Thinking. That was his problem.

He had to stop thinking. He'd tried thinking about other things, simple things, safe things. He just couldn't force his mind do it. He'd start out thinking about football (the way it was supposed to be played), or hiking old favorite trails, but soon his mind was on to Sarah and Heather and two weddings and his two married lives and his children already born and the one not born yet and the grandchildren he would never know now and good friends he had seen only the last week who had been dead for two centuries.

He put his hand over his mouth at the thought, whether to stifle the sobs or the vomit he wasn't sure anymore.

Had it all really happened? He wondered sometimes, though he searched his mind and knew it had. It had all happened. But then, half of it hadn't. And never would. Not now, anyway.

His thoughts led him to Irene Marshal. She used to run that little store over at Cortez. Sweet lady. Somehow always carried sugar even when the other stores were out. She charged handsomely for it, too, even when the other stores DID have sugar. He chuckled at the memory. But she wasn’t there anymore. Neither was the store. He had checked around a little and no one in Cortez remembered an Irene Marshal ever having lived there. No one remembered a store at that location, either. It had been the site of the water works offices for as long as anyone could remember.

So, where was Irene? Charlie Begay was still around, but what about Irene? And Frank? Or that Miller boy that used to deliver the papers? Were they all gone? Had they ever existed? If they were as gone as they seemed, what had happened to them? Had anything happened to them or had they just never been? If so, what happened to their dreams? Their prayers? Did they somehow know it was all his fault?

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