Labor Day Weekend: we drove in silence toward LA, the radio off.
It was not the first time we'd made the drive; every landmark
every eucalyptus tree in Prunedale, every curve between San Lucas and Coalinga,
every cow in Priest Valley, every gas station restroom looked familiar.
Mark flipped on the fan and the air conditioner when we got to the Central Valley.

"I told Tom that he could stay with us while he looked for a job," Mark finally said.

I checked the speedometer. The state prison at Avenal was ahead on the right,
the guard towers stark in front of the brown and gray hills.
Highway 33 rolled out straight and dusty in front of us. No cars in sight.
Eventually there would be the almond orchards, then the oil fields.

"I already said it was okay with me when you first talked to him on the phone." I said.

"I told him he can't get loaded in our house." Mark said.

"He won't stay with us very long then," I said. "If he can't drink a beer."

"Just until he finds a job and a place."

"He can have that Coors in the refrigerator."
I took one hand from the steering wheel and warmed it on my legs.
My palms were clammy from the air conditioner.


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