6:04 p.m. Friday
Red and gold leaves gusted along the asphalt streets, a stampede of confetti, the only color in a lifeless landscape of lumpy-oatmeal stucco and petrochemical siding and plain gray concrete under a low gray sky.
From behind the wheel of the stolen Oldsmobile, Sonny Tharp said, "What's that, Bob?"
Sonny's chin was slashed crosswise by his trademark scar, his French Quarter souvenir. He was a few years younger than Bob, maybe thirty, still an exercise nut and a fresh-air fiend. His elbow hung out the window, and the chill breeze riffled his black hair.
Bob's brown suede jacket was zipped to his chin, but his ears were freezing. He wanted Sonny to roll up the fucking window, but they'd had that argument before. Better frozen ears than ears full of Sonny.
"Suburbs all look the same," Bob shouted over the Cajun music honking from the radio. "We're officially in Plano, but it could be any neighborhood in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Could be Richardson. Could be Arlington."
Sonny glanced at the passing houses. "Could be Houston."
"Sure. Could be California, this time of year."
"A rare cloudy day in Phoenix."
"Nah. In Phoenix, they'd put cactus everywhere, remind you how the place looked before they bulldozed it."
"Cactus." Sonny grimaced. "Those fucking yuccas."
"Developers rip everything out, then put it back again, re-arranged. The cacti are like hunting trophies. 'Congratulations to us. We tamed these fuckers and took their land.' They might as well put dead Indians out on the lawn."
"That's why they call it 'native' landscaping."
Sonny slowed, checking a green street sign in the fading light. "You're a deep guy, Bob."
"I pay attention." Bob scratched at his week-old whiskers. "I try to think about things. See how they make me feel."
"That's good," Sonny said. "A rich inner life is a healthy thing."