Maybe it was the smell of cough drop on the air. And the trees: eucalyptus, birch, palm, redwood, side by side in one space. It might have been the thinking inside the houses I passed, minds at work over desks, fingers tapping keys, tapping foreheads. Maybe it was the nearness of the sea. And the mountain between the highway and the sea, levels inside landscape, inside moments: wholeness the lie we always suspected it was, and we could finally get down to this business of motion, of making ourselves up again. I ran faster than I’d ever run before. My feet flew over this pavement and that. I went all the way past the stable. And when I took that shortcut past the schoolyard—the children inside with their tom toms—I thought of what they’d be when they were running past these windows.
Fifty minutes passed. Or years? A live oak sagged through a kitchen ceiling. A parachute hung out to dry, in pieces. And when I asked the men in the sportcoats where the town was, I knew they knew as much as I did. Wasn’t that where they dump the ashes? one said. The toys, said his friend. The ashes and the toys, said the first. Their shoes hovered just above the ground, and when the wind picked up, they knocked into each other, gently, like paper lanterns with hooks on top.
–by Paul Lisicky, from “Palo Alto” the first story in the collection