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just a picture of a cloud
[ *  *  *  *  *  * ]
Jonathan Ray McKay lay on the hood of his car, watching the sky grow dark. The car was a Nissan Altima, and he and it had a lot in common. Both were white, dirty and smelt of cigarettes. Both were 17 years old, both were largely unreliable, and both were, as Johnny himself would have put it, total trash pieces of shit.

The white of the hood was flecked with black. Insects he'd driven into, maybe, or just dirt. It was wonder the hood of the car wasn't dirtier, really. Johnny couldn't recall a single instance of it being washed, and the car'd been in his family basically his whole life. Rain, maybe? But it wasn't much for rain, in Kingman, Arizona.

He picked idly at one of the flecks with a grimy thumbnail. There was a cigarette in that hand, and he'd occasionally bring it up to his mouth to draw on. As he exhaled, he opened his mouth in an "O" and pushed his tongue at towards his teeth, making a faint "pah" sound, trying to blow smoke rings. He was yet to blow one successfully, but he felt like he was getting closer.

Johnny's rested on his stomach, which was bare. His t shirt was balled behind his head, a cushion between it and the hot glass of the windscreen. Johnny's feet were bare too, the left dangling off the front of the hood, the right crossed over his left knee. He turned his head to look at Raina, who was squatting a few feet away, fiddling with a telescope.

He couldn't say how long they'd been friends. He couldn't even say if they were friends, really. They didn't spend time together in school at all. Outside of these trips they hardly ever spoke. Johnny'd known her forever though: her brother had been close with his, and for close to a decade now they'd just sorta been... around each other.

She was pretty, Johnny supposed, though he'd never thought of her in any sort of romantic sense. He'd thought about fucking her, of course, but only in the abstract, absent-minded way that he thought about fucking every female of his acquaintance. Her hair, he noted, was almost the exact same shade of blue as the early-evening sky.

"Hey, Ray..."

She didn't look up from the telescope. She'd get like this, when she was working. Johnny didn't mind it, really. He was happy enough in his own company, and he let her be. "There ain't nothing to be gained from talking to someone who don't want to be talked to, excepting a hiding" his pa'd told him once, and as was rather rare for the McKay patriarch's utterances, Johnny put a lot of weight in it.

As far as Johnny was concerned the old man was a moron. He was working as a busboy, for god's sake: there were kids in Johnny's school, in his class, with better jobs than that, and they probably wouldn't be fired in the next few months for missing shifts because they were too drunk to be woken up or too hungover to get up. Johnny'd never felt like the relationship between the two of them entitled Louis Sr. to any particular respect, either. As his brother Darren had said once, "What? Like fucking Tricia Bell is so fucking difficult?"

Tricia Bell, now Tricia McKay, was their mother, whom Johnny loved in the way that a childless bachelor might love his city's school system: she seemed to do her job and stay out of his way, and he wasn't sure, really what more he could ask of her. He'd found the joke cruel, and more than a little unfair: to his knowledge their mother had never been unfaithful, and he was sure that was the extent of Darren's knowledge to, as the older boy surely would have told him about any maternal infidelity. Still, he had laughed, dutifully. Darren was his brother, and Johnny's love for him wasn't abstract or habitual, but something real, and tangible, and when you love someone you laugh at their jokes.

"Hey Raina," called Johnny.

For the moment, at least, he ignored his pa's advice. Raina wasn't the type to be dispensing hidings anyhow. Situationally speaking, the advice was inappropriate.

Johnny's words seemed to vanish into the desert. His body was still in the clutches of puberty, but his voice, mercifully, was free of it. It had emerged soft and raspy, broad-accented and almost melodious, and Johnny was rather proud of it. Sometimes on the phone he'd get called "sir", even.

The only response was a trill from a flycatcher of some kind, sitting on a guajillo about 15 yards away. It was too dark for Johnny to make out what kind it was - brown crested, he thought, but he couldn't be sure.

He forged ahead anyway.

"Why dint the lifeguard save the drownin' hippy?"

She gave no indication that she'd heard, but stood up, brushing the dust off her knees, and began to polish the lens of the telescope with a cloth that she took from inside a small plastic case, about the size of his palm.

Johnny waited a moment.

"Too far out! ... Huh?"

Raina didn't laugh.

Oh well, thought Johnny, and returned his focus to his smoke rings.

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Two Breaths Walking · Memories from the Past