In summer, in Whiskey Knot, dust permeated everything: cloth and sleep, bathwater, breath. Blown grit intolerably stung the eyes– particularly Leia’s, Atlantic-bred and, everyone said with what the young girl interpreted as distaste, abnormally wide. After her first night in what had been lost Meredith’s back bedroom– spartan and sweltering, so different from Leia’s leaf-shaded, book-filled nook next to Papa and Breha’s study at Bradford– Leia found fine clay mist on the windowsills, in her thick eyelashes, when she woke.
In some hole in the wall diner that didn’t even have the decency to be a chain, Al and Arthur sat over bad coffee and worse fries and watched the ball drop in Times Square two time zones away.
“I bet New York’s lovely this time of year,” Arthur told his coffee cup, tracing the rim of it with a dusty finger. Al snorted.
“Yeah, if you like dirty snow and dirty air.” He threw back the dregs of his and waved at the waitress for a refill.
Arthur glared at him and let the waitress top off his cup, too, although he didn’t really want any more. “You’re impossible to please, you know that?”
“Mom tells me that e’rry day.” Al watched him for several long moments before flicking his eyes back up to the TV screen, where the news anchor was holding her hat down against the night wind. “You wanna go?”
“Sure, I’m done here.”
“I mean go. To New York.” Al jerked his thumb at the TV. “We’re unemployed, uneducated, dirty farm boys, and I got-” He pulled out his wallet and thumbed through the bills- “Sixty-eight dollars to my name. Seventy if I don’t tip.” The waitress passing by huffed, and he shot his best smile at her. “We’ll stop by the house, get some clothes and a toothbrush, then get a lift at the truck stop and get the hell outta here.”
Arthur stared at him. “You’re serious.”
“Dead straight.” The corner of Al’s mouth twitched up. “What’s it gonna be, bud?”
Arthur frowned, chewed on his tongue, then sighed. “We can’t just pick up and leave, Al, that’s not how it works-”
“And why not?”
“I have a job! And- and rent! And a cat!”
“Mom loves Cake, she’ll take her in a flash, your job stinks like a horse’s ass, and you don’t have rent if you’re not there.” Al nudged him with his foot under the table. “C’mon, let’s go!”
“Born and bred. Tell ya what, how about-” He started patting his jacket pockets, then his pants. He grinned up at Arthur through his bangs.