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The Standby Stephen King
***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***
Copyright © 2014 Penguin Group (USA) LLC
DAPHNE’S mother clutched her husband’s hand, which was blue and waxy under the hospital lights. Tears ran down her cheeks, carving sooty mascara canals in skin as dingy and haggard as the cracked linoleum and seasick-green walls in the intensive care unit.
“Are you proud of yourself?” Her hair stood out in frizzy, white-streaked lightning rods from her head, as if electrified by the dark mania in her eyes. “You killed him.”
Daphne didn’t answer. She just stared at the slack line on the life-support machine, listened to the empty space that had been filled with her stepfather’s raspy, uneven breathing just moments before.
It was over. He was gone. There would be no more sleepless nights spent smothered by the close, dark air of her tiny room in their dingy Detroit apartment, bracing herself with every footstep behind the door. He would never come to her bed again, demanding something she wasn’t willing to give. She was safe—and no matter what her mother said, the world was a better place without guys like Jim in it.
A sob ripped through Myra’s body. She had been pretty once, back when Daphne was little and her real father was still alive. But years of bickering with Jim, working extra jobs to supplement his meager unemployment income, and glaring at Daphne had left deep lines in her face and turned her hair dull and gray. It was hard to see any remnants at all of the woman who had once seemed made of laughter and sunshine.
“Mom . . .” Daphne struggled to find the right words as Myra collapsed on Jim’s chest.
“Come back!” she wept into his neck. Her back quaked, shoulder blades cutting sharp wings in the cheap polyester of her dress.
Action had always been easier for Daphne than words. She took her mother by the arms and gently pulled her off the bed, hoping her touch would be comforting. But it had the opposite effect.
“You beast!” Myra screamed, clawing at her with ragged fingernails. Daphne felt her cheek tear open and the sting of suddenly exposed blood before she was able to grasp her mother’s hands, holding them tightly in the air between them.
“You’re a murderer!” Myra shrieked. “You know it and I know it and the Lord knows it.”
The accusation seemed to tire her. She sank into an orange plastic chair and resumed her high-pitched wailing.
The words stung more than the cut on her cheek, but Daphne kept her face placid, a mask. She’d learned long ago it was easier that way. “Mom, I don’t know why you can’t believe me. The cops, the lawyers . . . they all did. It was in self-defense.”
Myra rocked back and forth, tears leaking from her eyes. “It’s a pack of lies.”
They’d been over the argument so many times it felt like a well-worn path through a thorny wood, a path that went in circles and never came out into the sun. But Daphne tried again anyway. Because some part of her didn’t want to give up hope that her mom would someday believe her.
“They found his fingerprints on the knife handle. He was going to use it on me.”
A cloud passed over Myra’s face. She looked up at her daughter almost trustingly, as if Daphne were the parent and she the child. Her brittle lips opened in an empty O, and the frigid rage Daphne had carried in her chest since That Night—and practically since Jim had come into their lives—threatened to melt as her mother’s eyes searched hers. Maybe this time the path would come out on the other side, into the sunlit warmth she remembered from her childhood.
But the O flattened out to a hard, mean line, and the bitter glare returned to Myra’s eyes.
“Why should I trust you?” she spat. “Making up those lies about Jim, weaving your nasty little spells on him, trying to come between us. And now you have. Forever. Are you happy now?”
Daphne looked at Jim’s cold face, his eyes staring out into a new world that only he could see. She looked at her mother, shivering like a Chihuahua in the sickly hospital lighting. Finally, her eyes met her own reflection in the glass partition between Jim’s room and the hallway. Long dark hair struggled to escape her ponytail, falling in messy strands around the sharp lines of her face: cheekbones two angry slashes, chin set in perpetual defiance. Fury simmered in her amber eyes. She’d hoped that maybe, just maybe, the rage would abate with Jim’s death, but it was stronger than ever. Even as a corpse, he had her mother on his side.
“No,” she said simply. “Of course I’m not happy.”
“You never were,” her mother sighed. She took a deep, ragged breath. “I wish you’d just leave. When I look at you, all I see is a killer.”
A glacier of hurt expanded in Daphne’s chest. “I am leaving,” she said.
“Good,” Myra said absentmindedly. Her hand sought Jim’s again, fluttering over his blue-tinted fingernails.
“I’m going to stay at Uncle Floyd’s place in Wyoming for a while,” Daphne said. “To give you time to grieve.”
“Wait—you’re what?” Myra’s head snapped up.
She knew better than to tell her mother the real reason: that lately she’d felt a pull as strong as gravity toward her father’s side of the family in Carbon County. It woke her in the middle of the night with an ache in her stomach that felt stronger than longing— almost like homesickness. It was more than just the desire to escape: Something in her body was drawing her there and telling her she had to go as soon as possible.
She couldn’t explain why. She hadn’t been to Wyoming since she was a child, and even though she remembered liking her aunt Karen’s lasagna and her cousin Janie’s antics, the way the sky rolled endlessly over the mountains and how Uncle Floyd knew the name of every animal, plant, and tree, she hadn’t thought about it much since. Not until that night with Jim and the knife, when it had lodged in her mind like a tumor. It had been growing ever since.
Her mother blew her nose loudly into a hospital tissue, then balled it up and threw it on the floor. “So you’re just abandoning me? Now, when I’m all alone with nobody else in the whole wide world?”
“You just said you can’t bear the sight of me.” Daphne tried not to sound exasperated. “That every time you look at me, all you see is a killer.”
“How dare you talk back to me, missy!” Myra hissed. “If you want to go, then go. But don’t expect me to take you in when you come crawling back.”
“Okay.” It wasn’t the first threat her mother had made. Ever since Jim came along, Daphne’s place in their home had felt precarious, with her mom constantly hinting at throwing her out, and complaining about the expense of having an extra mouth to feed. It had gnawed at Daphne until she’d gotten her first job at the 7-Eleven when she was fourteen, lying about her age on the application to work extra hours. She’d started contributing to household expenses, but at the same time she’d kept a secret bank account: her “just-in-case” money for the inevitable day when Myra’s threats became reality.
Now that day was here. It was time to go.
She knelt by her mother’s chair and wrapped her arms around her tiny frame. “Take care of yourself, Mom,” she said. “You’ll be all right.”
She wanted to say more—that in spite of everything she still loved her, that somewhere she believed Myra still loved her back— but the words wouldn’t come. She hugged her mom tighter, trying to find the old scent of sunshine under the antiseptic smells of the hospital’s industrial-grade cleaner and her mom’s cheap shampoo.
Myra’s arms stayed tight by her sides, her shoulders sharp as glass. Daphne could feel the rage trembling inside her mother’s body, the hatred that Jim had wedged between them with the hungry way he’d eyed her growing body and reached for her in the cramped kitchen. It had always been there, but it was stronger now.
She stood and turned toward the door.
“Don’t you dare come back!” her mother shouted. “I never want to see your face again!”
The words echoed down the bustling hallway of the hospital where Myra had spent the last few weeks at Jim’s bedside, wondering how she could afford to keep him on life support. Daphne had stopped by nearly every day, bringing snacks from the 7-Eleven that her mother never touched, checking in with the doctors about Jim’s progress, but it was obvious to everyone but Myra that he would never be more than a vegetable. Finally the money ran out, and her mother decided to pull the plug.
Daphne knew she wouldn’t be back. She had a long journey ahead of her, but by the time she reached Carbon County, Wyoming, her mother’s accusations and threats would be as firmly behind her as Jim’s last breath. All she wanted was to put the last nine years behind her, to pretend that their relationship had ended when she was still a child with a mother who loved her. The moment she stepped onto that Greyhound, it would be over. She’d learn to remember her mom fondly from a distance, to touch her only through postcards and the occasional check when she could find work. Jim’s wandering hands and eyes, her mother’s cold denial of the truth, and the final, fateful night when it had all come crumbling down would disappear in the vast string of states between them.
By the time Uncle Floyd picked her up at the bus station, the trial would be nothing more than a smudgy square in an old issue of the Detroit Free Press.
JANIE arched her back as best she could and purred into Doug’s ear. Whoever said you didn’t want it when you were pregnant was full of it. It actually made her want him more: These days, just a whiff of his Abercrombie & Fitch aftershave (which, when she was being completely honest with herself, he maybe usually wore a little too much of) was enough to get her ready to create a whole new Miracle of Life.
“Ungh,” Doug grunted, quickly undoing his belt. He tried to wedge an arm under her back to unhook her bra, but between the frilly pillows, back issues of Seventeen magazine, and religious pamphlets from the Carbon County First Church of God strewn all over her bed, there was no room. “Sit up so I can get this.”
“Okay, babe!” Janie agreed. She struggled to get her shoulders off the mattress, but the weight in her belly flattened her right back down again.
“C’mon!” Doug urged, kicking off his boxers. He looked so funny with just his T-shirt on, no bottoms, that she couldn’t help giggling.
“You gotta help me up.” She giggled harder. Bella, her Pomeranian, jumped up on the bed and, thinking it was playtime, joined in with a series of high-pitched yips.
“Not now!” Doug snapped, sweeping Bella off the bed and into a pile of clean laundry that Janie kept meaning to fold and put away.
“Aw, don’t be mean!” Janie said as Bella started to whine. The dog was tiny, and her bed was way up high—her dad had put it up on risers to make room for the plastic bins underneath stuffed with her clothes, shoes, and accessories. It made her room look bigger when it was clean, but to be honest that wasn’t all that often. Between the usual mess on the floor and the ripped-out magazine pages of her favorite bands and actresses taped to the wall, her room looked busy, cozy, and fun—three words that Janie would also use to describe herself.
“Just help me up and undo my bra and then take off my pants and panties and we can totally do it. I really want to,” she added, trying for a sexy pout.
But Doug had already lost interest. “Forget it,” he sighed, rummaging on the floor for his boxers and jeans. “It’s too much work with that gut of yours.”
“This gut of mine?” Janie turned on her side and gingerly pushed herself up to sitting. “This just happens to be our son. I will not have you disrespecting him before he’s even out of the womb!”
Doug looked like he was gearing up for an argument—she could almost see the words tumbling around under his close-cropped brown hair. He was a meaty guy, with big shoulders and arms and, between her and God, kind of a big head, too, and he tended to wear his thoughts on his face. She could see in the way his thick brown eyebrows settled back into his forehead that he’d decided to skip the fight . . . which was good, because she didn’t think she could handle yet another one that day. If they were going to be parents together, they needed to stop getting into it so much!
“Okay, sorry, babe,” he said instead, lying down next to her and marveling at her boobs. “Man, those are big.”
“I know, right?” She’d always been busty, but now she was filling a DD cup.
“So your cousin’s gonna come stay here, huh?”
“Yup! Cousin Daphne. I haven’t seen her since we were little kids, but we used to have the best time playing together. I was always the princess and she was my lady-in-waiting, and we’d put on, like, these nasty old lace curtains my mom had and parade around, and then she’d talk Dad into driving us into town to get ice cream. I think he always had a soft spot for her, which I guess is why we’re taking her in now that her stepdad’s dead and her mom’s, like, practically a vegetable over it. Poor thing, the Lord hasn’t always shone his blessings down on her like He has with me. He took her father when she was still just a kid, and now this. But we’ll put her right again, or at least we’ll do our best. That’s what family’s for, right?”
“I guess.” Doug shrugged. “Where’s she even gonna sleep in this dump?”
“Can you please not call it that?” Janie knew her home wasn’t as nice as Doug’s house in town, with its fluffy wall-to-wall carpeting and shelves of ceramic frogs that his mom dusted, like, every other minute, but it wasn’t a dump. “The couch in the living room folds out, and she can keep her stuff here in my room.”
Janie rolled her eyes. “Pastor Ted says that if we can make room in our hearts, we can make room in our homes. So that’s what we’re doing—darn it, Bella, stop that barking already!”
The little dog had begun yipping, really stirring up a racket. “Bella, just c’mere, it’s gonna be fine.”
She reached over to take her into her arms, but midway down she froze. A pair of beady black eyes stared back at her as the biggest snake she’d ever seen taunted her with a forked and darting tongue.
The serpent was enormous: as wide as Bella and who knew how long, the thick muscle of its body flexing under a sheen of scales that glistened in an ominous black-and-red pattern, like the spades on a playing card. It flicked its tongue at her almost seductively from inside a head as red and lustrous as fresh blood.
She opened her mouth, but even the scream wouldn’t come right away—not until the viper brought itself up tall and hissed, flexing the scales on its neck. Then she let loose a shriek so loud that even the ceramic Jesus on her bedside lamp looked like he wanted to take cover.
“What the—?” Doug jerked back on the bed.
“Doug, get it!” she shrieked. “Kill it, quick; it’s going to eat Bella!” “Aw, I don’t know.” Doug’s face had gone pale under his stubble.
“That thing’s seriously big.”
Bella whimpered from the corner. Fear had puffed the poor, sweet dog up to twice her size, so her brown eyes and button nose were nearly invisible under her trembling fur.
“Doug, please!” Janie started to cry. “He’s going to eat Bella and bite me and maybe hurt our baby! You have to do something—now!”
The snake swayed back and forth, beady eyes darting from Janie to Bella and back again, as if trying to decide which of them to attack first. It filled Janie with a cold dread that ran deeper than fear, as if the devil himself had sent a dark and bloodthirsty messenger to her room. Its head was at least two feet off the floor, and there was who-all-knew how much of it still coiled under the pile of laundry.
Doug steeled himself the way he did before a big motocross race, shaking his head and throwing back his shoulders.
“Fine.” He grabbed one of his Nike high-tops and shoved a foot inside, not bothering to tie the laces. He quivered with adrenaline, his burly arms puckered with goose bumps even as sweat ran down his forehead. Janie shrank back on the bed, and a snarl started deep and low in Doug’s chest. It burst from his throat with a loud roar as he leapt onto the snake, bringing a heavy sneaker down behind its head and crushing its neck onto the floor.
The snake hissed hideously, lashing its tail from side to side like a fresh-caught fish flopping on the pier at Hatchet Lake. Pink maternity tops and balled-up socks and long-forgotten homework assignments scattered.
“Die, damn it, die!” Doug screamed, stomping on the snake again and again. Its tail flailed, jerking back and forth in a spray of glittering scales. As Doug brought his foot down one last time, the jerking stopped and the snake stiffened. For a second, it looked like it was levitating off the ground, all of its coiled muscular energy propelling itself into one final moment of life. And then it lay still.
“Gross-ass snake,” Doug spat, shaking his foot. The viper lay half-flattened, glistening muscle and guts spilling from its neck.
“My goodness, what happened in here?” Janie’s parents looked blurry in the doorway, and she realized there were still tears in her eyes. Now that the shock was over, she could let them fall freely.
“Oh, Mom, it was awful!” she sobbed. Bella leapt onto her lap and began licking her tears, and Janie held the dog tight, weeping into her soft fur. “This snake just popped out of nowhere, and Bella started barking, and I was so scared it was going to get the baby!”
“Whatever, it was no biggie.” Doug had fully regained his composure. “I took care of it.”
Janie’s dad, Floyd Peyton, knelt to examine the carcass. His eyes weren’t so good after forty years sorting nuts and washers at the hardware store, but he’d never gone to get a prescription—too much money—and only wore cheap reading glasses from the local pharmacy.
“My Lord.” He leaned in for an even closer look. “Don’t go placing money on it, but this looks to me like a Djinn viper. I thought they were extinct around here—the last one I ever heard of was when my father was a boy.”
“A what viper?” Doug asked.
“Djinn. D-J-I-N-N. It’s related to the western rattlesnake, which I’ve sure seen plenty of in my time. But never this.”
He reached down and ran a finger over the snake’s lifeless tail. “See these black markings—almost like spades. That’s how it got its name. ‘Djinn’ means ‘devil.’”
Even in the warm trailer, Janie felt her skin go cold.
“What does it mean?” she asked. “Is it a sign?”
“Whatever, no,” Doug laughed. “Stop being so superstitious. It’s just a big-ass stupid snake.”
Doug was no help in situations like these. The Good Lord Jesus Christ himself could probably show up on his doorstep requesting an invitation for dinner, bloody palms and all, and Doug would call him a dirty hippie and turn him away. He was a believer in his own way, of course, but he didn’t always see the meaning in things like Janie did.
She turned to her parents instead. “Mom, what do you think?”
“I think it can mean whatever you want it to mean.” Karen Peyton’s voice was warm and comforting. “But maybe we should all pray a little extra hard tonight and try our best to shun temptation when it comes knockin’ on our door.”
She smiled that smile that made everyone in Carbon County trust her with their gossip and fears and secrets, but her eyes were on Janie’s belly. As if Janie needed reminding that her mother didn’t exactly 100 percent approve of her going and getting herself pregnant while she was still just seventeen. Temptation come knockin’, indeed.
“Whatever it means, I want it out of my room.” Janie pulled Bella closer. “Doug, will you take it outside?”
Doug wrinkled his nose. “No way am I touching that thing. It’s all oozing guts and stuff.”
“C’mon, baby!” Janie tried her sexy pout again, but Doug wouldn’t budge. That’s what she got for dating a spoiled mama’s boy never made to do a chore in his life: Sometimes Doug could be an even bigger princess than she was.
Her dad sighed. “I got it,” he said. “Guts or not, I may stick ’im in the freezer for a bit, till I can get over to the ranger station down at Medicine Bow and see if someone there can identify it for real.”
“Ew!” Janie squealed.
That seemed to break the tension, and all of them had a good, long laugh before Floyd went to get a stiff piece of cardboard and a plastic bag.
OWEN leaned hard into the curve. His elbow nearly brushed the earth as he slammed through the bend, straightening just long enough to dip deep and low in the other direction, riding the natural twists in the track.
He was ahead by a good six lengths as the motor on his bike, a vintage Husqvarna that he’d been souping up since he was fifteen, screamed into the dying evening. He knew it without looking back— and he didn’t plan on slowing down until he crossed the finish line, taking home the top prize in Olympia, Washington, that day. The rest of the motocross riders swarmed in his wake like a pack of angry bees, engines whining in collective frustration. It was like this at every race: He’d start out slow, letting them think they had a chance for a lap or two before pulling out his throttle and blowing past them in a cloud of churned earth and curses.
Those first few laps, where he sized up his competition while riding with the pack, were like a tease for him, the hot promise of speed tickling his nerve endings until the desire grew like a cloud of pressurized gas and he finally ignited, shooting out ahead. More and more often lately, that moment when he overtook everyone was the only peace he knew. In the roar of triumph and flurry of dust, the searing jolt of adrenaline that propelled him forward, he was able to forget the nightmares that had begun to taunt him the night of his eighteenth birthday, the fiery visions of destruction that woke him each night to soaked sheets and fear still surging in his blood. Owning the track was the only way to calm the visions of dark specters dancing around a bonfire piled high with bodies, the only way to quiet the gravelly voice whispering in his ear to find the vein.
He gunned into a long jump, clearing three high mounds of earth in one go, the astonished shouts from the bleachers a dim roar through his helmet. The bike was an animal below him, one he knew better than any human, one he’d tamed well. He’d always loved to ride, had picked it up just shy of his seventh birthday and been hooked ever since, giving up friends and parties to spend days and nights at the local track back in his Kansas hometown, driving himself and his metal beast past spills and breakdowns and exhaustion until the two of them became a single steel bullet zinging through the air. But ever since he’d left home a few months before, it felt like something more than skill propelled him through each race. When he rode he was more than Owen, a lone wolf from Kansas with grease under his fingernails. Now when he rode he was all fire tornadoes and dust devils; he was pure speed and molten light.
He couldn’t help gooning a little on the last jump before the finish line, showing off with the kind of stunt usually reserved for freestyle competitions. He sailed over the jump and, at the height of his trajectory when the bike was weightless beneath him, stood up straight and hooked his toes under the handlebars, arms stretched over his head. A cliffhanger, the move was called—not that there was any suspense over who was going to win this particular race.
He felt the wild awe of the crowd as he slid back into the saddle and whizzed across the finish line, cutting at a hard angle to send up a cloud of dust and clotted earth. There he waited a moment, letting his heartbeat cool as the tingling thrill of competition drained from his fingers. By the time the rest of the riders puttered across the line, their faces set in that stony scowl of envy he’d come to know so well, the rush was already starting to wear off. It was just another race, just another trophy he’d toss in the dumpster on his way to the next town. Sure, he could use the prize money—it was what got him from track to track, what paid for repairs and cheap diner meals and gasoline—but it wouldn’t quiet that horrible, gravelly voice in his head, telling him to find the vein until he wondered if he was crazy or suicidal or both.
It wouldn’t stop his dreams.
“THAT was some race you ran there, son.” The race organizer—Tyler, according to the name stitched across the front of his American Motocross Association jacket—handed Owen a check for three hundred dollars, his first-place winnings. The sun had started to set over the cragged pine tree line in the distance, and the last of the contestants had already packed up their bikes and families and were driving away under an eggplant-colored sky. “You were like a bat outta hell on that track—I swear, in all my days, I never saw anyone take corners so tight.”
“I just got lucky.” Owen folded the check into his back pocket.
“That was more than luck, son.” Tyler gathered a sheaf of papers from the folding table with hands as thick and dirt-streaked as hot dogs left too long on the grill. His metal folding chair screeched as he pushed it back against the pavement. “I guess I’ll be seeing you on the pro circuit before too long.”
He stood to leave.
“Hey,” Owen said quickly. “Got a sec to answer some questions?”
Tyler paused. He was a bulky man in his midfifties, squat and square as a fireplug, his hair gray and more than a little greasy. He had the leathered face of someone who had spent his life in the Pacific Northwest, tacitly accepting sharp winds and salt water and endless rain as a matter of course.
“I doubt there’s anything I can tell you. But try me.”
“It’s not about motocross.” Owen knew that everything he needed to know about that was coiled in his muscles, racing to leap to life on the track. “It’s about this area. Have you lived here long?”
Tyler furrowed an eyebrow. “Only since I was half your size and twice as stupid. Why d’you ask?”
“I’m looking for some info on a place that used to be around here.”
Owen kept his voice cool. “It’s an old commune, called Children of the Earth.”
The name, and the fact that it was somewhere near Olympia, were all Owen knew about the place he was born. As a child, his questions about it had deepened the lines around his mother’s normally lively eyes until he learned, reluctantly, not to ask anymore. He guessed, but never knew for sure, that her time at Children of the Earth was the reason she sometimes trailed off in the middle of sentences, her eyes misting and growing faraway before he or his sister or stepdad could wave their hands in front of her face to draw her back. He wondered, sometimes, if the snippets of old tunes she sang, songs he’d never heard on the radio or found through online searches, came from there. Most of all, he wondered if the Children of the Earth had something to do with his dreams.
Tyler’s wrinkles arranged themselves into a quizzical road map. “I remember it, sure. Hasn’t been around for years, though. Must have shut down when you were barely old enough to piss standing up.”
Owen’s pulse quickened, struggling toward answers. “Any idea what happened?”
“Gosh, let’s see.” Tyler rubbed a hand over the stubble on his face. “It’s been well over a decade since it got shut down. Nobody really knew why, but it wasn’t pretty. Lot of rumors about that place. They say the Feds came and picked up their leader—what was his name? Murphy? Murdock? Something like that.” He paused, staring off into the foggy peaks in the distance. “Anyway, most of ’em skipped town. A few stayed, though, ladies with kids, mostly. Got jobs around town.”
“Are any of them still here?” Need pulsed at Owen’s temples. He suspected, sometimes, that the Children of the Earth were the dusky figures dancing by the bonfire in his dreams. Sometimes, he drew close enough to glimpse a wild grin of dark ecstasy or the glint of an emerald eye; but their faces always receded into the darkness of his memory before he awoke, leaving him grasping at shadows.
“Well, there’s one, Pam, who was around until just this past year. Worked at the laundromat. Nice lady, kinda quiet. But she finally went back to her folks in—oh, I dunno, one a’ them eastern states. Connecticut or something. Guess she got sick of trying to keep a lid on that daughter of hers.”
“Daughter?” Owen felt his ears perk up.
“Oh, Luna.” Tyler chuckled softly. “She’s still around—hard to miss, that one. Though if you want to know about that commune, she may be your best bet.”
Luna. The name roared through Owen’s head, a distant siren song from his dreams.
“Any idea where I can find her?”
“Let’s see.” Tyler scratched his head. “I think she still performs with Ariel Crow’s band—the Fine Feathered Family, they’re called. You can check and see if they’re still in town; they usually put posters up outside the food co-op when they have a gig.”
“Thanks.” Owen stuck out his hand. “I appreciate your time, Tyler. You’ve been a real big help.”
Tyler pumped his hand up and down. “What’cha want with that Children of the Earth place, anyway?” he asked as Owen turned to go.
Owen froze. “No real reason,” he said, not meeting the older man’s eyes. “I read an article once, and I was curious.”
“If you want my two cents, son, you’d do better to steer clear of any commune business and keep your eyes on the prize.” Tyler nodded down at the motocross track, which was silent and dusky in the gathering night. “I know pro when I see it—and, son, mark my words, within a year you’ll be pro.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence,” O wen said. But he suspected, as he turned and made his way toward the parking lot, to his truck and Luna and the future, that in a year it wouldn’t matter anymore. In a year, everything would be different.
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