Jo dreamed that she and her son were standing on a bluff above Los Angeles. The city was on fire. He reached up for Jo’s hand and together they silently watched as the city was engulfed by flames. He looked up to her and smiled. He inhaled deeply, without trouble. He was cured.
“It’s beautiful,” he said. “Thank you.”
His long dark hair fell across his face and he flipped it to the side with a jerk of his head. Jo ran her fingers through it, and as she did it began to come off in her hand. Seeing this, Alex giggled, and pulled out a fistful himself.
“Don’t do that,” Jo said.
“It’s just hair, mommy.”
Che Guevara, on horseback behind them, agreed. “There will be less to burn,” he said.
They turned from the yellow spasm of light and Jo helped her son up onto her horse. Then the three of them set off to the east, riding toward the dark, dry expanse of the Mojave Desert.
When Jo regained consciousness, her head was full of icicles and Rockette was licking her face. She brought her fingers to the source of her pain, and discovered swelling but no blood, then pulled herself to a sitting position and noticed Rockette still wasn’t untied. Her tail wagged as Jo tried again to loose her knots. Clearly Micah had learned of her deception, of her failure to tell him about Jack’s change of plans. Perhaps even Jack himself had told him. Her mind raced for a way to explain, a lie. For the moment, she settled on the fuzzy, stand-by excuse of “simple misunderstanding,” and kept at the knots until they broke. Freed, Rockette bounded out of the building.
Jo tried to make peace with the notion that she’d failed. Head pounding, it was easy to confuse the nausea she felt for a mistake in judgment, but she tried to comfort herself with the idea that if she’d betrayed Micah, that only meant she hadn’t betrayed herself. Of course, she’d probably just betrayed them both. Her son would be no worse off than he was, would he? She staggered outside in time to see Rockette disappearing down the path to Jack’s. Wind was now fairly punishing the entire area, enormous kicked-up clouds of dust rising a hundred feet in the air, and she wondered at the fact that, at that very moment, Che could be sprouting up from the soil like a weed.
But she no longer had any part in it.
She ambled back down the path after Rockette, holding her shawl over her mouth and nose, and when she arrived at the small house, went inside. She poured herself a glass of water from the pitcher Jack had used just two days before, and thought of that tense exchange, Jack’s joke about the Dos Passos, her comment about his politics. The man had been fiercely opposed to the injustices of his day—of all days—the vast gulf separating rich from poor. But he’d wound up campaigning for Nixon soon before his death. How had this happened? What had he been trying to protect?
She finished her water and looked down at the small assembly of toys Jack had left out. He’d no doubt found them long ago, and had brought them out to pass along to his son. The boy, Ben, was too old for them now, of course, making it an act of pure sentiment. Feeling a sharp rise of anger, Jo reached out and took one, a small, rough wooden car. She was the one who’d saved these from destruction. She wasn’t going to let them be passed along as though according to some long-held plan, some promise. Besides, it was something Alex might like, she thought. He wasn’t too old. Not yet.
Jo was rocking the toy on its uneven axels when she heard what sounded like a gunshot. Her head jerked back, surprised, and icicles bore into her brain, nearly blinding her. She pushed her way outside where, to her surprise, she found the wind had entirely vanished. Dust still hung in the air, but was already beginning to settle. She moved quickly up the path, fighting her pain. She could feel her wrap catch on needles as she passed, and the warm flush of them sticking in her skin.
When she came to the head of the path she saw that a crowd had gathered at the north side of the Run, and that in addition to the revelers, the parking lot was flooded with Tohono and Navaho from across the road, some stiff in their traditional garb. People were still moving slowly, packing themselves together by the field, and the crowd resembled nothing so much as water moving around river stones. Native and non-native alike watched solemnly. Something had gone horribly wrong.