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January 5, 11:57 a.m.
A Lakeport woman reports that a man
and his wife are fighting,
and throwing the kids back
and forth through the window.

Four cops come. Both parents are arrested, D&D. The children—William, six, and Stephanie, three—are taken by CPS.

     The neighborhood will be quiet for almost two weeks. It will become slightly louder as the mother returns, regains custody, and the kids move back in. Four months further on it will become briefly far louder when the father returns and screams at the mother from the front lawn and lunges at the first deputy to arrive and is shot to death. The neighborhood will then become the quietest it has ever been, stay that way for about two months, and return to what the neighbors have agreed to call normal.

     CPS will monitor the children, and no undue adverse effects will be noted. The mother will cry often but silently. William and Stephanie will grow up to be uncommonly gifted and beautiful, and each will leave town upon turning eighteen.

     William will drop out of UCLA early in his sophomore year. In between construction jobs he will take classes at Stella Adler, and within six months will land work in a vodka commercial as a face in the winsome crowd. The next year will find him playing bit parts in soap operas. His first significant speaking role—sixteen lines, half of them cut in post—will come as “Handsome Jogger” in a well-known procedural. He will teach himself to tap dance, to fence, to speak Spanish, and bigger offers will start coming in: a four-episode run as “Larry” (a superhero’s girlfriend’s live-in brother) and seven episodes as “Dorland” (a hard-charging Assistant DA).

     Eventually films will beckon—cousin of the lead, best friend of the lead, and at long last the lead itself, an EMT with PTSD. Nominations will follow, though never any wins: Teen’s Choice Award, Hollywood Style Award, People’s Choice Award. Six months after narrowly missing out on Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries, William will overdose on barbiturates.

     Stephanie, meanwhile, will have taken a year off after high school and broken down halfway through it—something about the color red, how red things can get, so red that it must be shouted. Then she will have recovered, and married her psychiatrist. The two of them will have spent the past seven years in a pleasant blue house in Fair Oaks.

     William’s death will leave Stephanie distraught but not bereft—it will make a certain sad kind of sense. She will return to Lakeport for the funeral, and find her mother dying of esophageal cancer. Though they have not been in close touch, she will stay, of course she will stay, will see her mother through her final months, and succeed at saying the few things that need to be said.

     After that second funeral, she will tell her husband that she can’t go back to Fair Oaks until her mother’s house is ready to sell. Three months will go by, and the house will be nearly ready. Six more, and the house will be in better condition than she ever saw it growing up. Nine more after that, and the divorce papers will come in the mail. She will sign them, mail them off, return to weeding her rose beds.

     Some of the roses, especially the floribunda europeana, will be intensely red. She chose them to remind herself that though she lives in her childhood home, she is no longer where she once was. The alimony payments will taper off, and she will see no reason for them not to. She will begin seeing a local therapist, and his steady thoughtfulness and precise insights will lead her to become something of a therapist herself: chrysotherapy, magnotherapy, halotherapy.

     The evidence of non-psychosomatic benefits for some of her procedures will be less than robust, but her work will save several worthwhile relationships and at least one life. After her therapist’s passing, she will reach still further: apportation, aerokinesis, transvection. And one day in her mid-seventies, while hanging laundry in her back yard, she will float away. She will be spotted over Petaluma, San Luis Obispo, Laguna Beach, and one last time over Honolulu, still holding a clean white sock in each hand. Subsequent attempts to trace her flight will meet with no success.

Roy Kesey divides his time.