All the chairs and tables in Café Atlas were arranged in neat rows. The manager, Greg, was a squat, dense man, billowy and unpatterned in his dress, but cropped short in his hair and beard, as though all measure of fastidiousness might be condensed to one aspect of grooming. He was also pathological in his awkwardness, and fully aware of the effect, but unable to resist the compulsion for another comment, joke – one not even intended, or believed, to be possibly funny – or otherwise discomforting behavior that afterward would sink him into an unbearable self-consciousness and resolve to change, a resolution immediately martyred at the next opportunity.
The road soon became mud. A thick sludge where tires spun and the car threatened to swerve with each new purchase.
“We should get out and walk from here.”
“This is ridiculous.”
“The roads will dry out, and we aren’t far. Might as well walk.”
“I don’t know why I let you talk me into this. I should stay in the car.”
Fred opened the driver’s door and stepped out, his shoes immediately sinking into the mud. He had to admit, the idea had not been a good one. George, who initially agreed with an offhand indulgence to quaint smalltown absurdity, had spent the intervening hours relentlessly complaining about his agreeance. Fred heard the passenger door open, and George’s curses as he tried to step lightly upon the mud, but nevertheless sank his polished shoes into a deep puddle.
Roughly, the sun travels at 250 km/s. Hurtling through space, at this impossible speed, the sun drags the solar system with it. The orbit around the Milky Way, a more cosmic year, takes around 225 million years. The earth then, is the content age of 20, having whipped around the galaxy that many times – and for having so recently left its teenage years, it has accomplished a fair amount. Perhaps, it believes there is a period of roaring twenties ahead.
Lily looked at the angle his neck was twisted and the horrible stillness.
He was drinking and he fell down the stairs. He was drinking and he fell down the stairs, she repeated. That was all the story was.
Betsy sat down, with pen and paper, to the serious business of changing her life. Indeed, that very evening she had stood in front of the body-length bedroom mirror, naked – one thing she was sure never to do again – and she had thought, well, she had not thought much at all. It was more of a sustained look, one of vacancy thinly masking mild incredulity, over-top a deeper and barely visible disgust. She had briskly turned her robe around her shoulders, whisking away all the bulges and folds. She now sat at the kitchen table, the pen tapping the empty page, as though summoning the words to appear.