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Bacchanalitinerant

She sleeps away the days in the bathtubs of guest suites and ghosts out in the late afternoon. Her head is thick with noise and late summer heat, but it’s there to be sifted out: the trail to the next party tastes like filthy gold.

Her eyes only really open in the dark, pulse quickening to match the beat. Annabelle has taken on a sacred role far older than herself, but then, beneath the smudged kohl it’s hard to tell her age anymore. They’ve been doing this a long time. Dancing, flushed, throat burning with laughter, she is an oblation unconsumed.

Annabelle

Fifteen months and, somewhere, Theo’s still logged on to iChat. At first it was creepy and Annabelle thought about calling tech support, or something, and asking them to disconnect him. She’s not even sure how that would work. Would she have to produce the death certificate? Can you prove an email address is dead?

But she takes comfort in it now. A little weird and, yeah, probably unhealthy. But she’s not his only buddy, and the others don’t talk about it either.

“you around?” she types, every couple weeks, and waits. Nothing yet. He doesn’t even have an away message up.

Jeremiah

Maddy stretches a recipe. Kent fiddles with his father’s old turntable while Destiny sells her aunt’s LPs.

H.G. talks to his cat a lot; Eola writes stories on paper airplanes. Adamkin collects playing cards from the gutter. Landrey does her homework in Sharpie and it bleeds through six looseleaf pages. Annabelle loans her a Bic #2.

Theo died, two years ago, of “complications.” Tally sits in his old desk.

What if there’s exactly one person in the world for you?

What if you’re not the one for them?

Jeremiah scuffs his soles in time to the beat of his iPod heart.

Maddy

Maddy likes her new camera, and she’s filling it up tonight. She gets Gene yawning monstrously, J.P. wearing a tiny coat, and Annabelle and Vey flipping it like Johnny Cash. She sneaks a shot up Ruth’s skirt; Ruth laughs, smacks her upside the head and kisses her. It’s a good night.

She’s heading for the porch when suddenly there’s Kent. He looks bored, but the corners of his eyes say he’s just held together: a landslide on a leash. It’s painful to see. Maddy feels herself sober up.

“Been a bad day,” he mutters.

Maddy nods slowly, then takes his picture.

Annabelle

The room has a pulse and Theo doesn’t. Speakers everywhere, but what’s really making things jump are the subs up front: matte black, ominous, omnidirectional. My grandmother, she thinks, would say it’s loud enough to wake…

Annabelle can’t not dance, too grieved to cry, too exhausted to be still. Arms above her head and she’s arched, suddenly, between a big bald man and a small girl with dreadlocks. They move together, sweat light red heat, kick drum thunder, and none of them has to think: this is the right kind of funeral. Fuck off, death, we’re slick on each other’s skin.

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