‘The Truth of Things’ by Leland Gill

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West of the Hudson, in the parking lot of a steel mill long closed sat Cassidy and a pile of reeds he pulled out of the banks of the river. Entwining the straws of grass in his hand, he thought about the river itself: slow, powerful, eternal in movement and grace. At the same time the sun set behind him, casting a glowing orange light over the landscape. Right before he completed the crude lanyard, a voice from behind him rang out, distracting his train of consciousness.

“Everyone around here knows it’s bad luck to play with the fruits of the Earth.”

At once, Cassidy turned to see a man— no younger than seventy— standing tall in the wash of the orange from the sun. Loosely fitting worn clothes hung off of his body, and Cassidy could smell a tint of liquor on his breath even from a distance. Liquor that Cassidy would likely drown himself in once the moon rose.

“So why the sacrilege in the presence of the almighty river?”

“Truth be told: I’m just passing time until the sun sets and the magic starts.”

Rumbling laughter erupted from the depths of the man’s gut. “And here I thought you were another drunk wasting his life away. Now how about you and I go on an adventure of self-discovery and debauchery?”

Going anywhere with the strange newcomer seemed like a bad idea by all accounts. Even so, Cassidy found himself intrigued by the notion of making a new friend.

“Let’s go. Obviously, I have nothing better to do.”

“Obviously, you have the mind of an ocean and a heart as big as Jupiter. Personally, I take care to avoid the average vagabond, but you are a cut above the norm.”

So the strange pairing joined forces and soon found themselves wandering around the back streets of New Jersey.

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Stepping onto the tracks of the local New Jersey Transit line, the strange man began his discourse. “People always assume you need a train to make use of these lines of steel. I maintain the long-held notion that these tracks are a part of a sacred order established far before human civilization.”

Noting the swagger in the old man’s step, Cassidy listened while keeping up his guard. Night was coming on fast, and the people of Hoboken were heading in for shelter from the cold. Indeed, the wind did pick up and cut through the thin jacket Cassidy received from a Salvation Army drive, but the chill was least of his problems. Noisily—and out of nowhere— did the strange man begin to rage against a bright red ‘Stop’ sign at an intersection.

“Get a hold of yourself! I don’t need the cops after me again!”

Neglecting the words of caution from his companion, the old fool continued his tirade against the geometric shape. Everyone remaining outside looked at the pair of them with eyes of concern. No one stopped to ask what was wrong or to investigate the reasoning behind such a display.

“Death to you, Trafficker of Man! Let’s see what power you have once I destroy thee!”

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