Found Items – Notes and Tapes
(Evidence Bag Two)
(Evidence Bag Two)
By Mark Rigney
Illustration by Shaun Beaudry
Handwritten Field Notes (Chronological):
June 16, 2006. Made contact with the perfect subject. Pfc. Melinda Montgomery, black, probably 5’6″. Amazing face: Tight. Suspicious. Puffy but no baby-fat. More like immobile. Her jaw opens and shuts, her eyes blink, but if she’s got facial muscles beyond these, they appear to this ol’ reporter to be disconnected. Melinda’s birthplace: Central Memphis. Shipped out with the 101st Airborne Division (1st Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Aviation Brigade) from Fort Campbell. Did two consecutive tours. This gal is surly like a punch-drunk hornet. May require hydraulics to pry her open. No surprise. She was part of the 2/17/06 Tikrit patrol, came under fire, took casualties. So I did all the talking. Gave her my spiel about “the dispassionate Fourth Estate.” But the wall was up and it stayed up. Sourpuss, that’s Melinda Montgomery. But she’s got the stuff, got the anger. Got detail she’ll share--in time. My guess: The best of the four “willing” subjects I’ve roped so far.
Melinda Montgomery: Lives in a squalid little heap at the lowest possible end of what passes for a pre-furnished efficiency. Which in Clarksville is damn near the equivalent of being homeless. It’s like she’s bivouacked instead of actually moved in: There’s a stovetop, but she’s using a white-gas portable set up on the “kitchen” linoleum. Doesn’t use the fridge, says it’s too expensive to run; when she wants something cold, she walks to the 7-11. Still barely talks--but she’d like to or she’d throw me out, and she hasn’t. I told her again about how I wasn’t out to pin her down, didn’t want to vilify either her or her unit: “I just want the truth.” Objective, journalistic, professional, that’s me. (So says the always-predatory writer, the wolf in a sheepskin cloak). The Pfc.’s grunted response: How much was The Atlantic paying me up front, and what kind of a cut would she get? I told her magazine jobs don’t work that way. Which I feel bad about, especially sitting here in Starbucks and working up these notes--and yes, here comes the coffee, fresh-brewed, hand-delivered right to my table, and 100% paid by my expense account. And yes, I “get it” that she was out there defending my cosmopolitan, MOMA-loving freedom to write what I like, but. But! We’ve all gotta put food on the table.
Random thought: Can’t wait to finish A Roomful of Hovings. Damn book’s been out forty years, and McPhee’s still a genius.
My Q. to Pfc. MM is why she’s putting up with her apartment, which truly is a hole. Dirt mired in the shoe molding, a stench of alien molds from deep inside the sinks. Test description for later: “Her disregard for the place is total and unforced; she does not hate her surroundings, or even object. Rather, she moves through them as if she and her apartment do not occupy the same plane of existence--and in so doing, she drags her pathetic surroundings still deeper into the proverbial dregs of degradation. Crumbs litter the floor, along with what few clothes she owns--nearly all desert camouflage.”
So, back to her answer (which I’d better not forget): “I’m savin’ for a place all my own.”
I told her I could front a deposit. She’s single, no family nearby. My assumption: She had a real apartment in mind, one-bedroom. Wrong. MM: “Thought you hadn’t got no advance.” I said the offer stood, and she shouldn’t worry about where the money was coming from. She almost smiled at that, and went over to the rickety flat-pack wobble-job that her landlord calls a table. Pulled a loose topo map from an out-of-date road atlas.
“Got me a real estate agent,” she said. “Thinks he found something back in here someplace.”
She jabbed a stubby finger at the map. Kentucky grid--I didn’t fix the coordinates, but there was a town down toward the bottom: Slade. Looked it up online a few seconds ago. Just an exit-blip hugging something called the Mountain Parkway. Steep hills, judging by those jammed-up contours--and all green. National Forest hardscrabble.
“Gotta find some peace,” was Melinda’s explanation. “Been gettin’ screwed by people so long…black, white, Sunni Shi’a fuck-all. Enough is enough. I wanna wake up and see nothin’ but trees.”
And that was the most she spoke for the next hour, until I left--and probably long past that.
These Starbucks napkins suck. How am I ‘sposed to work on this crappy cut-rate junk?
July 11. Melinda disappeared. (Which calls for my stash of 20-lb. bond: Real paper for a situation with real potential.) Landlord let me in when I told her I was worried the Pfc. might have done something to hurt herself. Nope--all she did was split. Didn’t take much: The portable stove, her personals, the maps, basic cutlery and bowls. Among the items left behind: Stamps and envelopes, a few unpaid bills, her discharge papers, a delicate bottle of generic wart remover. (Mind the detail and thank you Mr. McPhee for the ongoing inspiration.)
Melinda’s CO confirms my vanished subject was not injured at any point during her Iraq tours. “Always down-in-the-mouth, but never one trip to the infirmary that I can recall.” Combat? Derision on his part. “Men are in combat,” he said. “Women are support. No matter what anyone tells you.” I dug in, dug like a badger. What kind of trouble did MM’s “support” run into? (Did I explain to the CO I already knew the Tikrit details? No. Maybe not fair. I’ll see how I sleep these next few nights.) CO’s response: IED’s. Told me to go chat up the base support group. Did Pfc. Montgomery lose any close friends? “Everybody’s close when they go,” he said. (Nice comeback.) “But nobody especially close to her beforehand--so far as I know.” I love this guy--prevarication at every turn.
July 15. Located Melinda’s realtor. Harley Quirk. I’ll have to change the name if he makes it to final copy. A major unbelievability factor there, especially on the coast. Alt. possibilities: Harvey Quinn. Haley Turk. Harley Davidson. Joke.
It is a serious slog from Clarksville to Slade. Pretty, though. I expected more cropland. Mostly pasture or woods. Rich horse farms, long white fences. Quick sprint through the web tells me I’m headed into some of the most “extensive and diverse hardwood forests” on the planet. More macroscopic species per square mile than anyplace outside a rainforest. Hmmm. And the basic shape of an oak leaf is…?
Writing this in Slade, in the rental, parked in front of the general store. Scary. An hour ago, I was in bustling sunny Lexington for a late lunch. Very civilized: Cloth napkins on the table. This burg is all about missing teeth, missing windows and missed opportunity. Whatever Melinda got here property-wise, I bet she got it cheap.
Back in Slade again, a derelict pimple of North American humanity if ever there was one. Haven’t seen worse except on the reservations: Arizona, 2004, my welfare piece. And from both locations, my question remains: Why don’t these people simply walk away?
Quirk’s a good realtor. The whole Red River Gorge area is stunning: Stunning to see, stunning in its contrasts. Vacation rentals just a mile or so from the dilapidation of Slade. Judging by the woodpiles, the locals heat with wood six months out of the year. Can’t imagine. But the college kids and long-hair rock climbers are dropping their greenback dollars. Backpacks and Subarus everywhere--with out-of-state plates. Name-brand catalog clothing, solid hiking boots, kids lounging on their tail-gates stuffing their faces with gorp.
Melinda. Got a place on the north side of the gorge, away from the obvious rocks and trailheads, away from the views. Long driveway--thought it was a road and I’d missed a turn. Major ruts. House: One-story half-decent shack on a rise, propane tank planted like a giant pill in a crabgrass yard. Ext. walls got the “naked wood” look--and it’s not half bad. But messy: Packs of shingles all over the place. Melinda’s re-doing the roof herself. The armed forces gave her muscles. Arms, shoulders, calves…they’re ropes, sleek. Subject on the roof when I showed up, ripping off old shingles with a crowbar, doing real violence with each pull. I was there ten minutes before she bothered to acknowledge my presence. Glared my way, eyes narrowed: “Want to help?”
The place got built two years ago in spring, owner abandoned ship in mid-summer. Old county map names the spot Colony Knob. Quirk told me Pfc. got a major deal and this ol’ reporter has to agree.
I stayed into the evening, and it got hotter once it got dark. (Physics suspended in the great state of Kentucky? Have to look into that…) Any-who. Sat with subject on the steps, looking at the night. One floodlight on, mounted above the door under a little inverted V of corrugated aluminum to hold off the rain. Moths like I’ve never seen batting into the light. At the right angle, what Melinda identified as a luna moth casts a shadow about three feet across. And that forest was never quiet: A constant buzzing, rising and falling, yes, but never dying away. Dog-day bugs, said Melinda, and I got a laugh for asking. Not a very pleasant laugh, but a start--and a question, rhetorical 101: “You don’t know much, do you?”
Not much about cicadas, anyway--which, it turns out, are the noisy symphonic assemblage my Pfc. subject referred to as dog-day bugs. (I’m learning!) Quieter here: Staying the night at Natural Bridge State Resort Park, barely a hop, skip and a jump down the hill (and over another) from Slade. Hills everywhere here. Hills. Cliffs. Cicadas. I thought cicadas showed up once every seventeen years. Melinda says there’s a different batch every summer. The web confirms: Many variants, Magicicada and Tibicen being dominant genera. The former hatches in multi-year cycles; the latter are more or less permanent, like Kentucky humidity, which I have learned to loathe. All hail the web.
I’m betting there are decent, hard-working folks in Slade who’ve never had their hands on a keyboard, much less a computer. Meanwhile, one mile distant in the State Park Resort Lodge, we’ve got wireless “Free in Every Room!” What a world.
July 19. Pfc. Hollison tried to overdose after beating the living crap out of his wife. So here I am back in Clarksville, the burg that pretty much defines why my friends avoid the flyover states. And they would seriously never believe Slade. Any-who. Before breaking all of KY’s speed limits, I left Melinda a mini tape recorder, blank tapes, and instructions to talk whenever. We’ll see.
July 30. Pfc. Hollison has a lawyer savvy enough to dislike feature writers, so: Three subjects remain. No word from Melinda. Shocked, I am. Natch: No phone lines up Colony Knob and she denies owning a cell. Mine didn’t work anywhere near her place, that’s for certain. Other subjects also getting harder to track (cue Ms. Carole King in full-throated lament: “Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore?”). Hollison’s in a twelve-step program--in Jackson, Mississippi. Ashton up and moved his entire family to the far side of Missouri. Got a job on an industrial hog farm. Maybe my next feature? I hear those things are hell on earth. Hell with pigs.
Meantime, Sgt. Bob October. Stable, sane, purple heart--he’s like a one-man control group for the other three. Single, but nothing sordid on the side. The private dick I hired says no strip clubs, no gay sex, no child porn, “A big fat nothin’.” The dick actually begged to be let off, said he didn’t like following the one person in town for whom he was starting to gain, not lose, respect. No problem: I felt bad hiring him in the first place.
Wondering about Melinda, though. Time for a check-up. See if she talks to herself--via cassette tape--better than she talks to me. And better hurry. I’ve got the features editors riding my ass like a bull-busting Gilley’s cowpoke. Note to self: Next time, take a smaller advance. Second note: No more purple prose about mechanical bulls.
Okay. Gonna set this down. Fast as I can. Well. With all reasonable speed. August 4. Or 5?
Already did the transcriptions, so let this stand as some sort of prequel. Transcriptions: Always a pain. These were the worst ever. Obviously. But. Had to do Pfc. justice. (And maybe re-write this for Weird Tales, if they still exist--which I doubt. Probably gone for decades.)
First, the trip to Red River Gorge. Up to Melinda’s cabin. Hadn’t been there in about two weeks. Arrived early, 9 a.m. Brought two large bag-loads of basic groceries, plus beer.
First impressions (seriously colored since, so possibly inaccurate): Grass not mown, jeep in usual spot (no garage), puddles from an overnight rain, topsoil the color of pale melted brickle and twice as gooey. No birds. No squirrels. No movement of any kind.
I called Melinda’s name. Never sneak up on a vet, right? Especially one who’s spent as much time with the post-traumatic shrinks as she has. No response. I tried the door: Unlocked. A dead cicada fell off the screen when I grasped the handle; it dropped like a slow-motion bomb, the kind you see from an aerial perspective in old WW II newsreels. Fell on the toe of my shoe--clack--and bounced into the weeds. I went inside.
Four basic rooms, plus closets. The main door puts you in the kitchen. Kitchen opens to the living room. Bedroom and bathroom doors feed from there. Nobody in sight. Bathroom door open; bedroom door closed. I was thinking Melinda had gone for a walk, but I checked the mat by the door, and there were the boots: Jungle boots plus clumpy rubber waders, both pairs standing neatly at attention, side by side.
Probably asleep. I went out back to the rental (this Pontiac Vibe ain’t no Lexus) and scooped up the laptop and the groceries. Added the groceries to the ‘fridge, which was otherwise stocked only with case lots of Milwaukee’s Best Light, several pizza boxes (“Wolfe County’s Finest! We deliver!”), and a decent selection of batteries stowed like bodies in the meat drawer.
I organized a temporary command post at the kitchen table and began making serious (laptop) notes. Mildly florid, passionately descriptive, not especially McPhee. Example: “Remarkable quantities of insect repellants litter the too-small counter, vying with dirty dishes for control of the space. Ammunition boxes, mostly empty, lie scattered on a nearby shelf. The only books in sight are the Bible and an all-purpose home repair guide. Other print matter consists of a dog-eared copy of Oprah Magazine together with last week’s National Enquirer.”
The ammunition nagged. The more I looked, the more I realized how many boxes there were--empty. “Mostly,” as I’d written, simply wasn’t correct. Pfc. Montgomery evidently owned a rifle, a shotgun, and at least one .32 caliber handgun. And she’d been using them. A lot.
I went back outside. Walked around the house, then around the property line. I stared at the ground, and the ring of trees stared at me. Shell casings everywhere. Occasional blast marks on bark. Melinda had evidently been shooting up everything in sight.
Tried my cell phone, a random call to an editor at Harper’s. No signal.
Went back inside.
No sign of the tape recorder I’d left--something I hadn’t initially realized. It was clearly caution-to-the-winds time: I knocked on the bedroom door, got no response, and cracked it open.
No sign of Melinda, but there on the edge of the bed, piled high with pillows and far more blankets than anyone would ever need in summer, lay the portable recorder, together with several cassettes. I’d left her two packs of six, and judging by the jumble of tapes on mattress, nightstand and floor, she’d run through at least three, maybe a fourth. The second pack remained sealed.
The closet door was shut. I slid it open.
Thinking back now, to Bosnia, Iraq and Chiapas (a.k.a., “the not-war”), I wonder: How many corpses have I seen? I used to keep count. Someplace past a hundred, I gave up. But. Maybe tough-guy me, Mr. Manhattan Scrawny--maybe I jumped a little anyway. Jumped at the sight of Melinda, lolling sideways in the closet, her feet, head and one arm all that was visible under a laundry-load of clothes and sleeping bags. She’d put a bullet through her left eye, and what was left of the socket was a nasty mix of crusty and damp. The wall behind and above her head had a puncture and a dark smear of spray: Blood and gray matter. I’m no medical examiner, but my guess is she’d been dead forty-eight hours tops--and in her ears, she’d stuffed homemade ear-plugs: Strips of torn cloth. Camouflage, of course.
I shut the closet, picked up the tapes, and sat down at the kitchen table to play them back. Disturbing a crime scene, that would be a felony--but the tapes are mine, paid for with my money, my advance. Besides, they’ve got the story. My story, my Melinda story. Melinda won’t mind if I delay a while before driving out and reporting her as a suicide.
What follows are the transcriptions. Italics mine. Words entirely Melinda.
Transcribed Tape Recordings:
A. (Pause of several minutes. Then nearby movement.) Hi. That sounded stupid, huh? “Hi,” to a machine. What you think I’m gonna tell you, I got no idea. No idea at all. (Switch off.)
B. (Distant background noise.) You know what I want? A better front door. One with no cracks ’round the edges. This one lets in mosquitoes and all kinds of noise. Tomorrow, I’m gonna drive on into Winchester, get a new one. What do you think of that, huh? Sounds like I’m adjusting. Blending back into civilian life. Thinking about doors and shit. Yeah. (Switch off.)
C. (Distant background noise, vaguely electrical: A susurrant rise and fall, a hum.) Can you hear that? It’s louder tonight, even with the damn door. But it gets better later. After one, maybe. And after I squeeze off a few rounds. They quiet down. They know I mean business. And I guess even bugs gotta sleep. But I gotta sleep, too, you know? I think I’m gonna leave this on for a spell. Let you hear what I hear… (The buzzing hum continues to the end of the tape, forty minutes later.)
A. (Immediate cracks of thunder. The cabin shudders, you can hear it even on this tinny miniature.) Yee-haw! You hear that? Wham! Now that’s power. I love it. (Thunder.) Right on top of us! Right on top! Man. I love it like nothin’ else. This’ll calm things down, oh, yeah. This’ll calm things right down. (More storm sounds, under the sound of a can top popping, presumably Milwaukee’s Best. Switch off.)
B. (Immediate voice.) --at’s much better. A good night’s sleep, that’s all a body needs. Like I never got over there. Like nobody ever got. Patrols all day, patrols all night, no kinda regular showers. Lemme give you an inventory. Officially, Ken, I wasn’t never wounded. Not once. But I come home with fungus on my feet, which they won’t admit ‘cos we weren’t in no jungle--or that’s what the medics keep sayin’. I got three split nails, and we’re talking deep splits, not something you fix with drugstore clippers. The hearing in my left ear is fucked from when that IED went off and took Jo Sinclair with it. And I know I gotta pee like ten times more often than before I shipped out, but nobody wants to even talk about what’s up with that. The hearing thing especially sucks, though. I hear a buzzing in there, like doorbells. And it’s worse out here in the country. I thought it’d be peaceful out here in the woods. Hell, no. And me with my own personal one-ear amplifier. But I’m stickin’. Where the hell else am I gonna go? (Switch off.)
C. (Minor background noise.) This sucks. No phone line, that I like, that much I asked for. But I drive down to Slade, call for a pizza on the pay phone, and the bastards won’t deliver. To Slade, sure. But not door-to-door. Except they do! Them people down the road, the Fitches or whatever, they said so. No, no, says the pizza place: Not up to Colony Knob. Shit. (Switch off.)
D. (Cicadas instantly audible.) Okay, I know you want me talkin’ about Iraq. Fuckin’ I-raq. I know that’s why you give me this, I know it’s why you payin’ me any mind at all. Right? Admit it, Ken: If I weren’t no vet, you’d pass me on the street and wish me right back to the back of the bus.
But. I am a vet. And you think I got issues with life or the military or Arabs or myself and you want to hear me spill it. Yeah, okay. But that’s not why I switched on your cute little high-class tape deck.
Let’s pretend you’re a senior officer. Which is kinda funny: You, in the military. In charge of something. From what I seen, you barely in charge of tyin’ your own shoes. I’m sorry. That’s cold, and you ain’t done nothin’ to me. Not yet, anyway.
So: Colonel Ken. That’s what I’m gonna call you: Colonel Ken. Now listen, listen up: These dog-day bugs, I’m startin’ to think this is some kinda whole new breed. Normal thing for them is eatin’ trees, milkin’ out the sap. Growin’ up, you’d see ’em even in the city, they’d be crawlin’ up the branches and chew, chew, chew. Here, it’s like they’re all confused. Got thirty or forty clamped onto my garden hose, and I got a couple hundred more on the drainpipes--you know, the downspouts. The spouts is green, yeah, but you can’t tell me no ordinary bug gonna think that’s the trunk of no tree. And now they’re gettin’ up on things like the screen in my new door. I open the main door--which fits like a glove, I’m real pleased with that--but I open that thing and wham! I got bugs bugs bugs. Rattlin’ their wings, all annoyed at me. Makes ’em sound like aluminum foil. And then they start singing. Maybe if they sung somethin’ I could recognize. Al Green. Queen Latifah.
So I’m gonna step outta the closet now. Ready? (Sounds of motion, shifting items, a door sliding back; the thrumming background noise rises audibly.) You can hear the difference, yeah? I know you can, ‘cos Colonel Ken, you’re a smart boy. One of them university types, right? Probably hang out with movie stars and author-types. And you obviously know things. Not much practical, I bet--but all kinds of other stuff. Thinkin’ stuff. Hey, Ken--you ever change a flat tire? Fix a carburetor? Gone under the wire in basic, or maybe cleaned a couple pounds of Iraqi sand outta your rifle?
They got bugs in Iraq, too. Fleas and shit. Flies. But not like this.
(A pause. The soundscape of cicadas is like surf, drifting in and out but steadily growing louder.)
I’m gonna take you outside now. Better cover your ears.
(The sound increases threefold at least. I have to turn down the machine, it’s distorting badly. The tape continues for about a minute, then switches off.)
E. Hi, Colonel. Me again. Back in the closet. ‘Ceptin’ that this time, it’s 3 a.m. And listen, you can still hear it. Listen. (Long pause. During this, a somewhat distant drone in the background, punctuated by noises like a badly bowed cello, thrum-thrum-thrum.) Well. Just wanted to let you know that sleep for this old soldier is gettin’ harder every day.
Got some strange thoughts, Colonel. Got some very strange ideas. One of which is, I’d better not be goin’ outside after dark. I know: I’m armed, and they’re only bugs, right? Only bugs… (Switch off.)
F. (Noise. The tape recorder hits an object, or is hit. Perhaps it was thrown?) Okay, Colonel. You win. The bugs win. I’m outta here. Cicadas like this, forget it. I don’t know what people in Kentucky think they’re goddamn doing. Maybe it’s just my bad ear, but I don’t think so. I truly don’t. (Sounds of nearby scuffling, maybe packing, all of it backed by a terrific undercurrent of buzzing.) So Lord, I give up. Full retreat, I’m headin’ for a motel, maybe on the highway someplace. Anywhere but here. My little hilltop woodlot goddamn bug-infested paradise. (Switch off.)
G. (Immediate voice.) --n’t even leave, except on foot? No way! No fuckin’ way. I am not--fuck. (Sound of can top popping.) Might as well ask you. My commanding officer. Colonel Ken! You havin’ a good afternoon? Readin’ Playboy maybe? Feet up, some kinda decaf latte shit right in easy reach? Well, here’s a heads-up. They chewed out my radiator hoses! They chewed out my gas line! I got fuel all over the drive, I got antifreeze, I got windshield wiper fluid…I open up the hood, I got no timing belt. What I do got are like five million cicadas crawlin’ ‘cross my engine. And I swear to God, Ken, I look around, and they’re everywhere. The whole entire ground is black and green and Ken, it’s moving, like when you get a little wake on a duckweed pond. They’re goin’ crunch under my boots, and look--fuck--now they’re startin’ to crawl up me, I got one nursin’ on my camo pants like I’m some kinda tree. Fuck. (Sounds of swigging.) You prob’ly think I’m makin’ this up. Losing my precious little delicate female mind just ‘cos I’m suddenly out livin’ on my grown-up own when what I really need is a good long dish with a Fort Campbell headshrinker.
No, I’ll tell you what I need, Ken. Colonel. Sir. I need this bug off my leg and I need a plan. A plan with some kinda exit strategy.
I don’t care what I did over there. I don’t deserve this. Nobody deserves this. And whatever I did, I did it for all the right reasons: Democracy. Freedom. Fightin’ the good fight. But I sure as fuck didn’t do it to protect a bunch of fuckin’ dog-day buzz-bugs. (Semi-articulate noise of pain and disgust.) My ear is killin’ me. I mean killin’ me. I gotta make some kinda ear muffs. Blankets or something. Fu-- (Switch off.)
A. (A fearsome roar of cicadas, buzzing and throbbing and once again distorting the tape player’s speakers. Even with the volume near minimum, it cuts through the cabin like a horde of pixie-sized circular saws, each one whining through a rip cut. The noise continues for nearly fifteen painful minutes, punctuated by occasional sniffles and sobbing, then switches off.)
B. (Cicadas again. No surprise--but Pfc.’s tears are choked now; her breathing begins close to the tape deck, then retreats.) Raghead motherfuckers. Motherfuck. You think you won? Fuck you. (Sound of a door sliding shut--the closet, I presume.) You didn’t win, not this time. Not ever. (The sobs very faint now, muffled. A click--and a close-range single gunshot follows. From there to the tape’s end, no further sound beyond the zzz-zzz-zzz of the cicadas--which, to this reporter’s distinct disbelief, clearly and demonstrably fades.)
Tape Four, transcribed by Deputy Matt C. Holloway, Menifee County Sheriff’s Department, 9/02/06. (Format same as prior; subject presumed to be the deceased, Kenneth A. Voyles.)
(Very faint background noise, nothing unusual. Sound of footsteps, subject presumably in motion. Male voice begins speaking.) I’m outside now, getting ready to leave. The ground is definitely not a swimming sea of cicadas. Mud and gravel and clumpy grass, just like it’s supposed to be.
It is humid. Muggy like I would never have believed possible outside of a Florida bayou, and I think I hear, yes--definitely a few cicadas in the distance. Listen. (Pause. Cidada-like sounds definitely audible in background.) But are they deafening? No. You know what? I’m going to take a quick peek into Melinda’s vehicle. Door open, hood--hang on, I’ve gotta put this down. (Noise of recorder touching down on object, presumably vehicle.) There. Hood open. Now, just trying to get my fingers in the catch…there we go. And up. Holy fuck.
(Pause. New sound in near background, a rustle; faintly metallic.) Okay. Okay. No problem. Even if they’ve done this to my car, which I’m sure they haven’t, it’s not a long walk. Maybe half a mile to the road. Only a couple of hills. Sunset’s not for another, well…Jesus. Time sure flies when you’re having fun.
And look, here comes a cicada. It looks as if it just detached itself from someplace under my right wheel well. Flying now: A lazy, looping arc to the right, as if it has no idea what it’s doing, has no concept that it’s even airborne.
I like that. Save that for later.
I smell gasoline. And I shouldn’t. The leaks from Melinda’s would have evaporated days ago…