Alabama vs. Chengdu
Jon Steinhagen

Caster learning to meander like the canals. Feet killing me. R.F. saying yes, hers too. Meandering is what they can do now, weeping like the willows but not quite. Caster saying I can't eat anymore of this huajiao I can't taste my own mouth. R.F. correcting his pronunciation. Caster reeking of dried peppercorn, meandering. The street, slimming to a narrow lane, pockmarked and crowded. R.F. stopping and throwing up the braised rabbit. Caster shielding R.F. from the shouting pork vendors who are not looking anyway and if they are they are not caring. Caster catching a whiff of the spew and recalling how the chunks of rabbit swam in oil. Caster finding a pothole of his own and vomiting the garlicky pork dumplings. No one to shield them. Going on. As far from home as possible and isn't it strange and new and old and beautiful and my feet are killing me. R.F. straightening up and slinging an errant bra strap into place. Following the canal turning right meandering meandering. Up ahead, seeing fast talkers. R.F. is saying look a bunch of us. Caster seeing the quartet and saying yes indeed those ahead are them and they are us. Caster saying turn left here a soft left I don't want them to see us they'll latch on like barnacles. Going back into the labyrinthical lanes, stomachs like begging hedgehogs, mouths numb. Meandering and up ahead a traditional Chengdu mansion like it shows in the book and look how wonderful how beautiful this is why we came here and Caster stopping and pointing. A sign, a circle of green and black and white so familiar as to be thought a dream a hallucination. Caster saying I'll race you and R.F. seeing and she could cry and they do they are racing not caring who wins but racing as if the whole province were on their heels racing racing right into Starbucks.

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