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“Sir? Sir?”

“Sir? Sir?” says the guard. “What’s your name, sir?”

“Ray,” says the man in the black leather jacket.

“Just Ray?” says the other guard on the other side.

“Well it’s not Ray Lemon or Ray Limeade or any other lame Sprite knockoff if that’s what you mean.” His bulging eyes are bloodshot, wet. His pink hair draggled into strange dark colors by the dim light in the lobby. “Who,” he says, “who lives on the top floor?”

“What?” says the first guard.

“Who,” says Ray. “A couple days ago I saw it all from the volcano.” He lurches toward the other guard and they both skip back keys a-jangle saying “Whoa, hey, whoa” and he stops, holds up his hands. “I know, okay? What has to happen. Only I really need to know who’s up there. Before I go.” He turns. They’re standing before a computer screen in the wall under a sign that says US Bancorp Tower. Touch screen for individual listings. “Okay? This thing is all alphabetical, not whatever it’s geographical. You know? And I really want to know who’s up there before I go. I mean that bang? There was a loud bang over across the river. Did you hear that bang?”

“Sir,” says the first guard, “we’re going to have to ask you to,” and the other guard’s saying “The 142nd.”

“What?” says the first guard.

“The Air National Guard,” says the other guard. “Sometimes they do flyovers? Maybe he heard a sonic boom.”

“Man, do not answer their questions, okay?” says the first guard.

“But it’s dead simple,” says Ray. “Who lives up there?”

“Fuck this,” says the first guard. “You watch him. I’m calling CHIERS.” He stalks off, keys ringing like bells.

“If it’s who I think it is,” says Ray, slumping back against the glass-covered wall, “oh God if it’s what I think it is.” Head in his hands, knees bending, falling slowly, slowly to the floor.

“It’s okay, man,” says the other guard. “They’ll take care of you. Get you dried out in nothing flat.”

“Oh no,” says Ray, “oh no no no,” hands scrabbling like turtles as he fails to push himself back up, “oh no that would be a disaster.”

“It’s okay,” says the guard. “It’s all gonna be okay.”

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M.E.Traylor    17 September 2010    #

Oh my. I remember the imagery from the opening of this chapter very clearly, and I imagine it would make more sense if I knew Portland, but I have no inkling of what it signifies.

Illise M.    18 September 2010    #

I had read this when it was first posted, but I didn’t understand it then. I just woke up and was half asleep, caught between reality and dreams, and THAT’S when the significance of these last two parts hit me. It was an odd moment of recall, but I thought it appropriate. Can’t wait for this to continue!

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