All the Light That Falls Upon Us

Bonnie and Lucien continued to look out from his front porch across at the fields, where a small scattered handful of villagers were moving slowly, gathering what there was available to them: lettuces, kale, snap peas, corn, melons. The gourds, not yet.

Bonnie looked to the field of tallgrass, beyond that, and farther, to the wall of giant cottonwood trees, the silver undersides of their September leaves flashing like sunlight on water, the random semaphore a balm to their spirits.

“It’s going to be hard without him,” she said finally. “We weren’t quite ready.” Business.

“We could go look for unclaimed propane tanks,” Lucien said. “I think I know where a few might be.”

Bonnie looked at him. “In the Absaroka?” she said. “It’s been pretty fuckin’ picked over. Do you mean like some faraway far-ass cabin where we’d have to sled it out in winter, fifty miles over the snow?” She knew it was not his way to differentiate between easy labor and hard but instead to seize on the solution. With Red, she and Lucien had unbolted and transported a few orphaned rusting blimps and globes of propane tanks, remnants of the old prairie homesteaders, with rose bushes and lilacs sometimes hiding the treasure in what otherwise would have been plain sight. Some of the tanks were still full or nearly full, others down to their last 5 percent. A trick Red had taught them, when they encountered a still relatively full one in the faraway, was to replace the pressure gauge with a broken one that would read empty. Red always carried a handful of broken ones for this purpose, as he had once, seventy-five years earlier, carried dog biscuits on his paper route in the streets of Fort Worth, a boy not yet dreaming he would soon enough be inhabiting an entirely different world: the civilization of lifeless stone.

People on couch
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