Cassidy & Mister White

Cassidy walked to the chamber leaving the glittering street lamps and plaza table candles by the way. There were low vaulted arches in crumbling white plaster, adobe and spider webs showing through. A twenty by twenty tile pattern on the floor between the walls. He heard the nylon strings of guitar under long finger nails practiced at flamenco. One string seemed off somehow. He still tasted the salt of the beer from before. The vision of Her was gone in this room. A breeze blew behind him, pushing him through the door with an almost physical strength. He was walked in.

The figure at the card table was bent over one elbow, chin on palm heel, his other arm flat. It seemed there should have been cigarette smoke but there was none. No ash tray cluttered the worn checkered surface of the table, no burn marks.

The figure wore a light canvas robe. White, new. As Cassidy walked in, the man looked up. Cassidy stopped. The face was so pristine. He wanted to just look at that face. He wanted to know that face, love it in the knowledge. He closed his mouth after a second when he realized he was staring.

The man’s eyes were light. They seemed gray but weren’t dark enough to read. The lines in the mouth said joy but he did not smile. The eyes spoke within but his mouth stayed shut. His hair was gray but he looked young. There was energy in every corner of his contour, he slouched.

Cassidy said, “What?”

“I didn’t say anything.” He bent his head back down. Motioned to the chair opposite with little more than a finger.

“I’m sorry. I thought you said my name.” Cassidy walked around and pulled the chair out to sit. “It’s Cassidy.”

He didn’t move. Cassidy dedicated his entire being to trying to catch a hint of the man breathing. There. No, there. No.

“You live here?” he tried further. “I’m just kind of passing through the area. Seemed like a place to stop.”

“It is.”

Good, he breathed silently. Wondered why he was so desperate.

“What is this place?”

“My home.”

“And what’s it called?”

“Guernica.”

He asked, “You, uh, wanted to talk or something? I mean you wanted me to stay?”

“How old are you, Cassidy?”

“Seventeen.”

“Do you think about a better life?”

“Yes–” he trailed off.

“Do you listen to quiet piano music when it’s windy lately?”

“Yes.”

“Do you walk in the autumn rain without a shirt on, no matter how cold it is?”

“Yes.”

“Do you still masturbate with only a single girl you might love in mind? She has dark hair and infinite eyes. You met only once but you remember what she smells like and her favorite color. Wasn’t it the color of dirty blood?” The man looked up and Cassidy had to look away.

“Yes,” he said and felt a wave slide past all his skin on the inside. “How–”

“I know.”


Christina was making noise in the kitchen and not stopping. Cassidy resigned himself to getting up. He felt angry with her.

The day went like most. Cassidy let Christina do most of the talking. Nothing much happened. Or ever did.

Around lunch she asked, “Did you dream last night, Cassidy?”

“I dream every night.”

“What did you dream about last night?”

“A lot of things.”

“Like what?”

“I haven’t really thought of it. Sometimes it hurts to remember.”

“Try.”

“Why?” asked Cassidy.

“You were talking last night. Who was it?”

“An old man, except he wasn’t old.”

“Someone you know?”

“No.”

“You think you invented him or do you think he’s someone you’ll meet someday?” Christina believed in fate.

“I think I just invented him.”

When it was night and they were going to sleep Christina asked, “Are they bad dreams?”

“Huh?”

“The dreams about the old man. Are they bad?”

“Yes.”

“Then have good dreams tonight.”

“Even my good dreams are bad dreams.”

“Then no dreams, Cass.”


Cassidy was seated with the man. It was jungle hot. A sea smell too. Maybe Fiji or Borneo, not Hawaii. Smells like more than an island.

“I want to ask you something but I can’t.”

“I’ll tell you. You don’t have to ask because you look in my face and you know who.”

The breeze seemed colder. The insatiable thing within Cassidy that made him breathe and made his heart beat shrank back like a snail from a salty finger tip. He wondered why his soul felt like that very thing. How it could. The guitar had stopped. The breeze was gone. He licked his tattered lips. He wanted badly to look around out the doorway. The quality of light on the beige walls had changed.

“Are you uncomfortable?”

“No.” Cassidy lied for himself. Was convinced.

“Have you ever killed anyone?”

“No.”

“Would you ever kill a person?”

“No.” He felt these rhetorical, bordering on facetious.

“Not with your bare hands if you found your dark lover in bed with someone an hour after you had been with her?”

“No.” He swallowed.

“You wouldn’t kill with words for your own love? Or to punish?”

“No.”

“Not with a gun should you witness a four year-old boy beaten to death by a man with a tire iron?”

“No.”

“You wouldn’t kill for any reason, Cassidy?”

“It’s not my right to take another life for any reason. It’s not my place to judge the meaning of another’s crime. Only my own.”

“So you might conceivably take you own life?”

“That would seem to follow but it doesn’t. The answer is no.”

“You are responsible for only yourself. Is that what you believe?”

“Yes. That is all that is given to man.”

“What about your need?”

“There is enough given in the world to satisfy my need without murder.”

“And if someone makes you responsible for them? Would you refuse the reins? Even if that meant killing them? Just for example: would you leave a living, breathing, loving woman for a dead cold idea? Then becoming a killer when the living one sees you have loved her less than a dead one?”

Cassidy didn’t answer. The man said, “A paradox of convictions?”

“Life is situational. I will make the choices that I must when I get there.”

“There is a certain wisdom, Cassidy, in the virtues of the naïve. Do you believe that?”

“Yes.”

“There is learning from the moral choices of the history of philosophers before you? Murder is wrong as an absolute?”

“I don’t know absolutes. Murder is wrong for me.”

“You are very wise. To know yourself is the only thing that is given to man. Life can be bereft from the body a million ways. The mind can be corrupted by outside stimulants and conditioning. Do you believe there is a core in each person that is called soul? That is immutable from birth to death.”

“Yes.”

“Well, then that is all that is truly yours to keep and the only purpose in life it seems would be to know that thing that you are. To know what you are is to know what you are not. Don’t you think?”

“Yes, I have thought that.”

“And to know what you are not is to be free?”

“As such.”

“The only freedom, Cassidy?”

“For me.”

“But, Cassidy, did you ever consider what would come with that?”

He said, “Yes,” but he distinctly heard a no in his own ears. “Yes.” And it stayed the second time.

“If you discovered you are a doctor then I suppose you’d go to school for that?”

Cassidy nodded.

“If you found yourself over a bloody corpse and maybe didn’t even remember but knew you did it and you discover you’re a murderer in your soul?”

“Then lying would not be a consequential crime.”

The man bent forward and said, “Choices are made by withholding choices too. Do you realize this, Cassidy? That to not choose is to choose.”

“In my soul every choice I contain has been made since I was made.”

“Do you know this place?”

“Yeah. No, I don’t know.”

“Places in you.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Cassidy, you know who I am.”

“I have a feeling.”

“You know I can see your soul within you as plain as sand in a glass.”

Cassidy stared. The man almost smiled but his eyes looked sad for the first time.

“Go,” he said. His voice aged and rough suddenly.

Cassidy stood and knocked the chair over. It made no sound. He realized he didn’t know where he was or where he could go if he tried. Hadn’t it been Seville just a half hour before. No, it was Cabo San Lucas. Disney World, Borneo, East L.A., Alaska? Wasn’t there a menu with Spanish, Apache, German? He remembered the flamenco rhythm as Irish, Pete Seger, Wagner?


Cassidy woke first. He looked at her blonde hair on the blue pillow case and he was mad at her again. He sat up on the edge of the bed and she woke up. He was pensive when she reached for him.

“Are you okay?” she said.

He made some small sounds telling her to be quiet while he thought.

Cassidy’s face slipped into a grin and he looked at her. “What?” asked Christina.

“Sand in a glass. He can see it but he can’t touch it or take its measure. Every lie contains the truth. Oh, God. Why didn’t I figure that out then?” He realized he could fight. It wasn’t fixed. He might win.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes, God, yes. Christina?”

“Uh-huh.”

“I’m sorry for the way I’ve been acting.”

“It’s okay as long as you’re all right.”

Somehow that wasn’t what he wanted her to say.

Later in the day when there was nothing to do Cassidy asked, “Do you believe in God?”

“You know I do. What a silly question.”

“What about the Devil?”

“Yes. Why? We’ve never talked about this before.”

Because I knew we’d only fight. “What do you think the Devil’s will is?”

“I’d say to ruin man. A lot of people over simplify it into a boogey man kind of deal but I’d say he wants us to follow his fall. Perhaps to justify his weakness. And to take us away from God.”

“Do you think he hates God?”

“Of course.”

“I’ve been thinking. Most of what man knows about the Devil isn’t even from the Bible. It’s from assumptions, fears, and childish neurosis of so called saints and holy men. If there really is an antithesis to God, how evil, how subtle and how utterly incomprehensible?” His face was frozen, only his lips moved.

“That’s pretty scary, Cass. Why have you been thinking about this? Is it your dreams?”

“Do you know what is scarier? That if, and I mean if, there is a God it means that the Devil’s will is God’s will.”

“That’s totally ridiculous. Don’t even say things like that around me if you have to think of them.”

“If it is the Devil’s will then it is God’s will. How dare you claim that you believe in an omniscient God without understanding the most simple implication of it?” And Cassidy left then. He didn’t come back that night. It was the closest thing they’d ever had to a fight.


“Hey, Cassidy.”

“Huh? Yeah.” He was thinking of how cold he ought to be this time of year in Nova Scotia. The windows were frosted but he was warm enough. He wondered why the room seemed funny. Why it didn’t seem to belong. Then he realized where he was. He put everything into seeing through it. Smelling the wooden table, feeling the air resist his hand while he went to touch his shirt collar. But it was real and he was sure.

“Where you sleeping?”

“Huh?”

“Never mind, it’s beside the point. You wanted to ask me something.”

“Yeah, I did. What was it?” he shifted his eyes back and forth quickly trying to remember and he did. “Listen. Tell me now. You can play at tricking my heart into false pain and self immolation but it will never stick. So tell me now, why have you brought me here?”

“Tell me who I am and you’ll know.”

“I don’t know what your name really is. I know enough, though, to know who you are. To know what they say you are. I ask you. What’s your name?”

“What do names means after all? What can you tell about a person from only their name? Their hair, their eyes, their feelings about winter rain, their favorite movie? None of that. If you meet a boy named John do you assume he really is given of God? Or that a girl named Katherine is really going to be pure? Names are no way to help you know a person any more than an address tells you what a house is like.”

“Is this your house?”

“This is a place in you.”

Cassidy blanked for a moment then said, “What shall I call you? There must be something and I know you’d prefer to choose.”

“Mister White will do. Better that way. No costumes, titles, or disguises. Plain and correct.”

“White?”

“I’m unmarried.”

“Is that a joke?”

“No. You said you believed in the certain wisdom of the naïve.”

“But you are far from that.”

“Am I? I wonder what you can see in me. I will call myself innocent. After all, who have I hurt?”

“You parcel out evil with such an attention to detail that you probably measure it by the teaspoon. Your hands shape the hearts of those who do your work for you.”

“Do they?” He looked at his hands. “I say no, I have touched no hearts and I have made no truck with the unwilling.”

“But you have done so much wrong. How can you say otherwise?”

“Prove me otherwise. Tell me, who have I made to do a thing?”

“You have driven people throughout the years to do many evil things.”

“Evil?”

“Yes, evil. There’s no debating that.”

“Taken as given for your argument’s sake. You recently had a talk with a friend about God. Did you not?”

“I did.”

“And what did you tell her?”

“I don’t remember.” Cassidy lied to avoid the humiliation.

“Well, you were only half right. I have will. But so do all those you say I motivated. That was the bargain. That was the argument. That they would choose. And that in the end they would choose correctly. That was the argument.”

Cassidy remembered frantically. “Tell me now. Tell me, why am I here? She will come any moment. Please tell me.”

“You figured out the hour glass.”

“What? Yes, yes.”

“Then consider this– Oh, but it is too late again.”

“Why?” He heard an air raid siren. He remembered where Mister White said they were. The alarm was a constant sound as he ran reaching out for something. Why did she set the damn thing? He reached over her and slapped the alarm off as hard as he could.


“I’m sorry about yesterday.”

“It’s okay,” she said.

“I’m going out for awhile.”

“Okay… Are you coming back?”

“Yes. I don’t know when.”

“Okay, stay safe.”

“I will.”


It was no easier. A filthy kitchen to some eating hall or converted restaurant. Wood block counters that were rotting slowly and cats in the spilled corner trash. It smelled and Cassidy didn’t want to touch anything. But he already had. He pulled his forearm off the sticky counter. It sounded like masking tape and it hurt.

“Tell me, Cassidy, do you believe?”

“I do.”

“Really, in what? In God perhaps?”

“Yes. If you must use that word.”

“An ugly word?”

“It’s meaningless. It’s a name of a thousand ideas, and even more lies. It’s the most singularly worthless word besides ‘love’ that a person can speak out loud. When it is used, there is no communication. The symbol is bankrupt and diseased and stands for nothing whatsoever anymore. To one person they equate the word with their idea of Buddha or Eshu. Another might think Yahweh or Jesus. And even among two who might think ‘Jesus’ at the same time they say it will not agree on much besides the second word for the same misconceptions. It is an ugly word to deceive so many into believing they have so much in common.”

“No brother for you, Cassidy?”

“Not yet. I look.”

“So what do you hear when I say God? What is it to you?”

“Not what I’m told by others. I’ve seen Her.”

“You’d be a Witch then?”

“No. They are bigger fools than even most of the rest. I have seen Her and I will not talk of Her with you or anyone but Her. It’s amazing to me that People will not publicly speak about their wife beating their children, or masturbating, or other things when they will so readily talk about God with any stranger they meet. How much more personal is God than masturbation. To discuss God with another, especially one you hardly just know, is a sin in my mind.”

“She told you not to sin?”

“She has told me nothing but ‘live’.”

“You are a strange one,” said Mister White.

“I wouldn’t know.”

Mister White twisted a bit of his silk shirt cuff and then he said, “Hadn’t you something else?”

“What? I don’t think so. No.”

“Then go.” His voice was white too. No color. No reference. There was no anger, no love, no feeling or inflection. The voice had nothing; perhaps he didn’t even say it. It robbed Cassidy of his soul. Made him as vaguely existent as an idea in Mister White’s head that had been dropped for the moment because the phone rang.


“Get up, Cass. It’s a work day.”

Work, he thought, I don’t have a job. It must be school. But I thought we were on summer break. Then he woke up and remembered he wasn’t seventeen or in Czechlosavakia. And he remembered his question and the empty voice of White.

Later he asked, “How do you really feel about me?”

“Cass, it doesn’t matter that we fight. Really, I feel some greater thing between us. We’ve been together, what, two years in a month. And I’ve never regretted a moment of it. It took forever but I’ve come to know you for what you are and not what I want you to be. Some different ideas and stuff don’t change what a person really is inside. Only how they relate it to the outside. I know you don’t approve of the words but I love you, Cassidy, and I always will.”

Cassidy went to the kitchen window to stare out at the little dirt alley. He didn’t say anything for a long time.

“Well,” she said, “I have to go to work. I’ll be back early if I can. I’ll make a special dinner and maybe we can go out?”

“Okay.” But he knew they wouldn’t go out. Rather, he knew that he wouldn’t.


When Cassidy was in Shanghai trying to get the smoke from the street meat venders out of his eyes and following a man, he thought of it again.

“Wait. I remembered.”

The man stopped and said, “It’s good that you have. This is our last visit, I assure you,” and then he ducked into a booth. Cassidy followed.

The walls were hung completely over with a dozen tints of stripped flesh. There was pork, beef, and lamb hung on multi hooked chains. Strips of bloody snakes were hung also. Fish with dead gaping mouths and scales shedding like tinsel. There were rough bamboo and wicker cages. Cassidy grabbed one and a dirty splinter stuck in his palm. The cages contained live dogs, dwarf pigs, chickens, snakes, hedge hogs and cats; some miserably sonorous, some quiet, missive, about to be sent. There were knives and bone shears and things hung around or lying on the greasy street that the booth was built on. He could smell that none were cleaned. Cassidy could see a fifty gallon oil drum, with yellow flecks of paint peeling over rust, in the corner, that was rimmed with sticky feathers, and filled to spilling with squalid Christmass ribbons of cat skins, snake and chicken heads, cored dog skulls, dogs’ feet, unrecognizable intestine. Cassidy thought of the cows and pigs that were now pork and beef.

There was no place to sit.

“Why here?” he asked from the bottom of a shallow breath.

“Your choice, Cassidy. I told you, these are places in you.”

Cassidy grabbed him and threw him against the side of the booth and yelled, “Tell me now, God damn you!” The entire booth swayed. Cassidy had pushed him against and into the midst of the hanging chains. Meats knocked against his shoulder.

Mister White spoke: “He had another name but his real name was Meridian. He liked to take long walks and just look at the beauty of the world where it was unscathed by man. He talked to himself sometimes. Not like daily conversations that get so polite and meaningless day in. Not anything in his life was like that. Things that made people go, ‘Huh?’ made him laugh a little. Meridian was an orphan in the universe. He was alone in each way that he had learned was life. In every corner of his mind he had a place set for someone who never came to call.

“‘I realized tonight that I was alive,’ he said to the first-her.

“She said, ‘That’s silly. You’ve always been alive. Turn on the teevee and hand me the remote, kay?’

“That’s the torture he went through.

“Another time he said, ‘I love you like the waves love the sand.’

“And she-number-two said, ‘I like you a lot too.’

“He learned slowly but when the third-she said, ‘Don’t you think life is becoming so terribly unbearable anymore? Everyone is so selfish, the world is going to shit.’

“He replied with this…”

John sat. His posture crushed with the one sorrow he still permitted. He was in the city today to meet with her and resolve the one thing. He never liked the city—its diners, car dealers, legal counselors, churches—not even before.

From the day his best friend and lover had died in the city John left and lived the life of an aesthetic. There was one friend left. Her name was Josie.

Josie’s face was pretty. Her mind, beautiful. She loved his home. He made it. He made things. He had built in the city and become rich. The money could not buy anything he wanted. He wanted the best and to have it, he had to produce it himself, with his hands. He cast his own calipers, set his own measures, rigged his own pulleys, wrote his own literature, made his own art, everything he consumed and used. He was a religious man. His church asked for no faith, promised nothing but death, granted nothing but life. His church provided a beginning and an end. His church was his mind. His life was that of a king.

Josie came to be in his church when she needed religion, craved happiness and knew she could not survive being short changed. He gave her this because she took it, understood it. Knew that happiness was the goal. But some part of her remained unconvinced.

She stirred her coffee and said, “You’ve really shown them haven’t you.”

“I’ve shown you. That’s all I wish. They can’t see, so what’s to show?”

“I’ve missed you. Why do you let me come out there?”

“You know why.”

“Tell me.”

“Because I love you. You’re all that is left in the world to love besides life.”

“Don’t say it.”

“It’s been six years.”

“I have a life already. I can’t just leave it. Not even to be there with you.”

“Why not?”

“It would be too hard. You know the reasons. We’ve been through all this.”

John said, “Prometheus was told by Zeus not to give the fire to men. He did. Humans benefited unbelievably from this single act of volition. Controlled fire was the end of disease, the end of night, the end of winter, the beginning of smithery, and the progenitor of all technology. Prometheus’ reward for this act: to be chained eternally and have his life giving organs ripped out of his body daily. They regrew because of what he was. Not a God, but better than men. Every single day a prisoner, a harvested animal in pain. All he had to do to avoid this was keep the fire to himself. So he deserved his fate. He gave the fire to people who could not get it for themselves. And could not pay him wages of value for his work.”

She said, “I can’t. Life is not a myth. I’m not a hero.”

“A hero is a person with courage and vision. Nothing more. Everyone has ability if they want enough to use it. It is one or the other. There is no middle ground in this. It’s been six years Josie. I have to know.”

“I can’t just leave it.”

“It’s not hard once it’s done. I did it.”

“Well, I can’t.”

“Won’t”

“Alright then, won’t.”

John felt the pain again. Her death to him. It was a pure sorrow. One that would end soon. Not the continuous pain of waiting, having faith. It was the clean grief of knowing. The worst he could feel. The last he could.

He stood up straight, effortless. He said, “I need to be alone.”

She said, “I’m sorry. I’ll find you when I can. Please be alright.”

He smiled slightly. He returned home. Josie never saw him again.

Whether he found friends or equals throughout the rest of his life, he was clean, secure and met every day as a happy challenge, to decide if that was the day he would die or another day he would be free and whole.

“Meridian finished his story and she-number-three had nothing to say.

“Meridian had lovers, he made mistakes, he grew older, he got better every day or sometimes not but then he’d catch up later with extra for good measure. In fact his movie was three hours long but no one left the theater early or asked for their money back.

“‘Where’s my denouement?’ he asked his reflection once. You see his story was told and he knew all of it. No one but he did. Other people wanted to tell him the last lines and how he ought to deliver them. This was also the torture he had to live with.

“Meridian had an equal. This was strange to Meridian because he had no other equals and few friends. No one was faithful enough, no one was true enough to their grain. Her name was Parallel. As you can see: between this girl and this boy there was nothing that was out of reach or could not be found or could not be done; and each could only go in circles alone; they required each other for either to have meaning.

“She made something so fine and lovely that it was amazing to Meridian. It was a sculpture of another girl but Parallel had captured not another girl but her soul in a physical body. It was sure to bring her great fame and wealth in the world’s hopes that she might do just one more work half as wonderful. All who looked on it found love. Meridian was not immune but seeing as she’d shown her soul to him before, this wasn’t a new problem.

“Parallel loved Meridian too. She had said it years before. She had walked to the center of the wild gardens of her heart and looked in the well there. It was deep but only half full with rich potent water. She saw the emptiness that needs filling was exactly what Meridian was. She saw this and the thoughts of filling the rest was what made her do such wonderful work. It inspired Meridian too.

“When the universe was made, it was made like unto a puzzle. A great grand puzzle of the entire mind of God but each piece only a quantum particle. Each piece decides itself whether all the rest can continue to be seen. And each piece has only one single way that it will fit together to make the puzzle perfect. But the puzzle is. You may think that it is comforting to know it is only a puzzle and it can be solved. Do not be comforted. The pieces are so numerous and individual that to even attempt to take their full measure in mind would drive a stone insane. It is not a flat puzzle and to see each aspect of the picture would require a billion lives and a trillion perspectives. Each person’s soul is made out of these pieces. And their gift is that they are limited to one life and only a handful of perspectives. Without this gift they would be as mad as the stars.

“In all the universe there were only these two whose souls, minds, hearts were adjacent pieces of the puzzle. Both knew that they would never find more and would always need each other.

“During a regular everyday talk a certain feeling crept into the conversation. It was the same for both. A sort of testing of boundaries. Like a child pushes their mother every day to see how far they can venture. When they get chastised, they know the boundary. They need this discipline to give life, and freedom, meaning. So it is with lovers. They were testing. Pushing when they should have pulled. Both knew that they were only arguing on points of definition and situation, not of their hearts.

“They sat facing each other without looking. You see neither one would give in. Because the two were so right and so perfect, the girl was willing to push farther. Instead of holding him and saying nothing, she said more because she was certain there was nothing she could do to push him so far that he wouldn’t come back. Though she knew it, she wanted proof. In her certainty she was unafraid.

“She said, ‘I’ve been thinking. We should get married. What do you think?’

“While it doesn’t sound like the sort of thing that one says in that context, it often is. They had both often thought of marriage, it was the only logical thing for each to think. But they had never said it aloud. There was a lot of room for fear in her heart once she said the words. It was the wrong time to ask. It was the hardest possible push.

“In that moment his soul, his entire self faced the greatest challenge it ever would. It was his Moment. He knew he loved her whether it was ever said, he knew he needed her, he knew he wanted to stay with her for as long as he might live under any conditions that might come or go. His choice was easy. It was long since made. In the first second he met her it was made. It was yes. There was no conflict in it. All the pain that he now felt was as easy to dispel as that. Just one word would destroy the quiet. End the torture they were living.

“So you can imagine what he did. He said, ‘Yes, of course. I love you forever.’ But he didn’t. He couldn’t force himself to say it. It was like he would crumble to dust if he was the one to break that silence. And you know what else? It was not pride.

“Meridian stood next to her and he said nothing. Thereby losing everything in that moment. Making their love as irretrievable as the water from the deserts of the sun.

“And there is no debate. No interpretation, no second guess, no irony or hidden symbols unintended. You understand? They loved each other and were perfect for only each other and stood little chance of surviving without the complement of the other. Absolutely no chance of being happy. But something in him just refused to give voice to his already made answer. It wasn’t influence from a distant body, it wasn’t psychology, a disappearing cat, or the past.

“And you know, Cassidy, that this is a true story.”

Mister White’s voice was slow and completely emotional now. Cassidy had missed the building of it. Like seeing the foundations laid for a great skyscraper and thinking nothing more of it—going about life in a very regular way while not noticing the things right out the window—until the final stories are blocking out the sun.

“It was this thing. This baggage in excess to everything that is and that is necessary.

“His. Free. Will.”

Cassidy had long since relaxed his hold on Mister White’s coat jacket. They faced. He mouthed, Christina. No sound. He didn’t believe he meant it but he knew no other name. “You mother f–”

“And do you know why? I’ll tell you why. In one sentence I can tell you why and you will be free of it without losing yourself. Would you like that, Cassidy? To know why and why again? Kill all doubt, murder every unanswered question. To end it.

“But it’s too late. See it’s soon the dawn and this was our last talk.”

Cassidy didn’t have to look. He couldn’t force his eyes off Mister White’s perfectly old young face. But he saw that the man’s skin was tinged with a pale city sunrise color. Cassidy saw his own nebulous shadow becoming definable on the canvas wall of the meat vender’s booth.

He let escape a long yell with spit in Mister White’s face, “No!”

“What?”

“Stop,” his voice was quiet, pleading.

“Cass?”

He looked and Christina was there. Her face was upset and full of concern. “Cass, stop what? Cassidy.”

He was stricken physically with the desire for her and the intense and total fear for himself that he might lose her someday, any day, today, now. It had never been so strong. Her tired eyes and messed up hair had never been so beautiful. Nothing ever had. Even the idea that he thought had been wasn’t now.

Cassidy started to cry, stopped. He thought of Her as long as he could stand to and said, “Christina, I don’t know.”


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