Sonya and I stand and make our way to the front counter of the diner when a musty voice calls out.
“Hey little boy.”
A postured fossil by the window stares at Sonya birdlike, white/blue-mesh trucker hat, all gums and beady eyes. I recognize a rotten intonation. Bill in hand, I continue toward the cashier.
“Hey little boy!” the man again calls out. Sonya turns around.
He directs his rigid index finger in my direction and scoffs, “Is that your daddy?”
We’re back in the rental driving north when I remember that Sonya’s father had passed away not more than two years ago. The snow along the road banks had barely begun to thaw. Winter still breathing.
A hundred miles north of NYC we stay in a pint-sized cabin situated at the bottom of a muddy slope on a 22-acre clearing. The cabin had no electricity, no running water.
Into the night, stubborn crackling, charnel oak filling the air, I unfold a checkerboard. With a bag of 50 cent candles, we illuminate the kitchen table, a small flame representing each checker piece on the board. For every piece captured, a light extinguished. By the game’s end, the vanquished would have to sit dimly on their side of a cold silent front.
Soon gentle flames reflect a quiet confidence in her pupils. Mine red to match a faded grin. We’re complete strangers I think. I lean back, finally, an ill-fated captain of a lost army of nowhere in particular. The final piece, a lace of smoke.
"With a host of furious fancies
Whereof I am commander,
With a burning spear and horse of air,
To the wilderness I wander
By a knight of ghosts and shadows
I summoned am to tourney
Ten leagues beyond the wide world's end:
Methinks it is no journey."
- Anonymous, "Tom o' Bedlam"