REAL-TIME VIDEO OF DEAD PEOPLE YOU WANT TO HAVE COFFEE
WITH: A NOVELLA
(SERIALIZED AND BROKEN UP INTO SECTIONS FOR YOUR
READING PLEASURE, AS DENOTED BELOW)
THIS IS PART THREE.
PART ONE APPEARED IN DIAGRAM
4.6; PART TWO APPEARED IN DIAGRAM
The Dead:   
Only a few hours after waking up, Tito closes the deal
on an unusual three-bedroom house in Emporia, Kansas. He gets up from
the box and nods at us. Without his usual pep talk, or even so much as
a word, he begins to pack.
I'm not sure exactly how we agreed to buy
the place. It happened quickly. I was surprised, at first, when Wellbutrin
said that if were willing to alter the house, we might as well alter the
Tito liked the idea. He seems to think
he can start his revolution by convincing the public that it has been
happening for years.
I'm not sure why I agreed.
Nonetheless, in less than an hour we bought
the home of Sarah Pratt-Tipkins. We had no trouble finding the place because
she's never owned it. As far as I know, the Sarah Pratt-Tipkins we're
interested in — a staunch Marxist who wrote seven books of poems
and starred in a half-dozen monster movies — never lived anywhere.
In the van again, we are driving north on the Kansas
turnpike. The man who gave us the toll ticket when we got on a few miles
ago was the first stranger we had talked to, in person, for several days.
Tito is driving with his new — or
former, I'm still not sure — capacity for concentration. One finger
is tapping a rhythm against the steering wheel.
In the distance, on top of the largest
hill in sight, is a cross made of dark, thick wood. I seem to remember
my mother telling me, on our way to California, that the cross is older
than the highway, that it doesn't mark anything, that it was just a landmark
for driving cattle.
"See that," I say, pointing.
"Sure," Tito says.
"Got it," Wellbutrin says from
behind us, his voice slow.
"Years ago," I say, "before
this was paved, there a was town up there. Lincoln, Kansas. Not a big
town, a thousand people or so." I pause for questions but no one
Wellbutrin is looking at the cross.
Tito keeps us perfectly steady.
"Anyway, the place was hit by a tornado.
Something like half the people died. It's just a cemetery now, with a
cross, so you can see it from the highway."
"A whole town," Wellbutrin says.
"Half of it," I say.
Tito looks at me briefly.
"All at the same time," Wellbutrin
"Five hundred people dying at once,"
I say. "Together."
"Terrible," Wellbutrin says.
They are imagining it.
I imagine it too.
The Pratt-Tipkins house is my favorite so far.
Before Tito bought it, it had only been
on the market a few weeks. The man who lived here has done some remodeling,
taken good care of the place. It is smaller than our other houses, two
rooms on the main floor, another in the basement. Still there is an elegant
fireplace, more than enough closets, and an efficient floor plan. The
dining room has a twelve-foot ceiling that creates an unexpected largeness.
The living room has a multi-paned west
window so that, during the first evening of our broadcast, light splays
across the hard wood floor in five, soft fingers.
Off of the kitchen is a bay window. We
removed wallpaper, and re-painted, to distinguish the nook from the rest
of the room. Though, of course, a table is long gone, looking at the kitchen
as the sun comes up, you can imagine Sarah Pratt-Tipkins separating a
grapefruit, listening to the birds outside, memorizing lines, re-working
a poem about workers at the Hutchinson battery plant.
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