Penny was setting paper on fire in the living room. Thom found an old phonebook outside, and the only way to work through this archeological discovery was to burn pages and place them in a ritual urn. I think this irked Cali, who was an on-again-off-again Wiccan, but she put on a brave face for the rest of us. The couple next door liked to smoke outside, so maybe they could take the heat if somebody upstairs smelled anything burning.
None of our names were real, but we all chose them. None turned into Darth Optimus or anything. We’re all kind of humble when it comes down to it. Humble enough to know that if you’re going to destroy a phone book, you had to make it kinda religious.
Thom told a long story about his brother, Mock. Mock shacked up with a widow on vacation and drove her car back to Virginia only to discover she wasn’t a widow. He received a decent beating and still managed to hitchhike his way to Denver. Penny said that was due to his being white. Anyone else thumbing while freshly beaten was more likely to be taken to jail than on a road trip.
One of the two smoking neighbors—the man—knocked on our door and told us to shut up. Gus, who almost changed his name to Darth Gus (but chickened out), shouted at him to not smoke around their kid. The man then threatened to call the cops. So we turned off the Franz Ferdinand and played Twister. I wrapped an arm underneath Thom in such a way as to warm the entire inside of my body. But Gus said he wanted a drink, and the game ended before we all fell all over each other.
Penny remembered that she’d seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles as a kid and needed to watch it again immediately. We all fell asleep during it, and I woke up to watch the Netflix preview loop over and over again. Looking back, I said maybe three words that entire night. But my brother wasn’t on a clandestine trip with a widow, and I’d found no relics of a former civilization to burn.
Cali was smoking out the window. Maybe she’d woken up. Maybe she’d never fallen asleep. I never asked her. But I thought of her watching the yellow light of the snow-covered driveway for a long time. I’d try to draw it, but it wasn’t a cartoon image. It was a silent movie. When she dropped the cigarette out the window and went to the bathroom, I closed my eyes and pretended to be still asleep.