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11. My Debriefing

"Im twenty-three. Im from" I couldnt remember where I was from. "I took off because I wanted you, Nora." Saying that was like coming. She just kept looking at me, unruffled, like a calm ocean, a sunset, a mother, the moon. "I wanted you, and you werent there in" I drew a blank. "So I started hitching around. My mom is" What was Mom? "Well, of course, I didnt tell myself I was looking for you. I was headed for Yucatan to see the eclipse. I was headed for Atlanta to visit the Coca-Cola factory. I was headed for British Columbia to live off the land. I was headed for the Grand Canyon to learn the ways of the Havasupai Indians. Thats how it was. I remember once" I hit a cul-de-sac; my sentence had nowhere to go. "Anyway, I love you. When Shaman picked me up"

"Ugh! Ugh! Ugh!" Gone Joe was punching and prying Izzys bung but making no headway. Detritus from the operation was scattered all over my mind, I realized. There were little lacerations too, creating lapses and blind spots randomly. It had been a quick job.

"Go on," Nora told me.

I concentrated. "Go on," I echoed. "Yes. The Space People picked me up and gave me something to eat at their place, just tents and a few goats and chickens out in New New something. York or Hampshire or Mexico. Orleans, maybe. Did I say I want to be one with you, utterly and completely, forever?"

She nodded.

"Mm. Then I was alone with"

"Shaman," Gypsy said.

"Thanks. With Shaman. And he said some words that made a hole in my mind. But Izzy fixed it."

"Izzy!" The word sprang from Gypsys mouth like air from a burst tire. As he stood, Gypsys jaw dropped again, this time to his knees. The flesh unpeeled from his chin to his navel like tape rolling off a dispenser. There was the snake, yellow and glistening. It turned inside Gypsys human facade like an uncoiled intestine. A shadow of displeasure crossed Noras face, and she reached over to roll up Gypsys chin. She just started it, and Gypsy was shamed into finishing. No one had seen that one but us. Looking at the blithe tourists checking out at the cashiers, I thought of all the bizarreries I might have missed in my life, just in my peripheral vision.

Look, and its rolled up.

Gypsy tucked his shirt in and sat down. Nora said, "Mel, tell us how you know Izzy."

"He and Sarvaduhka,"?Gypsy didnt stand up?"they picked me up back in New Whatever, in a helicopter or a car or a train or something. It had an elephant in it. Jasmine. He sealed up Shamans hole. I feel a lot better now, but Ive got like shrapnel in here Yes, it was New Mexico!"

Nora smiled at me, and my heart turned to Silly Putty. "Dont you have something you want to give us, Mel?" she said.

"Not that I know of. And Izzy said be careful."

"Thats the limit!" Gypsy shouted. He slammed his fist on the table. The hand flattened and cracked away from his wrist. No blood. A grey tendril, like an octopuss, poked through. "He has to have his nose in everything. Im gonna kill him, Nora. Im gonna eighty-six that scum bag. We come nearly two hundred thousand light-years to this backwater solar system, and Izzy has to gum things up, put in his two cents, jimmy everything in his direction. No, Nora. No, no, no! No more!"

Suddenly, Gypsy remembered where he was, and he froze. Moving only his eyes, he sneaked a glance sideways. The tourists were watching. The cashier was watching.

The trucker had just returned. He was sidling up to our table with a fresh, long-stemmed red rose in his hand. He gave Gypsy a nasty squint, then turned to Nora. "This is for you, maam. I got it in the gift shop. Youre the nicest dang little thing I seen on this highway since 1957."

10. What It Feels Like to Be an Angel | Izzy and the Father of Terror | 12. Liftoff