made. She had to make the appointment, she would have had to. She would have. It would be on the last day before it closed before Christmas, before that day baby Jesus was born, when the baby, when all babies, when all children are loved and given presents. He would have to reassure her. He would say, It has to be, and it is best, it will make us more happy, not less. He would hold her as he said this, his arm somewhere on her, in her hair, fingering her neck, or rubbing the little muscles in her shoulders. He would talk about love. He would talk about love and what would be. What they could do. What they would do. Together. He would be reassuring her, convincing her that it was the best thing, the right thing, the only thing, what love is, what it doesn’t have to be, shouldn’t and can’t. He would go inside her when they went to bed and she would want him and they would make this love gently. In morning they would be at the clinic. They would sit in those plastic orange waiting-room chairs, turning the crumpled pages in a Good Housekeeping magazine, seeing only smiley photos and happy food ads and positive headlines. There would be two more women there too, a young woman staring at Ladies’ Home Journal, non-descript white blouse and no-brand bluejeans, who looked older than she was, with a mother or aunt, dark dress over her knees and black shoes, a flowery scarf over her head, both quiet and solemn. A dude with tattoos on the back of his hand, missing two fingers, and up his wrists and on his neck and after she went in, saying nothing to him, this dude would start to talk to him. How this wasn’t the first time he had to do this. How cold it was but you gotta smoke, how can you not smoke at least a cigarette, gotta go outside and not sit in there the whole goddamn time. Flocked stencils on the window outside of sleigh bells and stars and Santa and Rudolph the Reindeer. This dude would stand around with a strut even when he wasn’t pacing, scanning, alert. This dude would be talking how where he came up, how when he came up, bragging and ashamed, how he didn’t like being locked up but shit man, his baby, she’s hard, and he’s trying, he is trying to please the woman, don’t you think he’s trying to please the woman, chief? He’s sure it’s probably his. She wanted him to go here with her. She wanted me to. Like you, right, chief?

She was so tall she looked across at him directly in the eyes and she thumped her big chest right into his. She liked his cowboy boots. Said she liked his worn black jeans and that he was wearing that ordinary sweater. She put her palms against the sweater, pressing. She was drunk. She liked cowboys, or Indians. Or was he Latin? She liked him, she whispered, groping his arms. Her gray eyes were diamonds, her hair a gold fiber, she was as real as a magazine cover-girl, a makeup or underwear or negligee ad. If he was not drunk, if he was not stoned, then what? She told him about Memphis. She’d lived in Memphis most of her life except when she’d lived in San Antonio and Germany. She loved San Antonio and missed it. She asked, Do you believe me, dollboy? He felt the heat of the whispered word “dollboy” as it struck his cheeks, lipstick ad plump lips smearing him until she shoved her tongue into his mouth. Her girlfriends were laughing at her and when she stopped, she laughed overdramatically with them. Come on! she told him, and she held his hand staggering out of Elaine’s restaurant and they were in the back of a cab. Her legs were across his lap and she pulled his hand under her coat and blouse and onto the crusty texture of her bra and while both her hands were on top of his, as though she were gasping for breath, she pushed his harder than he would have himself into her soft breasts, then pulled the bra above so that his fingers would strum her nipples.

Outside her apartment, under a darkened overhang at her building doorway, her leg was hooked around his so that she could rub against him, and her hand felt between his legs, tip to base. She was kissing his neck and he ran his hand on the wild curves of her impossibly perfect shape and though he was saying no he wanted to go up with her. How could he not but how could he, how could he, how this, now, her tongue licking his ears and neck, the smallest hairs tingling, him breathless. No, he kept telling himself. A couple of times he said, not very loud, no, he couldn’t. He said it to himself and she didn’t listen. Not out loud he told her about the pregnancy, love, children, and he was so afraid, and what would happen to him if this too? Not out loud he asked God what to do. Oh Mother of God, he said not out loud, and he saw Her, the Virgin, so beautiful, her eyes downward and shut, hands in prayer, those spikes of peaceful light warming and protecting her. Oh God, he said not out loud. She licked him. On the lips, on his nose, on his eyebrows, on his eyelids, rubbing his, rubbing hers against his thigh, his hand touching the skin of the tightest, smallest waist. Come upstairs and we’ll take a bath, she said. Oh God no. No. When she heard him, she stopped, for a moment sober.

And there he was, back, lying on the futon, in the dark of the 8th floor room. Calm had begun to drizzle like a light rain. He missed his family, a wife and children, as though that were his own childhood, those Christmases, luminarias and tamales dulces and toys that were so meaningful that morning, Mass and bells and incense, the warmth that is sitting on a porch, seeing Mexico on the horizon, none of it going to be the same again, and then he missed all the land. That grizzly bear standing on his hindlegs across a wide river in Glacier. He took himself out to Hueco Tanks, the Apache land outside El Paso, hiked up the rocks and sat where the always cooling wind whisked and the clouds drew in the sky. It got so still and quiet it made him see the plains in Wyoming, a herd of antelope grazing, far enough away from him, not so far. It took him a while to realize that he wasn’t asleep, he wasn’t dreaming. It was quieter than Wyoming. He got up and went to the big window, the one facing the buildings with column facades and fire-escape stairs, and he looked down on Broadway. It was white, snow so thick nothing passed, not a single car, van, or truck. Not even a taxi. Not a person. Not a sound. Not a bus. She was going to have a baby. Suddenly he saw a dog, an Irish setter, a leather leash hanging off its collar, leaping through the thick snow, hoops like stitches in a white cloth, barking joyous, the only sound out there now, barking, until in the frame, maybe ten feet behind the dog, a young woman, a cap, a jacket, a sweater, gloves, boots, every color that made him think of the sun, the West–green, red, yellow, orange, blue–chasing behind, losing ground, happy.

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Published at 12:00 am CST