They traveled by minivan down the Mississippi, talking to folks and gathering as much as they could. They stayed in motels, and extra rooms from friends. They tracked Weever O’Daniel and Black Shoe Drew, Maxwell Jackson and Archimeeds Joe. They found mostly bodies, mostly memories.

“I think that may be another place we differ, you know,” said Red. He was leaning on his cane outside a Cracker Barrel west of Jackson, sweat beading on the forehead, crimson zigzags vibrating down his suit.

“How’s that?” asked Luke.

“It’s the feelin’ about life, you know, I ain’t never had it proper, sure, but my favorite ones are the live ones. Life.. has a sense of urgency. Fuck, fight, fear your way to the grave. Get it all done. Just one shot, right? The drama, brother.”

Long look. “You a Caravaggio man?”

“Cara-fuckin’-vaggio, brother. That’s just right. That’s just right. And Old Grey don’t see it. He’s a Mona Lisa man. All smiles and background, a big-name brand.”

“Why not share? Sound like you both got different interests. Seems like you could split it a bit, yeah?”

“If you only knew, son. Think the world’s bad now. If these fanaticals didn’t believe in Old Grey, you wouldn’t have a world. Got to grow the corn to make cornmeal.”

“So, you take half the souls, get ‘em out of the cycle, and get to spend some time in the world. Name brand gets the choice, stays pure, and recycles the best back. Everybody wins.”

“I’m a betting man, kid. No better bet than folks still stayin’ bad.”

Categories: fiction

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