The Bee Gees sang about starting a joke, but the lyric made no impression on his mind. His fragile early morning contentment had been pierced by childish block letters from a fat, felt-tipped marker. Red ink. A square of paper torn from a brown grocery bag. A message of hate.

            He fingered the paper and read the words again, then a third time, one by one, as if reading them together he had somehow misunderstood their meaning. Most were unnecessary; one conveyed the meaning of all: death. Like the most feared tarot card or the pirates’ black spot, the scrap of paper in his hands had suddenly brought a breath of the grave into his private sanctuary.

            Shit. He’d been in a good mood until then.

            It had to be some kind of a joke. He shook his head to clear it, and looked up at the digital clock above the control board. 5:27 AM. The computer had one more song scheduled before he had to take over, and he still hadn’t finished mapping out his breaks. He looked down at the music log, where the top of the page read “Lee Garrett Show”, and flipped to the 7:00 hour. There were a couple of songs scheduled that had played on the CTBX “Five O’clock Flashback” Friday afternoon and he ought to mention that. The song logged at 7:26 was “One Of These Nights” by The Eagles—a thirty-four-second intro before the vocals, easily long enough to mention the Block Party contest coming up. He pencilled it in.

            Who would make a death threat for a joke? Damon Allen, the evening guy on Z104 slipped out for a toke in the back parking lot every now and then—maybe it was stoner humour. On the other hand, the security system had been down for more than a week, and the building was empty all night. They were on the ground floor. How hard could it be for a stranger to get into the place?

            Would some wacko go to the trouble of breaking into a radio station just to leave a death threat on the control board? Without stealing anything? The equipment wasn’t the kind of thing an average thief could sell on the street, but the control room had shelves of CDs stored along two walls. There didn’t look to be any missing. It didn’t make sense.

            Lee’s gaze wandered back to the brown scrap of paper on the desk beside him. He crumpled it into a ball and tossed it into the trash can.  He couldn’t think about it now. He had a show to do.

            “25 Or 6 To 4” by Chicago went into its last, long chord. A station ID fired, with a ballsy voice over a musical ‘stinger’: 620 CTBX “The Box”: Favourites of the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. George Harrison’s “What Is Life?” followed, and Lee tapped the screen of the music computer to kick it out of Auto Play. Then he cranked up the volume on his studio monitor and let the juicy riff settle his nerves.

            The Lee Garrett Morning Show was on the air.

            At three minutes to 6:00 David Berg pushed open the soundproof door, muttered a greeting and continued through into the news booth. Jerry ‘J.J.’ Jamieson was just behind him but stood against the wall to wait his turn to do Sports.

            “Rough night last night, man?” J.J. flashed brilliant white teeth against black skin. “I heard you stomp on two song vocals already and you only been on the air a half-hour.”

            Lee gave him an irritated look. “Just distracted. But if I’d known you were listening I’d

have stomped on three, just to show you who’s boss.” He stabbed a button on the control board and leaned into the talkback microphone that connected him to the news booth. “Midas Muffler for News, Tim Horton’s for Sports, and the Weather sponsor is Clambaker’s.”

            “You’ll be happy as a clam at Clambaker’s,” Berg muttered over the talkback.

            The news stinger came on. “Good Morning, I’m David Berg with CTBX News. At 6:00 it’s minus five degrees....” Lee cranked the monitor volume down.

            “They didn’t change their slogan, did they?” J.J. asked.

            “Hell, no. Dave’s just getting punchy, thinking about leaving this place for that new job in Windsor. Or maybe he got laid last night.”

            “Well you didn’t, I can tell that much.”

            “No need to rub it in.” Lee grinned. His gaze swept over the trash can and the ball of brown paper inside. His mind could no more leave it alone than a tongue could ignore a sore tooth. But he didn’t want J.J. to see it. He picked up a couple of old printouts from the counter and tossed them into the can. “Ratings will be in tomorrow. You nervous?”

            J.J. shrugged. “C’mon man, it’s like a crap shoot half the time, right? Isn’t that what you always say?”

            “Since when did you start paying attention to what I say? Besides, it’s all we’ve got.” Lee ran his fingers through his hair. “Arnott says the Favourite Hits format has run its course. Guess we’ll find out.”

            “Asshole wouldn’t know where his dick was if he hadn’t read it in a research study somewhere.”

            Lee laughed. It was good to know he wasn’t the only one who felt that way about their Program Director. And he liked J.J.’s straight talk. The kid had fallen for the same lies that drew everyone else into radio: the show-biz glamour, the big money, the easy hours. He’d wised up sooner than most.

            Lee had spent twenty years learning the truth: all the evenings and weekends away from home; the anorexic bank account, even before his divorce. And most of the time the people loved you. But sometimes they hated you.

            It was just before the 8:30 news that he remembered the joke.

            Was it Wednesday? No, Tuesday. There’d been a news story about gangs moving into the north from the Toronto area. The local cops had rounded up some members of a neo-Nazi gang called The Skins. Trashed the Jewish cemetery once. Lee had decided to get a laugh at their expense. What was it he’d said?

            “Three reasons Skins don’t make good friends: Number one: They keep swiping your bowling ball cover when their head gets cold. Number Two: They never buy you anything but vanilla ice cream. Number Three: They draw Hitler moustaches on all your Bono posters.”

            Juvenile stuff—some would think it was funny. Someone had thought it wasn’t. Someone with a red felt pen who couldn’t spell.

            As he lifted his head he realized the song had ended and Dave Berg was sitting on the other side of the double glass with a look like a thundercloud, waiting for the News stinger. Lee flicked the computer screen too quickly. A McDonald’s jingle came on instead.

            “Shit!” He stabbed the screen again to trigger the news intro, then slapped the volume fader on the board to kill the commercial. He spun around and glared at the trash can.

            Will Peters took over at 9:00.

            “Where’s Rob?” Lee asked. It was a couple of weeks too early for the regular mid-day announcer to be taking his Christmas vacation time.

            “Uh…Dan Arnott wants to have the mid-day show voice-tracked from now on,” Peters said, sidestepping the question. “I’m going to record the tracks today and see how it goes.”

            Lee shook his head and slumped back onto the desk. As far as he was concerned, voice tracks were bad for radio. When he’d started in the business he’d played songs from vinyl records, for God’s sake. The control room console still included a couple of box-like wooden mountings where turntables had once been installed. Now, nearly every sound that went out over the air—every song, every I.D., jingle, or commercial—was recorded on a massive array of computer hard-drives and played by software. The words of the announcers could be recorded, too, letting the system operate endlessly without ever running a ‘live’ break. In practice, morning shows were too complex and immediate to be automated that way, but more and more stations used pre-recorded voice-tracks for the rest of their broadcast day. It freed up announcers to perform other duties, or voice-track shows for affiliated radio stations in other cities. To Lee, it destroyed the real-time connection between performer and audience, the ‘live’ element that made radio special. He’d argued that one before, and lost. Radio was a business, and money was the bottom line.

            “So why isn’t Rob recording the voice tracks for his own show?” he asked. “Is he sick?”

            “I just do what Dan tells me to do.” Peters nervously brushed back a stray lock of sandy hair and straightened his glasses as he dropped into the chair. He pulled the heavy Electro-Vox microphone forward on its multi-jointed arm. Stalling—that was obvious. Whatever the reason he was filling in for Rob Weller, he wasn’t going to say. Lee would have to find out from Arnott himself.

            A couple of large Tim Horton’s with double cream were enough to get him through most mornings, but this time he wandered down the wide hall toward the lunch room, dredging change from his pocket for the coffee machine. Maybe it was pre-ratings jitters. Or maybe it was that damned threat. Why was it getting to him? He’d had hate mail before. Lots of crank calls—some loudmouth would spit insults and invective, then hang up before Lee could say anything. Or they’d rake him over the coals for his occasional sexual innuendo, quoting Bible verses at him. The ones who trashed him by e-mail didn’t seem to realize their addresses could be traced. He never bothered. His life had never been threatened before.

            An involuntary squeeze crumpled the paper cup and spilled hot coffee over his fingers. He swore and tossed the cup into the lunch room garbage pail, angry at the bite of the hot liquid and his own thoughts.

            He decided to check his voice mail on the phone in the announcers’ lounge. He didn’t have a desk—didn’t need one. There was a cupboard with his name on it, where he kept assorted papers and paraphernalia he rarely touched, but he did most of the preparation work for his show at home where there were fewer distractions.

            The first message was from a charity that wanted him to DJ a fundraising dance. He’d call them back later and offer to help some other way. Public appearances were part of the job but he wasn’t a disc jockey, and hated the term.

            As the second message began to play, the breath went out of him in a long sigh.

            Michaela. The woman he still thought of as his wife. Except the divorce court judge hadn’t seen it that way. Her memory could make his best days bad and his bad days worse.

            The message just said to call her back. What could she want? His payments were on time...the kids weren’t due to visit for weeks. At Christmas. He forced his fingers to the phone and punched her number at the dental clinic, but when he was shuffled to her voicemail he killed the connection without saying anything. He’d try again later. After he talked to Arnott.

            In the doorway of the Program Director’s office a tang of garlic and anchovies made Lee’s nose twitch. Caesar salad was Arnott’s favourite menu item from Clambaker’s, next door to the radio station. Which meant he’d probably worked through the dinner hour the night before. The aroma oozed from his pores for twenty-four hours afterward.

            The office was a cube of clutter. Where the walls of the announcers’ lounge were decorated with music posters, Arnott’s were adorned with mounted plaques and framed certificates above shelves full of binders. The top of his filing cabinet was home to a half-dozen coffee mugs that hadn’t made it back to the cafeteria.

            “Let me guess,” Lee said, leaning against the door frame. “You got some new research from Owens yesterday.”

            Arnott looked up, his mouth slightly open, and waved Lee to a chair. He acknowledged the guess with a nod.

            “As a matter of fact, I think you’ll find it interesting.” He tossed papers across the desk. “More or less what I’ve said before. A lot of twenty-five to thirty-four-year-olds are really getting into the music of the seventies and eighties. Not the disco shit—no matter what the TV commercials say. They don’t get off on The Turtles and Simon and Garfunkel either. Just the rock music.”

            “What about The Beatles?”

            “Sure. But the funkier stuff like “Come Together”, not “Eight Days A Week”. I’ve decided to weed out a lot of the pop music and heavy up on the Aerosmith and Foreigner.”

            “I thought company strategy was for The Wiz to go after the younger demos while we stick with the thirty-five to forty-nine-year-olds. Make our two stations the perfect advertising combo.”

            “Good theory.” The corners of Arnott’s mouth twitched. “Except you and I know that The Box’s best numbers are over forty-five. Even with CMOR pumping out their elevator music and gabfest down the street. If we’re going to take over from Z104 at thirty-five, then we’ve got to have the thirty-five-year-olds...lots of ’em. The advertisers go where the money is, and forty is getting to be just too damned old.”

            Lee looked at the floor. His fortieth birthday had hit like an express train a month earlier. He’d emceed a beauty pageant at the Greek Festival the night before, and the teen contestants had treated him like a creepy uncle. So his milestone day had been celebrated with a long, solitary drunk and a handful of Clint Eastwood movies.

            He felt like changing the subject. “Is Rob Weller sick today?”

            “We…uh, we let Rob go.”


            “We’ll be voice-tracking the mid-day show from now on. One guy can do that plus the Music Director’s job for both stations. Will Peters has a lot more experience with MusicMaster software.”

            “He’s also young and cheap,” Lee said quietly.

            Arnott sighed and spun his chair away. “Welcome to the real world.”

            The words were a dismissal. Lee walked away, feeling he should have said something. He and Rob Weller hadn’t been close friends, but the man had a wife and a year-old baby. He was good at the job, but not exceptional, so if he found any radio work it would almost certainly be in another city. His wife was a hometown girl. Somebody’s heart would be broken. Or maybe Weller would be smart enough to get out of radio and find a real job.

            Lee headed toward the production studio by way of the reception area. His mail slot near the front desk rarely held anything but memos. Management was addicted to those. Hard copies, as if no-one trusted e-mail. Lee picked up a handful of papers and began to cross the lobby. Two women were standing with their backs to him, looking over the life-sized Lee Garrett cardboard cut-out that stood near one wall. The picture was a couple of years old and the suit made him look like a used car salesman, but it was still a good likeness. The women were probably fans. He drifted over, drawn like a bee to nectar.

            “Is there anything I can help you with?” he asked.

            The women turned around, startled. The taller of the two, in her late thirties, said, “We’re here to pick up a prize my friend won on the radio.”

            “On Z104,” the second one added. Neither showed any sign of recognition, even with the cardboard version of him only inches from their fur-draped fannies.

            “Sure. Karen can get that for you. Here she is now.”

            The receptionist switched on a smile as she returned to her chair. Lee switched his off, escaping toward the door in the far wall. He should have known the women were Wiz fans from their garish coats and accessories. CTBX fans, his fans, were salt-of-the-earth types, with better taste.

            In Prod Studio #1 a crown of white hair was bent over a pile of scripts.

            “You’re late.” The words were followed by the squeak of a felt-tipped marker pen on a Production Request Form. Black ink, not red, Lee noticed. Mel Smythe was the manager of the CTBX/Z104 Production department, and its only full-time employee.

            “What are you giving me a hard time for?” Lee countered. “You haven’t even picked all the music, yet.”

            Smythe’s white head slowly lifted, overhead track lighting glinting off thick glasses.

            “You just worry about your job, Son, and I’ll worry about mine.”

            The face didn’t crack a smile, but Lee gave a loud laugh. Their banter sometimes fooled people into thinking the two men didn’t like each other, but that was far from the truth. More than just affection, there was respect. Smythe knew exactly how to get the sound he wanted from his equipment, and accomplished feats that would’ve been tough with an extra pair of hands. Lee didn’t have the best voice in the business, but he could use it like a fine instrument. Both men made their jobs look easy. And they both recognized the kind of skill it took to do that.

            “Mel, you ever hear of The Skins?”

            “If you’re talking about the kind of books and magazines you like, you should keep it to yourself.”

            Lee laughed again and went through a soundproof door to sit in the adjoining voice booth.

            Smythe grinned at last, and punched the talkback button. “You serious?”

            “Yeah. I got a love note from one of them over a joke I made last week. Seems they weren’t amused.”

            “There was an article about ’em in the paper the other day. A gang moving in from Toronto, right? Sound like violent bastards. What’d you want to piss them off for?”

            “I didn’t think about it. Who’d figure a bunch of neo-Nazi punks from Toronto would be listening to The Box?”

            “Maybe one of them was visiting his mother. Think punks like that only grow in Toronto? They’re all over. Nobody’s got a monopoly on being a goddamned bigoted prick, you know. It’s universal.”

            “As you can testify firsthand.” Lee laughed while Smythe acknowledged the scored point with a finger stroke in the air. “But I haven’t noticed any bald-headed punks around town. A swastika painted on a chrome dome would kind of stand out.”

            Smythe waggled his head from side to side. “Nah, that stuff’s just for show, when a few of ’em get cocky and want to grab some media attention. Most of the time you can’t tell a Nazi from anybody else.”

            It wasn’t what Lee wanted to hear. Could one of the staff be mixed up with these assholes? That was an ugly thought.

            Smythe gave a shrug, but there was concern on his face. “Maybe if you leave it alone, they’ll forget about you. Maybe.” Then he rasped, “Now can we get some friggin’ work done? If you stars keep holdin’ me up I’m gonna be sleepin’ here tonight.”

            Afterward Lee went to see Maddy Ellis. There was a chance that somebody had broken into the building to leave the note, and if the Station Manager learned about that secondhand there’d be hell to pay.

            She was on the phone but motioned him into the office. She was always on the phone. Her hairstyle had begun to form a permanent curve where it was pushed back by the handset. While she finished the call, Lee mentally compared her to the Maddy Ellis who’d come across as a dragon lady at his job interview, and then the Maddy of a couple of years later, after a fundraising dinner, when they’d both had too much to drink. She was still attractive, with a reddish tint to her short, permed hair, and clear blue eyes that made her look younger than she was. Well-chosen suits disguised the few extra pounds she’d gained.

            What would she see looking at him through the same lens of memory? Six-feet tall in the right pair of shoes, he had a couple of love handles that loose shirts usually hid, but no paunch yet. Eyebrows and nose too prominent for Hollywood, but strong cheekbones and full lips. He got his share of second looks from women. Or used to. Maybe he gave off the aura of the badly divorced these days: a patina of defeat. Did Ellis see that too?

            She dropped the phone into its cradle and blew air through pursed lips. “Roger Simpson threatening to pull his account. For the fourth time this month. He approves the scripts, we produce them, and once they’re on the air he says it’s absolutely not what he asked for.” She shrugged. “What’s up, Lee? Michaela want me to give you a raise?”

            He gave a pained smile. “Only if her hairdresser has raised the rates. Nah, Maddy, this is a weird one.” He explained about the note.

             “Have you mentioned it to anybody else?”

            “Just Mel Smythe.”

            “So you haven’t asked any of the other guys if it’s just a sick joke? I wouldn’t put it past Mr. Rhodes.”

            “Doug wouldn’t do that.” Lee shook his head. “I don’t think he would. I’ll ask around. I just thought I should tell you because maybe somebody broke into the building to put it there. The security system...”

            “I know. We’re waiting for a goddamned part.” She frowned. “Ask the announcers and if none of them confesses, we’ll decide what to do next. If it was somebody in the building, they’ll mention it sooner or later. A practical joke isn’t any fun if you don’t know whether it worked or not.”

            Lee began to leave, then turned back. “Tell me it wasn’t your idea to dump Rob Weller.”

            “You know me better than that. Are you asking if Corporate gave me a choice? Yeah, the same choice they always give: keep my job or find something else to occupy my time.”

            There was a warble from her desk. She gave him a look of regret and reached for the phone.

            Lee’s mobile phone account had been cancelled at the beginning of the month after two many missed payments, but he found he liked it that way. It meant he wasn’t accessible every minute of the day. If he needed a cell phone for a radio event the station supplied one. Michaela occasionally nagged him about getting one again, but that only made him more determined not to.

            He went to the announcers’ lounge and tried calling her cell with no luck—she almost never remembered to turn it on and never checked its voice mail. Then he called her dental clinic again and left a message so she’d know he wasn’t ignoring her.

            In the dull December light of the back parking lot his fifteen-year-old Volvo was the closest car to the door, one of the few advantages of arriving at 4:30 in the morning. He’d bought it new, in the days before alimony and child support. On the car radio Jethro Tull sang about the allure of living in the past.

            The smell of damp rubber would survive any renovations he could afford to make to his basement apartment. It was the ghost of carpets past, as much a part of the building as the two-prong electrical outlets, and the crack-and-stain images in the ceiling plaster.

            Lunch was a can of soup that boiled over and added to the crust on his microwave tray. After another attempt to reach Michaela he turned the phone’s ringer off and lay down to sleep. Even a daily nap couldn’t make up for a 4:00 am awakening. Morning announcers were the chronically sleep-deprived, their mental functions as badly impaired as a drunkard’s. Yet the success of multi-million-dollar media properties depended on these groggy misfits. The madness of it always brought a smile to his face.

            The smile faded as he thought about Michaela.

            His world had changed so much since they’d met, during his first radio gig at a small dawn-to-midnight operation in Tillsonburg, Ontario. Tobacco country. He hosted the evening show until 8:30 and then played taped religious programs that were an important source of the station’s income. That year, when the annual Tillsonburg Fair came around, Lee did his show from the fairgrounds Thursday and Friday evening, and Saturday and Sunday afternoon. It was a blast. Kids who hung around the booth thought he was a star. Even the old-timers treated him with respect. And the girls—he appreciated the view of long, tanned legs they thoughtfully provided. Some passed by again and again, usually in groups of three or four, trying not to let him catch them looking. It made him smile, but it also stirred a hunger.

            The first night, as he was packing up the equipment, he saw a small group of girls beside the refreshment stand to his right. Only one of them had a cup in her hand. The other three had been eyeing him all night, but Michaela looked bored. He shuffled over to buy a drink, fumbling for change and a clever line. But as his eyes met hers he lost the words. He forced a smile and returned to his equipment. One of the other girls got up the courage to say, “Are you coming back tomorrow? On the air?”

            “I’ll be here.”

            Another piped up, “Good!” And three girls giggled. Not Michaela. She was looking toward the midway as if to disassociate herself from the rest.

            He had to get back to the radio station to finish his shift that night, but on Friday a summer student handled the control room duties to let Lee stay at the fair and set up interviews for his weekend shows. He got that done early, hoping to have something better to do in the warm hours of darkness.

            Michaela didn’t appear. Her three friends waved shyly as they walked past a few times, but he wasn’t interested in them. Trying to deny his disappointment, he decided to wander around a few of the displays and then go home to an empty boarding room.

            He found her at a booth run by some local churchwomen, showing a crocheted tablecloth to a customer. She looked wryly at the appliquéd tea cozy in his hand.

            “Drink a lot of tea at the radio station?” Their eyes met, and they laughed.

            She was staying for a few days with a friend who had a farm in the Tillsonburg area. Lee couldn’t remember her friend’s name, but he could never forget hers: Michaela. So unusual, before it was popularized by a ’90’s T.V. show. A name that spoke of flowers ruffled by a summer wind in a century gone by. It suited her.

            The rest of the weekend was a succession of fleeting smiles, the accidental electric touch of bare arms, a furtive goodnight kiss that almost didn’t happen then turned into a hungry embrace in the sheltering darkness of the farm driveway. They were inseparable on Sunday and he was invited to dinner.

            Evening shadows had just begun to lengthen as he and Michaela stole away for a walk across the fields, hand-in-hand. Sunset was created for hair like hers: auburn, with strands of flame and highlights of gold that floated above her blue eyes. The sun-warmed bales of hay gave the air a sharp, earthy scent. He pulled her down behind one of them and kissed her hard, then lingeringly.

            Below cut-off denims, the skin of her legs was tanned ruddy gold. Her blue and white gingham blouse had started life as an elasticized tube top, but some less daring soul had added a pair of thin security straps which kept slipping toward her shoulders, exposing lines of un-tanned skin, bordered by a light sunburn. Lee brushed the straps farther to the side, kissed the smooth skin of her shoulders and inhaled the tang of her hair and neck. Almost without thinking, he began to roll the tube top downward. The world stood still.

            Her breasts were damp with perspiration, dimpled with gooseflesh, and when she shivered in spite of the warm breeze, he realized that it was the first time she’d allowed herself to be seen in that way. He felt privileged.

            She waited for him to say something, but the words felt thick and dull in his mouth. Instead he laid his head gently against her breasts, listening to the fevered beating of her heart while she brushed her fingers through his hair. After a time, he stripped off his T-shirt and pressed against her warm flesh, finding her lips. They kissed as if to swallow each other’s souls.

            Finally she breathed, “Let’s not go any farther, right now.” He didn’t mind at all. He wanted to make it last. He even thought about forever.

            Twenty years later, forever had come and gone. But he fell asleep remembering sunset hair and satin skin.

            The warm glow of the memory was gone when he awoke, replaced by evil words. Red words. Red as blood. The light on his answering machine flashed, but he was afraid. What if it unleashed words like that into his home, his sanctuary?

            No. His number was unlisted, always had been. He looked at the caller ID.


            He flopped back on the couch. No need to listen to the message—he could already hear the accusatory tone in his head.

Had he really failed her so badly as a husband?

            The answer to that question was always the same: Yes. And No. He’d never meant to hurt her. Neglect was the husbands’ crime he hadn’t recognized in himself. His morning show took his heart and soul, energy and intellect; it stole his evenings and weekends. Yet he’d willingly let it swallow him, shutting his eyes to what it robbed from the ones he loved. He spent so many nights working at public events of every kind, there was nothing left of him for private pleasure. He stopped taking Michaela to movies or restaurants or theatre shows. Somehow he never saw that the walls he built to keep the world out were also locking her in.

            Then the fights started—silly quarrels about decorating schemes and missed parties. She sneered that his radio job was like a life-long adolescence, never growing up. As if nine-to-five drudgery in an approved suit was the standard of success.

            He often wondered when the point-of-no-return had been, and whether it would have made a difference if he’d seen it coming. The divorce was a wrenching dismemberment. He’d never accept that it was the only solution to their problems.

            He should return her call, but his groggy brain rebelled. Instead he worked up a sweat on his exercise bike, feasted on reheated Hamburger Helper, and spent the evening doing show prep on the computer. When he finally looked up it was ten-thirty. He stood to get ready for bed, then dropped back onto the cushion with a muttered curse, and reached out his hand.

            The phone at the other end rang three times...four...then picked up with a sharp click and a pause long enough for him to remember she’d never had an answering machine.

            It was a man’s voice.

            “...Michaela and I can’t take your call, right now....”

            Michaela and I.

            He didn’t hear the rest of the message, dropping the phone like a hot poker.

            Sure, they’d been divorced for a year...separated before that, but…

Michaela and I?

            A moan escaped from his throat. He drew up his knees and dropped his head onto them, ashamed to feel his eyes burn.

            A moment or an hour later, he reached for a pen and a pad of paper, and scribbled the words: Michaela and I. He underlined them once...twice. Then beneath them he wrote the other words that had defiled his world that day, robbed of some of their power now.




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