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"Back in a minute," Fat Mac calls as he passes through the door. "Goin' to smoke."


Take a look at this scene, frozen in time. Take a look at Fat Mac. Skin the color of rich loam, shining sheen of sweat from the kitchen and other, hotter, places. White teeth (rarely shown, I'll grant you), untainted by nicotine. Calloused hands, yes, from the kind of work that requires a great deal of shoulder strength, but his fingers are unstained.

No telltale pack of coffin nails in his hand, or his shirt pocket, or the pockets of his pants.

I know I've been talking about other things, but this might be important.

Curious, is it not?

All right, we've seen enough here. Go.

The sound of Fat Mac opening and closing the door to the back is somewhere between a "thump!" and a "fwoosh."

Again, I have to interrupt. My apologies, but this needs to be cleared up. Break down the sounds precipitated by Fat Mac's exit. Sounds. Plural. It's not something between a Thump and a Fwoosh (ridiculous but annoyingly apt word, here) -- it is a thump, then a fwoosh.

The thump is the door. What do you think is the fwoosh?

Allow me to theorize.

Let us suppose for a moment that he is an Ifrit; one of the Jinn, or at the very least descended from one. His is a muddied bloodline, but it rings with the power of that vanished ancient people who act during the night and disappear with the first light of dawn. His ancestors are spirits of smokeless fire.

He, of course, is not.

Now that we have made that supposition, turn your eye back to that door. This great, dark mountain of a man has just stepped through (gingerly, as though he's afraid that the square cement pad just outside will crack if he puts his full weight on it) and lets the door swing shut behind him.


It is early afternoon. The open expanse of the chaparral plain stretches away from the The Midway, lying baked and beaten beneath the sun like a vast, poisoned flatbread.

Like a desert.

Something in Mac's blood rings in response to that shimmering heat. His muscles relax, his eyes roll back in his head, and his body -- there isn't a good word to describe it, really -- burst-dissolves into smoke. The sound is like a man finally exhaling after holding his breath for too long.


Going to Smoke. You see? Fat Mac is really quick literal and honest, if my little theory is correct. The Ifrit, they are creatures of smokeless fire, created first before man -- subtle fire, the Arabs called it -- but he is their sad descendant, and this is what he can manage; the sooty after-leavings of lesser flame. Still, it seems a fine enough thing in this day and age.

Now then, what's a short-order cook to do, once he has discorporated into a shifting cloud of pearlescent smoke?

Obviously, he goes for a drift.

Smoke, as I'm sure I don't need to tell you, can move rather quickly. It's a fairly dangerous thing he's doing, really, because the wings around The Midway can come rather fierce and hard.

Winds. I meant winds. Did I say wings? I suppose I did. My apologies, and no offense, I hope.

Right. Moving on. I was saying only that it can be quite dangerous to move around in such a manner when a good desert wind can tear you to shreds, but Fat Mac is not a cowardly man, is he? No he is not. So he drifts, very quickly, around and about The Midway. He might patrolling the edges of the property, but that seems unlikely -- he is a warrior, not a soldier -- also, he eventually moves beyond the Midway's property, which isn't nearly as safe as it sounds.

No, I would say he is searching.

And it would seem he's found something. See how he lingers in a particular place over the scrub and sere grass? There's a body lying there; a woman's. The skin has gone black; a sickening mix of juicy putrescence and bone-dry desiccation. The thing's teeth are gone and her mouth is distended and open, as thought she died screaming. She smells awful, which even (or especially) in his current state, he notices.

He stays there several seconds, and then moves again, returning to the Midway's property and circling a particular -- very particular -- lamppost.

The cloud makes a sound like someone sucking in their breath for a deep dive into cold water, and then it is Fat Mac standing there, arms crossed, looking back out over The Scrubland Beyond.

Adriana is dead.” His face is compressed into a frowning pout that only very large men can manage without looking ridiculous. His voice so low as to be almost unintelligible.

The lamppost does not respond, and Mac turns toward it. “Hide in there if you want, but there are only the two of us now. We can only stand three-in-power with ‘’three’’ of us, Hal.”

“I never liked working with the succubus, anyway.” The voice is small and tiny, like a child talking through a cup-and-string phone, and buzzes out of the light socket high above Fat Mac’s sweat-shiny head.

“Neither did I, but you take what you can get when you’re this far from the homelands.” Mac scowls back over his shoulder at the plains. “The only thing I don’t know is whether or not it was someone trying to weaken us, or just that stupid bitch getting something back from an enemy she made.”

“With everything going on?...”

“Yeah.” Mac’s eyes scanned the buildings. “I know. I'll see if there's anyone else.”

The big man walks past the lamppost and back to the diner, where...

Ahh, there he is again... back from his smoke break.

Hmm? Oh, no. This is all simply conjecture on my part. I’m sure I’m just making it up.

-- Doyce Testerman


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Page last modified on April 21, 2006, at 01:07 PM by DoyceTesterman

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