On a siding outside Reading, the Widow Kip put her finger on Lenny’s problem with her customary confidence. It was three in the morning, the train rolling toward New York State, when an unscheduled stop woke Lenny, who was a light sleeper. So was the Widow. Over the past couple of months she had consented to play Aces to Kings with him in the caboose to pass the monotonous night hours. When he made his way back from the roustabouts’ sleeper, he found her at the table shuffling the deck, accompanied by a glass of Overholt rye, neat.

She pointed to the window, and Lenny raised the blind.

“Any minute now,” she told him, and here it came.

Even in the dark he knew it was a black train, and significant. It blew by the siding so fast he couldn’t count the cars, but there could not have been more than six of them. His flesh tingled from the mysterious residue of power and purpose the train left in its dark wake. When it was gone he felt smaller.

“Creeps me out,” he admitted as the Widow began dealing.

“It ought to.”

“How come?”

“It’s a nuclear train. The feds are moving a bomb from one hiding place to the next. They like to do it at night. The government sends out orders, in code, and all civilian traffic has to clear the tracks, toot sweet. Pull into the first siding, which you’ll notice is what we did. Woe betide the engineer who fails to heed the order.”

Lenny thought she might be making up a story. “What makes you an expert?”

He watched her struggle to be straight with him. The Widow Kip was not like anybody else employed in Colonel Castle’s Authentic American Circus. She kept strictly to herself, and confided in no one. Though she refused to talk about her past, or Mr. Kip, you wound up knowing she had lived a different sort of life, with an education, and money, and social status. Her ideas were her own, too. A couple of days ago she had told Lenny that drinking vinegar-and-rum toddies delayed the onset of menopause.

Maybe she was right. Going through her purse one day when she didn’t miss it, he had found a Utah driver’s license that gave her first name as Belinda, and her birthdate as 1953. She ought to be menopausal but showed none of the signs Lenny had read about in magazines. She was tall—a good thing in a clown, he thought—and slender, with small, high breasts. Her red hair must be dyed but didn’t look it. Her white and freckled flesh turned him on, and her green eyes knew it.

“Quincy told me about the codes,” she conceded. Quincy had been driving circus trains for forty years so presumably he knew.

Lenny threw down his hand. “I don’t feel like playing.”

“What’s eating you?”

“I don’t know.”

“I do. It’s the nuclear train.”

“Maybe.”

“No maybe about it. You just had a glimpse.”

“A glimpse of what?”

“Of a world you never imagined. Big things, important things. Secrets and decisions. The fate of nations hanging in the balance. It makes you feel like you’ve wasted your life.”

“I have wasted my life.”

She nodded, nibbling the lip of the glass of rye. “We all do. But you, you never thought you were going to live this long, and now you find yourself without the resources to get through your mature years. And I’m not talking about money.”

She was right, but did all of that show on his face? A fingerprint smudge on his glasses irritated him, and he felt naked in the wrong way. He ran his fingers through his long hair, pulled a rubber band from his shirt pocket and tied it into a ponytail.

“Too many drugs,” she told him. “Too much excess. Not enough husbandry of your animal spirits. Now your brain won’t finish its own sentences. You start out fine, but you get distracted by the sparkle trails and don’t even know you’ve quit thinking.”

He was in awe of her insight, but the steady glare into his deficiency spooked him. He wished she would invite him to sleep with her, just once. Just once, to warm himself in her unusual glow. Fat chance.

He changed the subject. “I heard Bugs got turned down by another bank.”

In his presence, everyone called Aram Greenberg ‘Mister,’ even the handful of people who had been with the circus when he bought it in 1979. But the resemblance with the Warner Brothers rabbit was more than a question of shape. As he aged, Bugs’s skin had turned gray, and the cigars he smoked were cartoon stogies.

“There never was a Colonel Castle, you know,” the Widow snapped. “It was a name, that’s all. Just a name.”

Talk about the circus’s future distressed her. But Lenny was worried, too, which was why he risked another comment on the dangerous subject. “Blake says Olcott could be our last stop.”

Blake was the senior clown and a person of earned authority, especially after a mild heart attack the year before had brought out the philosopher in him. No one doubted his neutral good will.

“I’m going to bed,” the Widow said, behaving as though Lenny had purposely tried to hurt her feelings.

It was now or almost certainly never. “Can I go with you?”

“What do you mean, Lenny?”

He lay his forearm on the table next to hers so that the hairs touched for a moment. He was close enough to smell the whiskey on her breath. “You know what I mean.”

“Don’t be absurd.”

She swept away in her purple dressing gown, and Lenny was cast doubly down. Love could redeem a wasted life, but you had to be loved back. The odd sensation of belittlement that the nuclear train had left him with came back hard. Had he seen a faint green glow about the black cars blowing by, or was that his wasted imagination? He picked up the deck of cards and began shuffling. After some thought, he finished the finger of rye she had left in the glass.

*  *  *

All through the Broome County set-up, Lenny felt his age like one more mistake in an endless string of them. He was the oldest roustabout in Colonel Castle’s by probably ten years, and his portion of the hard labor of building a two-ring circus taxed him more each season. He was taking a breather in the shadow of the lion wagon when Bugs nabbed him.

“What you got in the home-rolled there, Lenny?”

“Just tobacco, Mister Greenberg. I gave up the wacky weed a long time ago.”

Properly skeptical, Bugs said, “Lend me a match, will you?”

The proprietor of Colonel Castle’s bit off the end of his cigar and spat it on the ground. The way he waved out the match made Lenny uncomfortable, as though it were the prelude to an announcement, but Bugs only puffed on his oversized cigar until the tip glowed. “How long you been on the show now?”

“This is my fifth season.”

Lenny remembered the interview in Greenberg’s private car. He had hesitated to tell the truth of his experience because it sounded like a lie. He had played guitar for top-draw acts in Las Vegas clubs, up to and including the Tom Jones band. Silk shirts, craps at sunrise, blunts delivered by runners on silver trays, showgirls who were more than the sum of their interesting parts. The good life, and he knew how to live it. But as the Widow Kip had divined, he had not planned ahead, psychically speaking. When too much of everything caused the whole thing to blow up in his face, there was nothing left over. All Greenberg seemed to care about, however, was the Game Boy he didn’t have.

“No video games allowed in my circus,” he had warned Lenny with a ferocity that got his attention, “and that includes hand-held devices.”

“They’re not my thing,” Lenny ventured, glad that it was true.

“Aren’t you going to ask me why?”

Was this part of a pre-employment test? If so, he was going to flunk it. “Okay,” he’d gone along doubtfully. “Why don’t you like video games?”

“Simple. The digital world is killing the circus. Colonel Castle’s is real, Lenny. It’s real, and beautiful. At its best it’s a thing of wonder. But these days, reality has a hard time competing with all the unreal shit people see on their screens.”

“What about the Cirque du Soleil?”

It had been a chance comment, an attempt to establish some kind of wavelength with the man who would sign his paycheck, but it almost cost him the job before he had it. Lenny never did understand the reason behind Greenberg’s contempt for Cirque, only that it was deep and possibly violent.

For five seasons Lenny had kept his nose clean. Now, smoking companionably at the ass end of a cageful of lions, he wanted to think his fidelity had earned him the right to ask the question that was on everybody’s mind. “We’ve been hearing all kinds of rumors, Mister Greenberg.”

“What kind of rumors?”

“They say we’re going broke. They say you’ve been trying to get a loan to get us through the season but the banks are all saying no.”

“You don’t say.”

Lenny looked at the ground. Throughout the season Bugs dressed the part of Colonel Castle, who may or may not have existed, may or may not have run the show in a remote decade no one had yet pinned down. Greenberg’s summer suit was vaguely military, as were the high black boots on which Lenny’s eyes locked in trepidation. He shrugged. “It’s just, you know. You hear things, they make you think.”

The pause was unbearable. The smoke from the big cigar overpowered Lenny’s humble fag. Fancy, the senior lion, woke up and stretched, then padded to the end of the cage as though to eavesdrop. Farther off, where Lenny ought to be right now, Baggle led the chant as the sledge gang heave-ho’d canvas and the tent rose toward heaven the way circus tents were intended to rise. It wasn’t Las Vegas in a silk shirt, but the thought of losing what he had made Lenny numb.

“You know what a trust fund baby is?” Bugs finally asked him.

“I guess.”

“Well, that’s what I was. I could have put my money up my nose like so many of my contemporaries were doing. I could have bankrolled cancer research, or invested in art. But I didn’t. I bought a goddamn circus. And kept it going, ‘lo these many years, in the face of all manner of tribulations. How many gaffers do you know that own the show they run?”

Lenny shook his head.

“Exactly. So do me a favor, will you, son?”

Lenny tried not to resent being called son by a man of his own age, give or take. “Sure, Mister Greenberg. Anything you say.”

“Next time ‘they’ tell you something stupid like that, tell ‘em the circus is real. And it’s going to keep on being real. You got any kids?”

Lenny shook his head.

“That’s too bad,” Bugs told him, “because if you had any, when they grew up they’d be able to get a job at Colonel Castle’s. High-wire, lion tamer, bareback rider, you name it. For the right candidate, the opportunities are unlimited.”

“I’ll tell people,” Lenny promised as Bugs walked away in a huff. “I’ll tell everybody what you said.”

Lenny respected Bugs. Greenberg held the circus together, a feat impossibly beyond Lenny’s limited powers. And old habits made him fear his employer. That fear ticked up a notch later the same day when Bugs fired one of the roustabouts, a sexy slacker they called Sheila Shillelagh. In her second season, Sheila had stupidly challenged Bugs’s rule about video, hooking up an old Play Station to a television on which people watched taped sitcoms. Word leaked to Greenberg, and she was gone in twenty minutes with no hope of getting the back pay she was due.

It was the question of back pay that gave punch to the rumors about Bugs’s money problems. Lenny didn’t mind the shortfall as much as some of the others did. He had food, he had shelter, and the on-again, off-again companionship of the Widow Kip. He had lived through worse. But the rumors got to him, and he went in search of the Widow to ease his mind. Apart from Blake, who before his heart attack mellowed him had described Lenny as a drifter on the high plains of his own mind, she was the smartest person in the show.

It was one of those rare moments when set up was finished and the crowd had not yet begun to gather. The fairgrounds had a peaceful view of wooded hills, over which the August sun beamed like the kind of good-natured uncle who was always pulling a quarter from behind your ear. Everyone was momentarily content. Smythe, in a Rolling Stones T-shirt, was lecturing the cats, making an object lesson of Obsidian, an uncooperative leopard. The Flying Alvarezes were holding a family conference, drinking their funny Argentine tea around the portable crib where Maria Elena’s infant slept like the queen of everybody’s future. The little people were playing pinochle. When an elephant trumpeted above the happy babble, Lenny recognized Thunder Stick, pleased to be able to distinguish the titan’s voice from those of the other elephants.

“I’m getting dressed,” the Widow warned him when Lenny showed up at clown alley. He pushed through the leather curtain anyway; she always dressed behind a Chinese screen. He was lucky. None of the other clowns was around, although he smelled the liniment Patches used to warm his muscles before going on.

“I had a smoke with Bugs this morning,” he told her.

“That was nice, I suppose.”  

The sight of a peach robe draped on the screen reignited his longing, and it took him a moment to remember why he had come. “Bugs, Mister Greenberg, I asked him and he told me it’s true. We’re going broke.”

She had to know it was a lie. “That’s funny, because I heard just the opposite. I heard we’re getting paid at Olcott.”

That was a lie, too, precisely the one he had come to hear. He felt better and sneaked a look around the side of the screen, where the vision of a pale blue brassiere strap gave him the same frustrated feeling of powerlessness the nuclear train had in Reading. He really had wasted his life.

But he carried his relief like a gift through the evening, enjoying the show like a towner might. Bugs was right, the circus was real. That was strange, since the whole point had used to be an escape from reality. But Paquito Alvarez grabbing the ladder forty feet up was as real as the world got. Winsome Willamette in blue tights, feet steady on the backs of two horses running in handsome tandem, was real. Between acts, the crowd of little people pretending to cut the king pole with gigantic plastic saws, well, that also was unspeakably real.

The magic of the real carried over to the Widow Kip, who performed as Rhonda Raspberry in a costume of the same denomination. The Parade of Jesters was led by Blake, who had begun as a carpet clown the year Greenberg bought the circus, climbing his way up to a platform of artistry as unrivaled as his personal authority. The Widow’s portion of the Parade involved a clown Corvette, and bright bowling pins, and a harpoon, among other props. It was Lenny’s job, standing mostly out of sight, to make sure each item reached her outstretched hand the instant she required it. Timing mattered, and that mellow, late-summer night in Broome County it was as though they had worked the act together for twenty years.

“You were really on tonight,” she told him later.

They were walking the perimeter of the lot, sharing a doobie in the dark.

“Yeah. It was like…” He couldn’t find the words he wanted.

“Like what?”

“Like, for once in my life, I finally did something the way it’s supposed to be done.”

“You did, Lenny. You did. So savor the moment.”

“Belinda?”

That was a mistake. He wasn’t supposed to know her name. Apart from Bugs, no one knew it. Any second she would figure out that he’d been in her purse. Angrily she tossed the joint and stalked away. Lenny knew better than to go after her. He had screwed up again, as though it were necessary to emphasize, by contrast, just how perfect the show had gone. He watched the black night take her, troubled by a sense of forgetting something. After a moment he bent down and brushed the ground with his hand until he found the doobie. He picked it up. It was still burning.

*  *  *

The morning of the second day of the Olcott stand, Boss Tweed cut off Lenny’s ponytail. Boss was the last of a line of accomplished little people; his grandfather had worked on the Big Bertha show his whole career. The tweed suit Boss wore in the ring was an exact replica of his grandfather’s trademark ensemble, cut by an Armenian tailor in Des Moines who specialized in entertainers’ dress wear.

“How long you had the tail?” the midget inquired politely, working with scissors from a stepstool.

Lenny couldn’t remember, and wasn’t sure why he had made up his mind it had to go, but Boss seemed to forget he’d asked the question. One of the benefits of living a precarious life was you developed radar. To survive, Lenny had learned to sound people in their moods. He knew Boss had something major on his mind. He lost nothing by asking, “What’s up?”

“Me on the stool.”

“Besides that.”

“Nothing.”

“Baloney.” Unlike most of the other people he worked and lived with, Boss disliked rough language, and Lenny censored himself without thinking.

“Pretty good crowd last night,” said Boss.

“Not bad.”

“How ‘bout that view?”

The Olcott lot was a big, flat field a quarter mile from the shore of Lake Ontario, which looked as big as an ocean to Lenny. Way out on its dark glass—close to the Canadian shoreline, he imagined—some kind of cargo ship looked lost and proud of it. 

At ten o’clock, the heat was already oppressive. The sense of the season’s passing was suddenly overpowering. The leaves on the tree were turning to green leather. Lenny shifted in the chair trying to stifle the sense of foreboding that threatened to take him down.

“I mean it,” he said to Boss. “What’s going on?”

“You ain’t heard?”

Lenny shook his head, which caused Boss to poke him in the scalp with the point of his scissors.

“Last night, after the show, I’m taking my nightly. Stroll, that is. It helps me unwind. Anyway when I go by the cars I can’t help noticing Bugs is out in the Caddy with the top down, whispering into his cell phone.”

When Bugs bought the circus, it came with a red ’79 Eldorado. For a few years the car had been old. Now it was a classic, though a maintenance headache. He still drove it from the train to the lot of every new stand.

“It’s dark,” Boss went on, “so he doesn’t see me. I figure it’s my duty to get up close and listen, you know what I mean?”

Lenny nodded, shrinking from the scissors.

“He’s talking about Toronto.”

Lenny didn’t want to hear any more, but he couldn’t very well walk away mid-haircut. He controlled his breathing listening to Boss explain that the Toronto stand they’d been promised, the one that was going to make up in its bounty for the long season’s lean, had fallen apart. After getting the bad news, Bugs had sat quietly behind the wheel for ten minutes before making another call, this time to Delia. Delia sold real estate around St. Pete. When the circus wintered in Florida, she offered Bugs a place to hang his hat.

It’s over, Boss heard Bugs tell Delia. Olcott is the end of the line. I don’t know how the hell I’m going to tell people.

“I don’t believe it,” Lenny said, conscious of mimicking the Widow Kip’s reaction to bad news.

“That’s your constitutional choice,” said Boss.  

He held up a mirror so Lenny could see the back of his head without the ponytail. He stared at the new haircut, front and back, for so long Boss got tired of holding the mirror. He wished change were not inevitable.

It was hard for Lenny to go on not believing once he heard about the meeting the old-timers held behind closed doors. Based on the conversations Boss Tweed had overheard, the decision to speak with Mr. Greenberg was unanimously adopted. Also unanimous was the choice of Blake to look him up in his office in the trailer, where he maintained a healthy supervisory distance from the rest of the show.

Lenny longed to talk over developments with the Widow Kip, but ever since he had blurted out her first name in Broome County she had cut him off. There had been no late-night card games, no convivial glass of rye, no thoughtful conversation about the way they had bungled their lives. His contact was limited to what was strictly necessary to the performance of her act. He handed, and she took from him, bowling pins, a harpoon, a giant baby bottle with an ugly purple nipple, a stuffed rat with movable jaws.  

The August cold was killing him.

In the course of the afternoon, Lenny heard seven different descriptions of the phone conversations Boss had overheard Bugs conduct. Not all of them could be the word-for-word truth the tellers claimed they were. That didn’t matter, because they all came out at the same burnt end. Colonel Castle’s Authentic American Circus had reached the end of its reality run.

Blake waited until after the show to report what he had heard from Bugs. Lenny was as alive as everybody else to the painful irony of playing to a tent packed with appreciative gillies that night. Everything worked, everything went over. It seemed to Lenny that the enthusiastic applause was proof of Bugs Greenberg’s theory of the circus. People were clapping because the circus was real, and what was real was mostly beautiful.

He was disappointed but not surprised that Blake did not convoke a general meeting. Colonel Castle’s didn’t work that way. Blake closed off clown alley and spoke with the old-timers, who then fanned out as if they had no particular place to go and nothing to do, passing the word to the people they liked or trusted or wanted to impress. It didn’t take long for everyone to know the news, which was terrible.

A temporary setback. That was how Bugs described the situation to Blake. Yes, the Toronto stand had not materialized. No, he could not make payroll at the present moment. He needed to sink all his available cash into turning up a new stand, not to mention replace the generator that had gone out on them in Binghamton. He hoped and trusted that people would understand. It wasn’t like he was some sort of absentee owner. He was there, on the show, living the same life they were. He was with it.  

It wasn’t the words that convinced Blake it was over. It was the set of Bugs’s shoulders, the red rims around eyes that didn’t focus, the smell of hopelessness the man gave off when you came close. It was Blake’s opinion that if anybody had a job or a prospect or even a place to go to, the time had come. He had extracted a promise from their employer that he would address them all in the morning but doubted he would deliver. Aram Greenberg was in a state of deep denial.

When Lenny heard, he hunted up the Widow Kip and practically begged her to take a walk with him. Turning him down, she was too distracted to be heartless. She had not yet taken off her makeup, which was unlike her. The exaggerated pathos of her Rhonda face tore him up.

Which probably had something to do with his getting blasted in the company of the other roustabouts, sharing a bottle of Jamaican rum and a sackful of forties brought back from a convenience store in Olcott. Blasted, but not drunk. A sense of participating in a historic event hardened Lenny’s consciousness into a steely sobriety that was new and agreeable. He had wasted his life, but there was something in the dregs that had not deteriorated. He felt capable.

And determined. It was with a sense of purpose that he laid out his plan to the roustabouts. Not all of them were circus lifers. Not all of them liked Lenny, or respected him. Still, drunk as so many skunks, they couldn’t help seeing that something was different about him. He was serious. He was articulate and convincing. He had them.

In theory, anyway, Colonel Castle’s had another night to go in Olcott, although advance ticket sales had been discouraging. Everything was still in place. Lenny led his troupe to the main tent where, in the mutually reinforcing lights of storm lanterns and their own invention, the roustabouts put on a show.  

Each person gravitated to the act that most moved him. Miller went for the cats, although he wasn’t drunk enough to open the cage. A fluorescent do-rag on his head, he addressed the animals from outside the bars with a whip and a chair, getting more of a response than a layman might expect.  

As Lenny watched, an undrafted ringmaster, the men and women he worked with took over bars and beasts, rings and rubber and the appurtenances of clowns. The sense of satisfaction that produced in him, watching his friends and enemies perform with passion, drunken grace, and a little skill, was fresh and strange. Maybe every wasted life came out at a place like the one he found himself in, and the trick was learning how to make it play.

Someone disappeared and came back with more rum. Mixed with warm Coke, it went down raw and moved Lenny to drag the Widow’s clown car toward the center of the ring. Pushed from behind, he sat down hard on the tiny seat. Then he pedaled the slinky silver ‘Vette in circles after Loretta, a former bodybuilder from Venice, California, who was pushing a toy gorilla in a baby carriage while making noises of simulated terror.

He was there, where he was evidently meant to be. He wanted it to go on, and it did. After some time, he noticed, they were drawing their energy not from the booze they continued to slug back but from the performance itself. The show was the thing. For a while, it was the only thing.

Rizzo, a black man from Philadelphia who looked after the elephants, led in Thunder Stick and convinced him to pick up a beer keg with his trunk.

And then Blake, probably the only man on the show who could have stopped it with a word, was there. And didn’t. He stood watching in the doorway for a minute, smoking a cigarette. When he finished his smoke he turned around and left.

The performers took it as a blessing, and the show went on. Making slow loops across the ring in the clown car, no longer chivvying Loretta, Lenny felt a sense of accomplishment that dwarfed the feeling he’d had the night Tom Jones tucked a hundred-dollar bill into the pocket of his jacket and said, Nice riff. He wished the Widow were there.

She was. She must have been standing in the shadow of the blues for some time, observing the high nonsense in the ring. A stab of anxiety over abusing her vehicle passed quickly through Lenny. How could she fail to see the fineness of what was happening, its transient grandeur? He got out of the car and walked toward the seats.

“It’s over,” she said.  

She had been drinking, or crying. Maybe both. He wanted to embrace her but didn’t dare.

“Yeah,” he agreed. “It’s over.”

When she left the tent, he went with her, not half a step behind the way he normally did but right next to her, the way adults ought to walk. She seemed to know where she wanted to go, and they wound up in the car lot, far enough away from the tent that Lenny could not help hearing the night’s monumental quiet, which made his body tremble. When the Widow had to heave, he stood aside at a decent distance until she finished.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she told him.

“Me neither.”

“I can’t go back.”

“Back where?”

She shook her head. “Don’t you see?”

Lenny didn’t, but was afraid to admit it. “Bugs will figure something out.”

She flared angrily, and he admitted, “Okay, he won’t. It’s over. It’s definitely over.”

“I guess I’d like to confide something, Lenny.”

“Anything you want.”

“I was never married. I’m not really the Widow Kip. I never was, never will be.”

He waited for the rest of the story, but it didn’t come. He realized he didn’t care. The night breeze off the big lake was cool, and she shivered. He pulled her to him, and she allowed him to encircle her with his arms. They stood embraced for a long time, and Lenny felt mature. Tested. Whatever was coming, he could handle it. He felt like he could complete his thoughts.

He went rummaging and found blankets in one of the vans. He spread one on the grass, then draped another over the Widow’s shoulders when she sat on the first. He sat next to her. She leaned against him, and when he took her hand she did not take it back.

They didn’t speak much. Once, she told him, “I’m trying to figure out if I’m more bitter or more scared.”

He wanted to tell her he was happy but knew that would be a mistake. It was not a night for making mistakes. He wished the time would go more slowly, but it seemed to race, and they were both awake and alert as the first light of morning began scouring the darkness from the air. The roustabouts’ show must be long over. The circus was asleep. Lenny was content to go on sitting there, wrapped in a blanket now damp with dew, his butt sore, his head aching in the aftermath of alcohol. He wondered if he could call her Belinda.

Bugs Greenberg wasn’t looking so didn’t notice them in tree shadow on the grass when he came walking toward the vehicle lot. He was dressed in civilian clothes: khakis, a blue shirt with a collar, and loafers, and carrying a nylon windbreaker. It was the way he dressed when he lived at Delia’s. He fumbled in his pocket for the keys but stood for a moment before getting into the Cadillac. He looked back in the direction of the tent, and Lenny wished he knew what the man was thinking. Eventually he came out of his funk, opened the car door, and started the ignition. Gone.

Belinda was crying, so quietly it appalled Lenny but brought out his finer instincts. Patiently he went up and down the rows of vehicles until he found what he was looking for. Against Bugs’s strictly enforced regulation, somebody had left a key in the ignition of one of the vans. Lenny started it up, backed it out, nose pointed toward the road. He got out, walked the Widow to the passenger seat, and helped her in. She had stopped crying.

Now that he had the right to call her by her given name, he didn’t care to. He wondered if she would regret not going back to pack a bag of her things.

“Where we going, Lenny?”

If he knew, he would have told her. For now, the thing was to keep moving.

“Better put your seat belt on,” he told her.









MARK JACOBS has published more than 90 stories in magazines including The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, The Southern Humanities Review, The Idaho Review, and The Kenyon Review. He has stories forthcoming in several magazines including Playboy. His fifth book, a novel set in Turkey entitled Forty Wolves, came out in 2010. A former U.S. Foreign Service officer, he currently works for the State Department’s Office of Inspector General.

The Widow Kip
MARK JACOBS