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he baby’s sleeping now, lambed-in, her sheepskin beneath her. Inside the stroller is safe, a gray nimbus on wheels, puffed above the maple leaves layering deeper and slick. The earth is calling the leaves down, knitting together a cinnamon and orange blanket, readying itself against the frost and flakes that are currently somewhere in Canada, rehearsing.
He stares into the street, the traffic hissing by their one remaining meaningful possession, the ‘56 Lincoln Premier, impossibly black-and-chrome, too long for a ‘90s parking space.

“Dakota’s finally asleep, honey,” Caroline announces. In the chilled air the words break from her lips as small steam cartoon balloons that dissolve and disappear from sight.

She tries again. “Dakota’s asleep.” This time she says it louder, the steam bubbles last longer, and eventually dangle into Howard’s ears.

‘Under the rooftops of Chevrolet,’ he sings to himself.

Howard gets a variety of songs, old TV jingles, R ’n’ B classics, running through his head pretty often, and he can hear the whole arrangement, in the original instrumentation, solos and everything. When he was with the band, before the baby, before he had met Caroline, he had been the guy who figured out the arrangement of the fusion cover tunes they did. Some Tom Scott, Chick, Herbie, “Freedom Jazz Dance”, stuff like that, playing a song on his turntable sometimes twenty times before all the parts were charted. Now, after listening so intently to so much music for so long, his brain had a way of offering up appropriate soundtracks to his situations and thoughts. Sometimes it’s funny. Sometimes it annoys him completely.

Caroline makes her eyes narrow, and they grow lines at the outside corners. she pulls her legs up under her, snagging the plaid blanket with her boots, making a rippled wool wave that begins at her spine and radiates out to the corners of the blanket. “She’s going to need some extra blankets, you know, good warm ones, not made out of that loose weave. I want her to have wool.”

“Wool.”

“Yeah, wool. It’s light but warm, and it repels moisture.”

“OK. We’ll get her a wool blanket. First thing after the next unemployment check.”

Howard is prone, his worried head at home on his palms. He looks across the patchwork brown and green floor of the park, past the small cluster of yellow-leafed aspens. He stares into the street, the traffic hissing by their one remaining meaningful possession, the ‘56 Lincoln Premier, impossibly black-and-chrome, too long for a ‘90s parking space.

They’re living out of the Lincoln, an occasional night in a shelter if they can get in, and a few selected green spaces, until they have enough money for gas, food, and tolls, and for the probable emergency of a Lincoln breakdown. They’ll drive the steel artifact down to Louisiana, where they’ll pull into the gravel driveway ruts of Caroline’s mother’s front yard. Howard and Caroline and Dakota will stay there, live with Caroline’s mother, while they invent what Caroline refers to as their ‘fresh start’.

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