MY DINNER THEATRE WITH ANDRÉ by Christopher Hebert
I was in the garage doing a load of laundry when my mother came to tell me Andrew Mulligan was in town. He’d been spotted at 2:53 p.m., bumming a cigarette outside the Waffle House. These were details highly suspicious in their specificity. Immediately, I called bullshit.
“Corroborated and verified,” she said. “Must’ve come home to visit his dear sweet ma.”
I did not and would not take the bait. Certain allowances might be made during the holidays, but for the record his ma was just as crazy as mine. The pair of them were passing their retirements glued to their computers, frantically disseminating the grievances of their favorite Russian bots.
According to my mother’s sources, Andrew Mulligan was dressed for the cold in duck boots and white pinstriped pants, a genuine fox stole tossed around his shoulders.
“Beard right up to his eyeballs,” she said, drawing a line across the top of her cheekbones.
On that point I did not require illustration. I’d seen his facial hair myself earlier that week on the cable celebrity news. Paparazzi had caught Andrew Mulligan at a Walmart in Bangor, Maine, wearing purple eyeliner and what they mistook for a wolfman mask. But I’d known the whiskers were all his own. Andrew Mulligan always had been a peacock among us pigeons.
Now, a few days later and more than a thousand miles south, he was here in the Tennessee hills. And lord help me so was I. In almost a week it’d be Christmas, the first anniversary of me having to leave New York and move back home, but now my failure had Andrew as a consolation. All my life he’d been surpassing me. Now he’d finally surpassed me in flaming out.
“He wants to see you,” my mother said, reaching into the basket of clothes I was tilting toward the machine. “Of course, I let him know it’s out of the question. What with your—” And here she scratched lightly at a mustard stain on a pair of sweatpants. “—sensitive constitution.”
Under this roof, certain differences between us on the topic of epidemiology had come to light over the last twelve months. But that’s not what this story is about. More curious was the factoid, so subtly revealed, that she and Andrew Mulligan had been talking? Had been talking about me? As if either of these lunatics had a leg to stand on.
I set the load on heavy spin.
I said, “I know just the place.”
Oh ho, it was going to be a merry Christmas after all.
The Lumberjack Brawl Dinner Theater was a ten-minute drive from my mother’s house, wedged between Meemaw’s Jamboree and the Dueling Banjos River Park. These were just a few of the cultural institutions for which we’d set about clearcutting the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. When Andrew and I were kids, there’d been just a single theme park, a mere handful of neon hillbillies. As a community, we’d needed several decades to master the art of mocking ourselves for profit.
In the early weeks after I’d finished unloading the boxes of my old life into my mother’s basement, I’d amused myself looking up the people I’d known in high school who’d never managed to leave. One of them was working at the Lumberjack Brawl. There were tremory cell phone videos of her performances you could find posted online. The show amounted to a sort of flannel Olympics, every event a different permutation of some kind of axe and some kind of wood. The dinner portion tended toward nachos and beer. But the place was one of the few venues in town that was fully outdoors. The moment my mother proposed that I go see Andrew Mulligan, the Lumberjack Brawl was my first and only thought.
As for my having so readily agreed, I was a little surprised myself. I suppose I thought it might be cathartic, maybe even help my cause. For the last week I’d been composing a holiday missive to Gena in my head. Now I could add to it every detail of Andrew Mulligan’s spectacular collapse. Before she left, abandoning me with no job and an apartment I couldn’t afford, she’d said my failures had made me insufferable. Not the failures themselves, she insisted, just me. She said she loved me but she “hadn’t signed on for a suicide pact.”
It’s not me, I’d tried to tell her. It’s the world we’re living in. Didn’t she see? There were only two kinds of people left, the takers and the losers—the Andrew Mulligans and me. There were the ones who got it all and the ones who got the shaft. And if now even the likes of him couldn’t manage to keep it together, what hope was there for the rest of us?
By text, Andrew Mulligan and I arranged to meet at the box office. He showed up wearing someone’s grandpa’s shawl sweater under a gold-sequined parka.
Back in high school it’d been a contest between us to see which of us could get away from here first, who could go farthest. I had no idea how badly I’d lost until one day, two or three years out of college, I was in the old AMC on Union Square and saw his name in the opening credits of a movie.
In college, before he dropped out and moved to LA, we’d been roommates. We’d shared a greasy railroad apartment above a pierogi shop in Greenpoint. Ours hadn’t been the kind of parting where anyone promised to stay in touch, so I wasn’t surprised to stumble across his debut the way I did. Nor was I shocked that he’d managed to pull it off so quickly. In New York I’d personally witnessed him getting cast in plays he hadn’t even auditioned for. In plays I had auditioned for. Why should Hollywood be any different?
Then around eighteen months ago, something happened. Several somethings, actually, all of them bizarre. Andrew Mulligan, seemingly out of nowhere, burned down a set, punched a grip, sunk a yacht, and was caught on camera stealing Slim Jims from a Conoco station. All in a matter of weeks. I admit at first I dismissed it all as one of those controlled implosions manufactured by PR hacks to hijack the public’s stupefied attention span. But the consequences were real. In the end, Andrew Mulligan got fired from every film he’d been working on, and I was torn between joy and disgust. In interviews he insisted it was all a conspiracy. There were secret forces out to destroy him. And he actually seemed to mean it. He’d become one of those nuts, the upscale, Hollywood version of our mothers. Soon I was tuning in nightly to watch botoxed gossips fret over the colorful spectacle of Andrew Mulligan—the most famous son of our tourist-trap town—throwing it all away.
In person his beard looked like the stuff my mother used to scour burnt pots. Underneath all that hair was a gaunt, grizzled face. It conveyed to the mind a montage of backwoods survival: Andrew Mulligan building a fire, rubbing sticks together, dressed in his $1,000 coat.
“You look like shit,” I said.
Next thing I knew, he had me in his arms. He squeezed till both our puffy coats deflated.
“Six feet, goddamn it!” I shouted. “Six feet!”
He just stood there grinning down at me from his ridiculous height, all bleached teeth and chapped lips.
Of course he wasn’t wearing a mask.
“Touch me again,” I said, “and I’m leaving.”
“Oh, Nate,” he said, “still taking everything so seriously.”
He knew I hated that name. Almost as much as I hated what he’d started calling himself in LA. As if anyone from East Tennessee had ever been an André.
I allowed him the satisfaction of being the one to buy my ticket.
The Lumberjack Brawl Dinner Theater was enclosed within a stockade fence. The stage wasn’t really a stage, more like a concrete patio. At the center was a swimming pool. A chain of logs bobbed across the water, a kind of floating bridge. A ring of pea gravel separated the performance area from the grandstand, which loomed above us. On the far opposite side, along the fence dividing the theater from a Costco parking lot, was a faux-rustic shed with white lines painted to look like mud chinking.
The grandstand was about a third filled. The other patrons were clustered together at the bottom, as close as they could get to the action, breathing all over one another. Vents under the seats were blowing hot air. It was five o’clock, the evening show.
I led the way, skirting the others. Single file, Andrew and I tromped up to the very top of the grandstand. Here we had rows and rows all to ourselves.
Meanwhile, Andrew Mulligan wouldn’t stop grinning.
“Just like old times,” he said, looking me over. “You haven’t changed a bit.”
Which meant—I couldn’t guess what. Unlike him I’d lost almost all my hair, and I was wearing the last pair of khakis Gena had bought me. They felt like the only memento I had left of my former adulthood.
For that matter, I could hardly imagine what old times he was thinking of. We’d never been friends, not really. Andrew Mulligan and I had met in eighth grade, just about the only two boys in the entire school to try out for Grease instead of football. After that by default we more or less got stuck in each other’s orbit. From the start, I’d been the one with ambition. But whatever I did, Andrew Mulligan did it too. He followed me all the way to NYU, and that was where he left me.
“And you,” I said, “I hear you’ve gone totally bonkers.”
There was a twinkle in his eye. “That’s just what they want you to think.”
A server was clomping toward us up the aluminum steps, a high school girl in thermal underwear and cut-off jeans. She arrived at the top cold and searing with hatred, then sighed elaborately, exhaling the word “Drinks?” in a cumulonimbus, aerosolized plume. I recoiled, but Andrew Mulligan just smiled. He was beaming up at her with whatever it was, that thousand-watt power of his. Even now, Unabomber beard and all, within about two seconds he’d extracted that the girl went by Lucy and had two little brothers and played basketball and French horn. She went to fetch Andrew Mulligan an order of “the Brawl’s” famous cheesy fries, on the house.
“And where’s your girlfriend?” I said when Lucy was gone.
In all the celebrity news, Andrew Mulligan’s girlfriend was always right by his side. Her name was Celestial and she had been or maybe still was an underwear model. These days she wore desert fatigues and ski caps. She was twenty-two, barely older than Lucy, less than half Andrew’s age.
“Dropped her off at the Titanic,” he said.
There was a half-scale replica of the sinking ship a short way up the road. It was right across from the indoor dinner theater where they reenacted the Civil War via musical numbers and equestrian tricks.
The first sign that the show was starting was a sudden squeal of feedback from the speakers overheard. Then the door to the fake shed behind the stage swung open. Out sprinted a goateed string-bean in a Santa Claus hat. With a whoop and a holler into his pencil-thin mic, he greeted us ladies and gents. Behind him bounded the lumberjacks, four young guys in candy-cane suspenders and Timberland boots. And last of all came her.
Debbie looked just like she had in the videos. Except those must’ve been shot when the weather was warm, because today under her stretchy overall shorts she wore a flesh-colored turtleneck. Fuzzy red Christmas stockings stretched over her long, lean legs. It was hard to believe she was just as middle-aged as Andrew and me. From a distance she could’ve still been eighteen.
He leaned forward to get a better view. Then he gazed at me in disbelief. “Doesn’t that look like Debbie?”
I was surprised. I’d been preparing for just the right moment to point her out, to act as if I hadn’t known she’d be here. Every year of high school they’d played lead opposite each other, but I’d assumed those triumphs would have receded for him in the onslaught of more recent glories.
“Jesus,” he said. “She looks great.”
I knew, because I’d seen it before, that her role here was somewhere between cheerleader and sexy lumberjack assistant. Back in high school she’d declared she’d settle for nothing less than Shakespeare in the Park.
At the far side of the deck, the lumberjacks were taking turns hurling axes. In the air the heavy steel heads dipped and wobbled toward their targets like drunken birds.
“I’ve always loved that sound,” Andrew Mulligan said as the first blade cleaved the bullseye with a crackling thud.
I said, “I thought LA was supposed to make you jaded, not sentimental.”
He just laughed and commenced reminiscing about our old lives in New York, conjuring out of thin air obscure details I had to strain to remember.
“What was our landlord’s name? He had so much plaque it looked like there was just one tooth that wrapped around his entire mouth. Remember how he tried to evict us for throwing steak knives into the kitchen door?” Nostalgia had Andrew nearly quivering at the edge of his seat. “You were pretty good at it,” he said.
I said, “That was you.”
The knife thing had occurred during one of Andrew Mulligan’s Random Enthusiasms, the one in which he was also teaching himself to juggle and to write with both hands. Meanwhile I was spending every spare minute rehearsing lines and working on my own one-act plays. Even back then I was writing, convinced that would double my odds of making it. I’d tried to explain all this to Gena. Was trying still. But how could I ever make her understand? The half-hearted idea she’d had in her twenties about becoming a poet, she’d set it aside the first moment a real job came her way. Practice Administration. Whatever that was, it was enough for her. She never looked back.
To Andrew I said, “Maybe this could be your new career.” I meant it as an invitation. I was already losing patience, waiting for us to get around to the humiliating demise of his old one.
He smiled. “I’ve always liked lumberjacks. I admire the way they roll their sleeves.”
“Let’s give them a hand, ladies and gents!” the skinny man with the skinny mic boomed.
The lumberjacks had moved on. Now they were taking turns racing along the floating logs. Across they sprinted like squirrels.
Andrew Mulligan stomped his boots. Gong went the flimsy riser beneath our seats.
“Remember how in love you were with her?” he said, nodding toward Debbie.
“That was also you.”
“No,” he said. “I mean, we went out a bit. But you—I bet you still name all your leading ladies after her. Deb, Debbie, Deborah.”
“That was more than twenty years ago.”
“What about your girlfriend,” he said, “your fiancée?”
I was momentarily thrown. Unlike him, my life wasn’t scrawled across the internet. Then I recalled that he and my mother were now secret best friends.
“It’s fine,” I said. “We’re just taking a break.”
“In different states?”
With all the noise I hadn’t heard her coming, but suddenly Lucy was standing over us. She had our beers and Andrew’s fries. The bright yellow cheese passed before my eyes in clotted oily clumps.
“What about you?” I said. I’d read he’d recently been hiding out in Canada. “What about that arrest warrant? The Maserati you crashed? The house you lost in Malibu?” I could go on. I would go on. Compared to this my failures felt tame: twenty years’ worth of script rejections and a furlough from selling snorkeling toys to investment bankers in the Bowery. “What about your ex-wives?” I said. “I hear they both have restraining orders against you.”
“Oh, no,” he said, “not against me.” He raised his beer and sucked off the foam. “Celestial.”
The whole time that contented smile never left his face, as if all of this were precisely according to plan.
The bar was a quarter mile from the Lumberjack Brawl, squatting on a patch of unpaved pull-off beside a trickling creek bed. We were here because Andrew had decided we should catch up with Debbie after the show. This was where she worked on her days off.
From outside, the bar looked like one of those roadside stands that rented inner tubes to church groups. Inside it was all dark-stained plywood sheets teetering against one another like gingerbread. Paper Santas stapled through the neck fluttered along the walls, backlit by strings of blinking chili peppers. This was what I could see through the window. I had announced to Andrew Mulligan that under no circumstances would I be going inside.
The lumberjacks had come along too. In the parking lot, Debbie had introduced us to them. Three of them anyway. The fourth had left to pick up his nieces and nephews because his brother was in the hospital on a ventilator.
Why I’d agreed to come at all was a separate question. The whole hour we’d spent at the show had produced in Andrew Mulligan nothing but nostalgia and a new Random Enthusiasm for all things lumberjack. There’d been not so much as a crack in his facade. He was determined to pretend everything was totally normal, that his life wasn’t even more of a train wreck than mine.
After I refused to enter the bar, Andrew went in and charmed some patrons of their table by the window. Then he threw up the sash and carried a chair outside and set it down on the dirt for me. Now we sat with that open window between us, him inside and me outside, like we were sharing a confessional.
“You don’t think you’re taking this a little too far?” he said.
I pointed out not a single person in there was wearing a mask.
He said, “Your mother told me you haven’t left the house in months. She said you won’t even go to the store.”
“Of course this you don’t believe in,” I said. The virus was a hoax, but he was perfectly prepared to believe, as I’d read in the tabloids, that the Pope was secretly diverting his film royalties.
He leaned closer, sotto voce. “She’s worried. She said you’re depressed.”
His eyes went moist with pity. “She told me about your breakup. She said it’s been really hard on you. She said you seem lost.”
I propped my elbow on the windowsill. “Do you know this morning I woke up and I had thirty-seven new emails from her?”
I waited for that number to sink in, but it appeared to have little effect on him.
“Everything anyone sends her,” I said, “she forwards it all to me. Crazy, bat-shit stuff. Satanic pedophiles. Lizard people. And with every single one them she adds a little personalized note. This morning one of them said, I swear to god, ‘Now you believe what they are really up to in Minsk?’”
“Oh, but it’s true,” Andrew Mulligan said. “It really is incredible.”
“Minsk?” I said. “She’s never even been north of the Carolinas.”
He looked at me with priestly compassion. “She just wants to help.”
This whole reunion, I supposed, was her deluded idea of help.
Meanwhile Debbie’s progress up to the bar and back had been glacial. She’d volunteered to be the one to get our beers. She seemed to know everyone in there. She couldn’t go five steps without someone stopping her to talk. There was too much noise coming through the window for me to be able to hear what anyone was saying, but I couldn’t help noticing the way she kept nodding in our direction. In Andrew’s direction, of course. Me nobody gave a shit about, least of all Debbie. But then whoever she was trying to impress would look for Andrew Mulligan and catch a glimpse of my face hovering surreally in the window frame beside him, and their confused expressions would say, What the fuck? and that pleased me, it really did.
Andrew mostly had his back to all this, but he knew what was happening. He just didn’t care. Or maybe he was used to it. He looked perfectly happy there at that peeled-laminate table with the knife carvings and cigarette burns. Infuriatingly content. His calm made me want to explode.
I said, “You still haven’t said a single word about what happened.”
“About the films you got fired from,” I said in exasperation. “About the endorsements you lost.”
He just shrugged.
“That’s how little it means to you?”
He sighed, and I thought maybe we’d reached the end of his bullshit, that he was finally ready to say something true. Then a message of some kind flashed on the shattered screen of his phone, which sat before him on the table.
“It’s Celestial,” he said. “She’s coming to meet us.”
I didn’t see how he could read anything at all through that mess of glass.
Debbie had finally reached the bar and now she was returning, casually balancing three-stacked beer cans in each hand. The three for the lumberjacks she dropped off along the way. Mine she handed through the window.
Out here, the creek didn’t make a sound. It couldn’t compete with the classic rock and the shouts of the lumberjacks chalking their scores.
Debbie sat down on the same side of the table as Andrew. After the show, she’d changed out of her overalls and tights, but she hadn’t washed off her makeup. Her blush and mascara remained loud enough to be seen from the back row. Up close, however, there was no mistaking those tired eyes for an eighteen-year-old’s.
Like Andrew before her, Debbie just wanted to reminisce. About high school this time. About Grease and Oklahoma! and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. About miniature golf and bonfires and swimming naked under the stars. Finally, after an eternity of this, as if suddenly recalling the existence of me, she lifted her eyes out the window and asked if we remembered a trip we’d made to the quarry in eighth grade. Supposedly it was Debbie and Andrew and me and Jessica Riley, a girl who when I squinted and really tried, I remembered as vaguely pale and poreless and caked in some sort of very fine powder.
“The whole night,” Debbie said, “we kept daring you to kiss her.”
She said this to me, and I shook my head, because I didn’t care about any of that. Not then and not now. It wasn’t for this that I’d come.
“She was all crushed out on you,” Debbie said. “But you wouldn’t do it.” She glanced idly around the bar. “We all thought you were gay.”
Absently Andrew reached up and tugged at one of the paper Santas, as if to test if its beard was real. “He was just serious,” Andrew said. “Nate was always so serious.”
That was because even back then I’d known what I wanted, and it hadn’t included any of this. Not pale girls and quarries and lumberjacks and wasting time. That had always been the difference between us, Andrew Mulligan and me. I had never belonged here, but it hadn’t mattered because I hadn’t wanted to. I’d had plans and determination. All Andrew Mulligan had was the accident of good bone structure.
I didn’t know why that was the moment it hit me, that no one in the bar, not even Debbie herself, had any idea what he’d done. They assumed the Rip Van Winkle beard and all the rest was just part of another role.
“You haven’t told her,” I said to him now. “She doesn’t know.”
Debbie looked from Andrew to me. “Know what?”
He didn’t respond. In fact, for a long, strange moment no one said a word, and I supposed we were about to end just as we’d begun, Andrew Mulligan still evading, even now getting away with everything.
“You know, Nate,” he finally said, folding his hands together against the window frame. “Malibu, Hollywood, New York—they’re just different names for the same thing. There are dark forces out there.”
I said, “You mean the Hollywood assassins that got Heath Ledger?” I’d read he believed they were after him now.
But he was already standing. “Come on,” he said. Then Andrew Mulligan took Debbie’s hand. I watched them walk across the bar, over to the dartboard, where the lumberjacks, seeing him arrive, immediately abandoned their game. They turned all their attention to him. In less than a minute a crowd had gathered around them. All Debbie’s friends, who’d been playing it so cool since we got here, decided they’d been invited to join in. Andrew was showing the lumberjacks how to hold the darts by their points. He was rolling them in his fingertips, one in each hand, getting a feel, testing the weight. Then with a flick of his wrist, first right then left, he sent those darts cartwheeling end over end toward the target. When they landed, when they stuck, just like the steak knives of yore, every asshole in the place threw up their hands to cheer, Debbie the loudest of all. One of the lumberjacks high-fived him, and Andrew Mulligan shrugged as if to say, See, nothing to it.
But there weren’t even bullseyes, not even close. All he’d managed was to not completely miss.
I got up to piss. It’d been hours and I could no longer hold it.
Over the treetops at the edge of the parking lot a slow-moving arc of flashing red lights rose and set, rose and set. It was the top of the giant Ferris wheel going round and round. We were no more than a block away from all that.
I walked in the other direction, putting as much distance as I could between me and the bar. There were trees all over, scrawny anemic things gasping out of the clay and broken glass. I picked one out at random and unzipped in the shadows, my back to the window.
While I peed, I checked my phone. There was a text I’d missed from my mother, sent to me and about fifty other numbers. The message had come through ten minutes ago. All it said was, “PROOF,” and there was a link below that I would never, ever click on.
When I was done, I realized I was standing only a few yards from Andrew’s car. A rivulet from my steaming puddle was meandering through the gravel toward his left rear tire. He and I had driven over separately, at my insistence. For some reason, from the moment I spotted him getting out of that silver Prius, I’d been assuming the car wasn’t really his, that it was just a rental he’d picked up somewhere. I hadn’t noticed the California plates and the missing hubcap. The car was filthy. Filthy and small. How could either he or his underwear-model girlfriend possibly fold themselves inside?
I bent down to peer in the windows. There was junk on every surface: crushed water bottles and fast-food wrappers and lip balms and balled-up underwear. In the center console a lipstick-smeared Big Gulp held a pair of contoured toothbrushes. The back seat was a mound of clothes and sleeping bags and beach towels and vanilla Ensure. The filthy door left a patch of powdery white on my coat.
And this, I marveled, this was who my mother had thought would save me.
The insane thing was, she wasn’t the only one. Gena had thought so too. She’d always adored Andrew Mulligan. His roles anyway. The man himself she’d never met. On film he played the guy with great hair and a gentle soul perennially rebuilding a secondhand motorcycle. Oh, he’d been hurt before! Women longed to fix him. Yet somehow he never changed. I’d never forget one of our very first dates, at an oyster bar in Park Slope. Gena telling me a story about how the week before she’d gone with her girlfriends to see a movie, the kind of rom-com that later in life she’d complain I was always judging her for. As she was going on about some bit character who stole her favorite scene, I realized it was Andrew Mulligan she was describing. Of course it was! And without even thinking I said, “Oh, I know him. He’s one of my oldest friends.”
She never let that go. She never forgot. Over and over for years she’d begged me to reach out to him, to suggest meeting up the next time he was in New York. A decade later, right up until the very end, Gena was still saying, “You should send him something. Just send him something. Why don’t you send him something?” Until finally one day I said, “That hack? That fraud?”
And she said, “Being an artist, Nathan, doesn’t require being an asshole.” And I said, “How would you know?”
And that, more or less, was that.
And now she had moved on and I was here, standing beside Andrew Mulligan’s filthy car, staring at the piles of garbage in his backseat. Everything had gotten so muddled, so confused in my head. I couldn’t seem to untangle it, the anger and frustration and disappointment. Meanwhile in the reflection in the glass, that gaudy giant Ferris wheel over my shoulder kept circling, flashing, flashing, never stopping. I imagined my mother, at home right now, hunched over the desktop computer on her old sewing table, scowling at her email, smashing the forward arrow, pounding out in her own impotent rage, “NOW YOU BELIEVE? NOW YOU BELIEVE?” How did anyone know what they believed anymore?
The thing I wanted an answer to was by what rationale Andrew Mulligan was exempt from the misery he should be feeling. Why was he allowed to persist in refusing to hate himself as he should?
I walked back to the bar following the creek. The bank was high and the water was low, so low you wouldn’t have known it was wet at all except for the few shimmers of moonlight among the rocks and roots.
The bank led eventually behind the bar, where I discovered something I hadn’t noticed before. A big section of the rear of the building was wide open, an entire wall gone missing. Between the interior and the elements there was nothing, not a single thing. Inside you could see people moving about, ordering drinks and shaking hands and shouting in each other’s faces. The open air fluttered the paper Santas by their staples. And there, just inside, were the bathrooms. And there was the pool table. And there was a little dance floor a few steps past the bar. All the stuff I hadn’t been able to see from my little window.
This was where I found Celestial too. She’d arrived. I saw her leaning against the cutaway wall, right there in the opening, tall and thin and beautiful in her cargo pants and stocking cap. Before her, on the dance floor, a couple was swaying, heads on each other’s shoulders. It was the same old classic rock, not even a slow song. Andrew Mulligan in his prospector’s beard and gold-sequined parka, Debbie in her outlandish mascara and blush. They were smiling and laughing as they turned, pressed chest to chest. While they danced, Celestial stood watching. She was beaming, oblivious to the cold, her love for Andrew Mulligan bright enough to dim the neon all the way to Madame Tussauds.
Halfway between the creek bank and the missing wall, I studied them, each in turn, these three crazy, happy people. It was five days till Christmas. And their cares were somewhere far away.