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He doesn’t know whose story it is that he’s got stuck inside him, just like he doesn’t know who was up there in the rocks that night among the cholla and mesquite. But he knows the smell of the music. It’s like creosote and dust, like the hot coals of a campfire and the scent of moonlight on an owl’s tail feathers.

All wrapped up in a story that he can’t tell.

But Yellow Dog’s always been one for getting past a problem. Setting a puzzle in front of him’s like putting a spark to paper. It just has to burn. So he’s got this story, and when he finds the words to tell it, he’ll know what the music means and who was playing it.

And maybe, for one moment, his heart will echo to the beat of another’s.

- 2. -

When I was a kid just getting out of college, I had a different idea of where I’d be in fifty years. I had an engineering degree from the university and there was lots of work up for grabs when I graduated. Back then they were building roads and track lines from one end of the county to the other, but somehow I never managed to connect with a job. Instead, I just drifted. The days grew into weeks, the weeks into months, time marching on until it got so I didn’t remember I had any credentials besides the handiwork I did to get by.

But getting out of college, I thought it’d be different. I thought I’d be doing okay by now: married, kids, house out on the edge of the desert with a pool and a view to die for. We’d be carrying a mortgage, but nothing we couldn’t handle. I’d be doing interesting work. Challenging work. I’d be happy to get home to the family, but I’d also look forward to heading out to the office five days a week, do a little work on site just to mix things up.

But it slipped through my fingers.

I’m not going to say poor me because it was my own damn fault. But I never saw it happen. I just lived day to day, week to week, wandering in the desert mostly, making ends meet to get by.

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