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Incarnadine Stars

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Incarnadine Stars

by Chris Deal

“When's the sun come up?” he asked from the other end of the bench, his voice quiet, not his usual boisterousness. He was shrinking into himself as the night drifted.

“Not for another hour.”  I looked up, past the lamp's halo, past the city’s lights, into the pale gray of the birthing day.

“Shit.” He spat the cigarette butt away, onto the walkway.

“Think you'll make it?” I light a another smoke and hand it to him, his hand shaking, weak, then I do another for myself.

“Nah. Wish I would, but don't believe it to be.”

I lean forward, elbows on knees, and there's a smudge on the black leather of my left shoe. With a clean handkerchief I wipe away the dull incarnadine.  It came from him.

“Stars sure are clear,” he said.

“Yeah.  I figure that’s 'cause it's so cold.”

“How's that?” He coughs, and it is the sound of a blade cutting through wheat.

“I think it's the cold, it keeps the molecules in the atmosphere from vibrating, making the stars appear clear.”

He grunted, or made a sound that could be construed as a grunt.

“But I ain't a scientist or nothing, so I don't know.  Could be we’re closer to them in orbit or whatever.  I don’t know.”

He didn't say anything, and neither did I, for several minutes, we just sat there, looking up at the sky, and it was getting to be a brighter shade of gray, the same color of the ash that was growing on his cigarette, between his fingers, unmoving on the armrest, the cherry dying, fading.

“Sorry it went down like this,” I said.

I stood and walked toward the car, stopping only to pick up the lone casing, then away, towards where the sun will soon be.

©2009

 

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