Kerin just sat there with the knapsack open, sat in one of 50 identical green chairs with chrome tubes for arms that filled a good third of the Division of Human Services office for that county.
Kerin didn’t know what county; he’d lost track months before, months that had passed 1ike a school of green humpback whales swimming sadly but playfully off the orange-gray rocks of a New England coast. When they broke the surface of the sea, their backs would form long rows of wide chrome tubing, glinting under the fluorescent sun of their own Division of Sea-Mammal Services, as they themselves were victims of so much.
Would they beach themselves? Would a cannon-harpoon suddenly find them as they playfully, carelessly slipped out of the territorial limit, like a child who wanders into the street after their toy ball?
And would they find their car?
That’s what Kerin was there for, after all. The police told him that these people could help him find the Plymouth Horizon held abandoned eight months before in the breakdown lane of US Route 1.
And so, he waited.
He waited without dreaming, even though he had been waiting for a long time.
A skinny woman with glasses kept staring at him from her desk with a particularly dirty look on her face. It was the same look she wore whenever she saw that a dog had once more gotten into her rubbish and scattered it all over her front yard. It was that sort of skinny-old-woman-mad-at-unbagged-garbage look.
Kerin pretended not to notice, but he didn’t dream either, which wasn’t like him. Usually he dreamed even when he was busy; dreaming had always been his natural predisposition.
Not anymore. The dream about the green humpback whales breaking the surface of the water with their silver chrome backs was mine. Kerin himself just sat there with his knapsack, not dreaming a single dream.
He was thinking, though. He was thinking about a lot of things. Those things were all jumbled together, but they were very colorful, and looked like they had just that second stopped moving.
What really bothered Kerin was how far away all those colorful, barely-arrested things seemed to him. When he tried to think, it was like gazing at a paper-thin Jackson Pollock canvas from behind.
But the painting did have a name.
It was called Arwen #1.
Whatever those bright, colorful, suddenly still and distant things were, together they had something to do with Arwen, and that gave them primacy in Kerin’s mind, even over dreaming, his first and greatest love.
They were together out there, Arwen and Nat.
All Kerin had to remember them by was Nat’s old knapsack. He had nothing of Arwen’s, at least he didn’t think so.
He wasn’t jealous, really. If he had been, the Jackson Pollock canvas in his mind would have turned around when he thought the word “jealous”; all the brightly colored things would have started moving again, and he would have immediately started dreaming.
Truth would have righted the whole picture.
But he wasn’t jealous. He knew that Nat barely recognized that Arwen or anybody else was there anymore, and wasn’t sure what Arwen really wanted, anyway.
Still they were together out there, and he was here, in the whale-watch lobby, waiting for his Horizon. Waiting to go home.
He hoped that Nat would be alright. He hoped that Arwen . . .
God, how had he ever gotten into this mess anyway!