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refused. He tried again. Whose voice was that on the other end?
What did he say? El Dorado?He tried again. And again. He tried
calling Partment. Biddenbrooks? He hung up. He called his home
number. No answer. He called Martin’s and somebody answered
“Martian Hotline” and refused a collect call. He hung up.
Rip Van Winkle had an easier time of it. At least somepeople he
knew were still around when he woke up twenty years later.
Roy shuffled out of the airport and commenced to walk back
home along the beach, retracing the steps he had taken some weeks
before. It was a hot summer morning. People were already scattered
across the immense stretch of sand like chips on a giant cookie,
trying to turn browner, trying to move towards the middle, to
embrace the center of humanity.
His path was the opposite of the great river he had just left, a thin
desert corridor framed by the endless fertility of ocean and
civilization, a riverlike stretch of desert. He walked down the beach
as he rode down the Nile, half aware and dreaming. The sun was at
its apex and the sand was filled with exposed and sizzling flesh.
Sizzling flesh? He was hungry. But he had absolutely no money. The
fifty pounds of beans on his back could not be eaten and the ocean to
his left could not be imbibed.
Now as he dragged himself down the bike path he wished he
hadn’t spilled the water, wished he had taken a few bucks from
Webele. But no matter. He would get there.
After a few hours he finally arrived at the Promenade and
staggered down the alley towards Undergrounds. He was worried
about the telephone problem, but maybe someone had forgotten to
pay the bill or something. It didn’t matter. He was almost there. At
Things sure had changed while he was away! He sat nursing a eye
blackened by Bean Unbearable, sitting on the Promenade curb with
a crumpled copy of the new Undergrounds ownership papers in his
hand. Angry and determined, he stood up and marched down to
World O’Partments.
This is not really happening, he thought as he stormed away from
the Biddenbrooks’ Home for the Mentally Ill. There had to be
something left of the old world, some scraps. He still had the coffee.
He still had that. He could barely walk, exhausted and parched.
People stared at him uncomfortably as he staggered by them.
He came upon Gymnesia and looked up at the new sign and
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