you could smell it you could smell the whiskey burning down the road and I wanted in because I was out and because I was out I could see I could see her in the picture. She was in the window a shadow an outline in the light cruel it seems in its remembrance in its very appearance for she was looking out on the man she loved while I looked in loving her loving someone else and he was there standing with back arched in the windowsill—the cat. And so I can hear him talk and what he said when she wasn’t there and what she said when he wasn’t there and what they said together when I could listen only imagining what I didn’t see what I didn’t hear and it’s like in that picture it still stands The Shady Rest stands the whiskey on the road the burning the smell that gas smell intoxicating to the nostrils outside on the outside where the road leads out the road in the sky the sky in the road going to some distant lake and she a part of it now she is the sky she is the road and somewhere sometime I will come to the point where the two meet but for now instead I’m left here standing in the remnants where the bomb exploded the black smoke rising to where she was and she was she was that now she was that smell… Dunby said the hideout would be empty. That Shelton’s men would clear it before the fuse was lit but after a series of explosions and the fire that ensued four bodies were found charred beyond recognition and one of them was a woman. And I looked I searched the blackened remains but I didn’t find the bones of a cat. Like the painting he was gone. As for the partnership what I wanted in on because of being out being out of that picture some man named Hancock took a photographer from Goreville Charlie sitting on a rocking chair atop an old Ford Roadster shotgun in his lap his men all around the car holding guns and she she and that cat an outline in the window that partnership ended a few days later Charlie even handing me the gun which at close range I couldn’t miss but I couldn’t do it and I watched from above the shoreline as the winds buffeted as the bodies sank and Charlie said Well at least you could keep the car if’n you can’t keep your woman and I said The child but Charlie wouldn’t hear none of that he had retribution to exact his eyes exacting in me what I had said that he could only imagine in what he didn’t see what he didn’t hear a dead woman a dead police officer and his wife well he knew that blood wouldn’t wash easily off my hands and he said something about the Time of the Preacher how a man can find truth by using his powers of observation his reason instead of following blindly what he’d been told how wisdom can be had and to focus that wisdom the world is figured out on your own he said it while I was holding the gun his eyes exacting staring intently not to where my gun was pointed but at what my eyes were looking at and I remember for a moment the sun came out from behind the clouds and the frozen lake became a thousand points of light and I could hear my own heart beating in between the slush and gurgle of the water slapping against the rocks and I wanted to say But I heard what she said when you were not there and like so many truths that go undiscovered unobserved if we only knew them if they knew us they could maybe help us figure out this world but I kept silent my fingers trembling and he took the gun his eyes never leaving me and in my own eyes tears now tears to the knowledge tears to that greatest pain the pain a man feels when he is awarded much insight but is powerless to do anything about it…

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