>NEVER A FRONTWARD STEP, PART SIXTEEN

>A bright light rolled uphill, painfully, into my head. My first thought was that I should be wet, but I felt bone dry. The sun roiled thin clouds above me, fracturing the sky into Byzantine blues and whites. I guessed at mid-morning, the morning after, or some time after that. Despite myself, I smiled. I was alive. My guesses had been correct. The junkie, now deceased, had gotten the message through.

I felt something hard poke me in the side. It was one of the religious ladies I had seen the night before, still dressed from head to toe in satin, prodding me with a sandaled foot. Her ankle was festooned with enough gold to make a pirate weep.

“You okay there?” she said, surprising me with mouthfuls of broad Australian vowels.

“I think so,” I answered, mentally checking my senses to make sure they were intact.

“You were here when I walked by this morning,” said the lady, “but I thought you might’ve been just asleep, but then I came back and you were still here.”

“Had a rough night,” I said, tasting sand and smelling blood. I sat up.

“You were here last night, too,” said the lady. She handed me a sun visor with Labrador Nippers emblazoned on the front. I took it from her with as wry a smile as I could manage.

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