Two Breaths Walking

frogue
Winner
Joined: January 10th, 2015, 3:44 am

July 17th, 2016, 10:38 pm #1

Jonathan Ray McKay lay on the hood of his car, watching the sky grow dark. The car was a Nissan Altima, and he and it had a lot in common. Both were white, dirty and smelt of cigarettes. Both were 17 years old, both were largely unreliable, and both were, as Johnny himself would have put it, total trash pieces of shit.

The white of the hood was flecked with black. Insects he'd driven into, maybe, or just dirt. It was wonder the hood of the car wasn't dirtier, really. Johnny couldn't recall a single instance of it being washed, and the car'd been in his family basically his whole life. Rain, maybe? But it wasn't much for rain, in Kingman, Arizona.

He picked idly at one of the flecks with a grimy thumbnail. There was a cigarette in that hand, and he'd occasionally bring it up to his mouth to draw on. As he exhaled, he opened his mouth in an "O" and pushed his tongue at towards his teeth, making a faint "pah" sound, trying to blow smoke rings. He was yet to blow one successfully, but he felt like he was getting closer.

Johnny's rested on his stomach, which was bare. His t shirt was balled behind his head, a cushion between it and the hot glass of the windscreen. Johnny's feet were bare too, the left dangling off the front of the hood, the right crossed over his left knee. He turned his head to look at Raina, who was squatting a few feet away, fiddling with a telescope.

He couldn't say how long they'd been friends. He couldn't even say if they were friends, really. They didn't spend time together in school at all. Outside of these trips they hardly ever spoke. Johnny'd known her forever though: her brother had been close with his, and for close to a decade now they'd just sorta been... around each other.

She was pretty, Johnny supposed, though he'd never thought of her in any sort of romantic sense. He'd thought about fucking her, of course, but only in the abstract, absent-minded way that he thought about fucking every female of his acquaintance. Her hair, he noted, was almost the exact same shade of blue as the early-evening sky.

"Hey, Ray..."

She didn't look up from the telescope. She'd get like this, when she was working. Johnny didn't mind it, really. He was happy enough in his own company, and he let her be. "There ain't nothing to be gained from talking to someone who don't want to be talked to, excepting a hiding" his pa'd told him once, and as was rather rare for the McKay patriarch's utterances, Johnny put a lot of weight in it.

As far as Johnny was concerned the old man was a moron. He was working as a busboy, for god's sake: there were kids in Johnny's school, in his class, with better jobs than that, and they probably wouldn't be fired in the next few months for missing shifts because they were too drunk to be woken up or too hungover to get up. Johnny'd never felt like the relationship between the two of them entitled Louis Sr. to any particular respect, either. As his brother Darren had said once, "What? Like fucking Tricia Bell is so fucking difficult?"

Tricia Bell, now Tricia McKay, was their mother, whom Johnny loved in the way that a childless bachelor might love his city's school system: she seemed to do her job and stay out of his way, and he wasn't sure, really what more he could ask of her. He'd found the joke cruel, and more than a little unfair: to his knowledge their mother had never been unfaithful, and he was sure that was the extent of Darren's knowledge to, as the older boy surely would have told him about any maternal infidelity. Still, he had laughed, dutifully. Darren was his brother, and Johnny's love for him wasn't abstract or habitual, but something real, and tangible, and when you love someone you laugh at their jokes.

"Hey Raina," called Johnny.

For the moment, at least, he ignored his pa's advice. Raina wasn't the type to be dispensing hidings anyhow. Situationally speaking, the advice was inappropriate.

Johnny's words seemed to vanish into the desert. His body was still in the clutches of puberty, but his voice, mercifully, was free of it. It had emerged soft and raspy, broad-accented and almost melodious, and Johnny was rather proud of it. Sometimes on the phone he'd get called "sir", even.

The only response was a trill from a flycatcher of some kind, sitting on a guajillo about 15 yards away. It was too dark for Johnny to make out what kind it was - brown crested, he thought, but he couldn't be sure.

He forged ahead anyway.

"Why dint the lifeguard save the drownin' hippy?"

She gave no indication that she'd heard, but stood up, brushing the dust off her knees, and began to polish the lens of the telescope with a cloth that she took from inside a small plastic case, about the size of his palm.

Johnny waited a moment.

"Too far out! ... Huh?"

Raina didn't laugh.

Oh well, thought Johnny, and returned his focus to his smoke rings.
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Mr. Danya
Joined: February 22nd, 2013, 1:59 am

July 18th, 2016, 4:12 am #2

((Raina Rose continued from The Last Answer))

Johnny McKay was not, strictly speaking, Raina's friend. He wasn't an enemy, certainly, and it couldn't quite be said that she merely tolerated his presence either, but he wasn't a friend. He was just sort of... there. He'd been "just there" for nearly as long as Raina could remember, ever since Cameron had invited Darren McKay over to their house because the two of them were partnered for some school project and the two older boys had immediately bonded over this thing and that.

Raina could remember, with rather more clarity than she was completely comfortable with, how hard Darren had tried not to look awed at their large house, Cameron's shiny new laptop computer and game consoles. Maybe it was right then, at age six or seven as she watched Darren try to hide his wonder and envy and she and Cameron had carefully pretended not to notice it, that Raina had first had an inkling of the concept of "privilege".

She could remember too her excitement when she found out that Darren had a brother her age, and then her profound disappointment when Johnny turned out to be Johnny.

It wasn't that she disliked him, or that he'd ever been particularly unpleasant to her. It wasn't necessarily that he was just in Darren's shadow, though it would be a rather bold lie to try and say that she hadn't had a pretty serious crush on Darren at one time and there was no way Johnny could ever measure up, even if he had ever expressed that kind of interest in her. Maybe she pitied him, but she could never be quite sure what it was she pitied him for. He didn't act pitiful, not like he sometimes had when they were kids. She was frustrated by him too, by his lack of ambition and his resignation - no, his outright acceptance - to the fact that he'd never amount to anything. Maybe that was why she pitied him, really, age seventeen and already given up on anything other than washing dishes in Kingman, Arizona.

More than anything, Raina supposed she just accepted Johnny for what he was. An unfortunate fact of life, but one better acknowledged than ignored.

And even Johnny came with his own silver linings, namely the car and her parents' willful ignorance of Johnny's worse qualities, probably fueled by Cameron and Darren being attached at the hip all through school and the fact that it was always Johnny who came to Raina rather than the other way around. If she ever bothered to set foot in the trailer park to go visit the McKays, she had no doubt that all those mysteriously absent apprehensions would suddenly materialize.

Still, a silver lining was a silver lining, and this one managed to come without any actual clouds tonight. It was crystal clear out, and the sky was beginning to speckle with stars as the sun dipped down towards the horizon. Raina fiddled with her telescope, absently taking account of Venus in the distance and not quite putting effort into ignoring Johnny as he occasionally quipped at her. Really, it was more like he was just off her radar for the moment. When she ignored people, it was usually intentional and to make a point.

After she'd adjusted as much as she felt was necessary and made sure the lens was spotless, she deigned to actually look in Johnny's direction. "All ready," was the only thing of importance she had to say right now.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
[+] spoiler
V5:
G063 Natali Greer was just unlucky.
B047 Marcus Leung lost his way. (Adopted from Solomir.)

V6:
B001 Min-jae Parker is locked away.
B021 Crist?bal Morales let his guard down.
G017 Raina Rose got washed away.
G003 Bridgette Sommerfeld got a shock. (Adopted from Aloha.)
G029 Georgia Lee Day went home. (Adopted from frogue.)
Nathan Lovegrove was left behind.

V7 Pregame:
Myles Roux is considering his options.
Dolores Upton is exploring the past.
Andy Silverman is balling out.
Siyanda Nagi is on the run.
Mercy Ames is passing judgment.
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frogue
Winner
Joined: January 10th, 2015, 3:44 am

July 18th, 2016, 11:37 pm #3

Johnny held his cigarette between finger and thumb and took a final drag, before stubbing it on the car next to him, and then dropping it in the dirt. He slid from the car's hood, stood, and kicked dirt onto it.

"Ya sure, Ray? Ya don't wanna maybe play with your knobs for another hour or four?"

He affected a bored expression, but in reality Johnny was excited. He didn't want Raina getting a big head or nothing, but Johnny looked forward to these trips more than he'd care to admit, to anyone. Even with the naked eye, the stars out here were excellent.

They were about 90 minutes drive out of Kingman. It wasn't nearly as far out as 90 minutes drive would have been had Johnny been alone, but Raina had compunctions about speeding. Not many compunctions, to be fair - most of the journey they'd be doing about 95 - but Johnny himself had none, and even with the Altima being the beat up piece of shit waste of parking space that it was, it made a difference.

Johnny's mother would've called Raina a good influence, and shit, she might even have been right. By himself out here (or out where he'd've been, had he been by himself) Johnny would've been a spliff deep by now, and probably rolling his second. But no, Raina didn't like him driving high, so the weed stayed put, tucked into the side of his cigarette pack. He could've rolled while she'd been occupied with the telescope probably - Johnny thought to himself that he could probably have taken his pants off and helicoptered his cock about, and she wouldn't've noticed - but while Raina might've been a good influence, she certainly wasn't that good, that she'd've mistaken the smell of pot for anything other than what it was.

Tricia McKay would've called her a good influence, but Johnny'd probably've called her a pain in the ass. There wouldn't've been any actual venom in it, though. Loathe as he was to admit it, Johnny really enjoyed these trips. Even here, far closer to Kingman than he'd like to be, the light pollution was minimal, and just by lying back on your car you could see some serious shit. With Raina's fancy-ass telescope?

It was like seeing God.

He grabbed his shirt from the hood of the car and shrugged it over his bony frame. Out here in the desert, when the sun went down it got dark fast.

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Mr. Danya
Joined: February 22nd, 2013, 1:59 am

July 21st, 2016, 10:59 pm #4

She ignored Johnny's jab, as she'd been accustomed to doing for the last nine and a half of the ten or so years they'd known each other. If he'd really meant anything by it, he'd have kept going, anyway.

"Can't see much yet, but there's Venus, and Mars will be visible in just a bit. After that, Castor and Pollux will be on the horizon, and then we - well, I - can look for the constellations." She had a book, pages frayed at the edges and the spine so well-worn that it would lay open and flat without her having to hold it, that held maps of all the constellations one could see at the different times of year. Northern Hemisphere in April gave them Leo and maybe Virgo, Ursa Major and a few other, lesser-known ones. Of course there was always the Big Dipper and probably Orion, but everyone could pick those out without any help. They were boring.

The stars Arcturus and Vega would be easy enough to pick out, and Vega would lead her right to the constellation Lyra and then easily enough to Draco. Corona Borealis, the Northern Crown, would be somewhere between the two stars. They'd probably be able to pick out Cygnus and Cassiopeia without the telescope. Johnny would probably get a kick out of Cygnus, a big bird all on its own, flying through the endless void of space, a dragon on one side and Pegasus on the other.

Raina preferred Pegasus, herself. More regal.

After that, she could probably hunt down Jupiter and maybe Saturn, and they could try to get a look at the Virgo nebula if she hadn't bored Johnny to tears with science talk that went way over his head by then.

She stepped back and urged Johnny towards the telescope with a nod of her head. "It should be focused on Venus right now. Have a look."
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
[+] spoiler
V5:
G063 Natali Greer was just unlucky.
B047 Marcus Leung lost his way. (Adopted from Solomir.)

V6:
B001 Min-jae Parker is locked away.
B021 Crist?bal Morales let his guard down.
G017 Raina Rose got washed away.
G003 Bridgette Sommerfeld got a shock. (Adopted from Aloha.)
G029 Georgia Lee Day went home. (Adopted from frogue.)
Nathan Lovegrove was left behind.

V7 Pregame:
Myles Roux is considering his options.
Dolores Upton is exploring the past.
Andy Silverman is balling out.
Siyanda Nagi is on the run.
Mercy Ames is passing judgment.
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frogue
Winner
Joined: January 10th, 2015, 3:44 am

July 23rd, 2016, 5:25 am #5

Johnny crouched, and placed an eye to the lens.

A greenish-grey circle came in to focus, looking like a small, blurry moon.

"That's Venus, yeah?" Johnny'd been allowed to stay up one night, when his parents had been out, and watched a movie with Darren and a friend, where large-breasted aliens from Venus had descended to earth and had their way with earth's menfolk. It had been a magical night. Johnny squinted, but couldn't see any sign of them on the planet's blurred surface.

Johnny liked space, or thought he did. According to Raina, what was required to like space properly was a lot of math, and a lot of memorization. Johnny was of the opinion that one could like something just by finding it really cool, but apparently that opinion was wrong and bad, and if one really liked space one could calculate how long it'd take two comets to pass one another if one left earth and x speed and the other at y, or know how many stars were in the hyperion constellation or whatever and what all their names were and what the favourite food of the old french guy who had named them had been.

"So how far away is that, like?"
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Mr. Danya
Joined: February 22nd, 2013, 1:59 am

July 30th, 2016, 5:02 pm #6

"Venus is 25 million miles, or 40 million kilometers, away from Earth," Raina recited automatically, almost before Johnny had finished asking. She'd had almost everything there was to know about the Solar System memorized since she was in elementary school, facts all the way from the Sun to Pluto - and Pluto was not a planet, thanks. Anyone who was still up in arms about what label should be stuck on charts next to Pluto was standing in the way of progress for no good reason (nostalgia, maybe?). "It's about ten times as far away as the Moon."

Venus was one of the cooler planets in her opinion, even if it wasn't as visually impressive as some of the gas giants. "We don't know what a lot of the surface looks like, since it's covered in clouds all over and it's always storming there. The atmospheric pressure is so high that the first robots sent to take pictures of its surface got crushed. We think it's got tectonic plates like Earth, though, and it rains or snows there - but it snows heavy metals, not frozen water."

Johnny might not particularly care about all her factoids concerning Venus, but then Raina didn't particularly care whether he cared or not in the first place. Sharing what knowledge she could with someone so determined to not absorb any was the least she could do.

"It rotates just like Earth, of course, but really slowly. It takes longer for Venus to rotate one full day than it does for Earth to revolve around the Sun." And wasn't that cool? Didn't it make you want to learn something - anything - about the universe, once you knew that something so different and alien was right next door? Raina couldn't fathom knowing what she knew and still being comfortable all confined in their little patch of desert.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
[+] spoiler
V5:
G063 Natali Greer was just unlucky.
B047 Marcus Leung lost his way. (Adopted from Solomir.)

V6:
B001 Min-jae Parker is locked away.
B021 Crist?bal Morales let his guard down.
G017 Raina Rose got washed away.
G003 Bridgette Sommerfeld got a shock. (Adopted from Aloha.)
G029 Georgia Lee Day went home. (Adopted from frogue.)
Nathan Lovegrove was left behind.

V7 Pregame:
Myles Roux is considering his options.
Dolores Upton is exploring the past.
Andy Silverman is balling out.
Siyanda Nagi is on the run.
Mercy Ames is passing judgment.
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frogue
Winner
Joined: January 10th, 2015, 3:44 am

July 30th, 2016, 9:44 pm #7

Johnny stared at the fuzzy little circle, and tried to picture it all.

Metal rain. Year-long days. Storms that lasted forever. The planet sounded like a horror movie to Johnny, and he could understand exactly why the large-breasted aliens had left it and come to earth. That was solid decision making on their part, he couldn't fault it. To come 25,000 miles, though. It was too much. Too far.

He tried to understand the distance. It was a hundred miles from Kingman up to Vegas, but there was a fair bit to see along the way. They were probably a little further than that into the desert, and the trip out was definitely less visually eventful, but there were still plants, and birds, and rocks and things. He tried to picture driving to Vegas 250 times, but through nothing. Nothing around you, nothing in front of you, just stars staring down.

Johnny loved space, but he didn't think he loved it that much.

He pulled his eye back from the lens, and stood up. He was feeling a little dizzy. Putting his hands on the small of his back he leaned backward, stretching, then squinted. The setting sun seemed painfully bright, all of a sudden.

"Ya think you'll ever go to space, Raina?"
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Mr. Danya
Joined: February 22nd, 2013, 1:59 am

August 1st, 2016, 12:23 am #8

The question was unexpected enough that Raina actually took a moment to mull it over, tilting her head thoughtfully to one side. She'd thought about it before, of course. Looking at space was one thing, but actually going there was... a dream. Sometimes she wondered whether it would turn out to be a good or bad one if she actually went.

Not as an astronaut, though. Too much physical training involved there, too many little fiddly things that could go wrong and had to be solved on the fly. Literally on the fly, spinning around the Earth at 17 thousand miles per hour if you were in low orbit.

But in the future, when space travel was a thing? When you could just go up in a vehicle, maybe one she'd helped build... that was a good dream. A real good one. And unlike a lot of dreams people her age had, it just might be achievable.

"I hope so," she said finally. Maybe Johnny would make fun of her for that, for having the audacity to hope for the future. Maybe he'd be jealous. "What about you?"
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
[+] spoiler
V5:
G063 Natali Greer was just unlucky.
B047 Marcus Leung lost his way. (Adopted from Solomir.)

V6:
B001 Min-jae Parker is locked away.
B021 Crist?bal Morales let his guard down.
G017 Raina Rose got washed away.
G003 Bridgette Sommerfeld got a shock. (Adopted from Aloha.)
G029 Georgia Lee Day went home. (Adopted from frogue.)
Nathan Lovegrove was left behind.

V7 Pregame:
Myles Roux is considering his options.
Dolores Upton is exploring the past.
Andy Silverman is balling out.
Siyanda Nagi is on the run.
Mercy Ames is passing judgment.
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frogue
Winner
Joined: January 10th, 2015, 3:44 am

August 2nd, 2016, 7:19 pm #9

"Do I hope so?" Johnny laughed. "Sure, why not? Yeah, who doesn't wanna go to space, right? Ride around on a comet, talk to an alien, try and fly my way into heaven. Do I think I'll go, though?" He shook his head. "Nah, I don't see it. You have to be like a mathemagician super jock science genius army man to go up to space, yeah?"

Johnny ran a hand through his hair. He'd shaved it about a month back, and now it was soft and bristly.

He'd never go to space, he knew. Shit, he'd probably never leave the States. It wasn't something that bothered him, really. Everyone thought they'd be President or quarterback for the cardinals or the next Bill Gates or whatever, and pretty much all of those people were wrong. Johnny was blessed, after a fashion, that his expectations for himself were terminally realistic.

"Besides, I'd have to be livin' down in Houston, yeah? I can't be doin' that. The diner here does my eggs just how I like 'em, and there's this girl in the park who I think'd be interested if I can get a wine cooler or two in her. Got too good a thing goin' on just to throw it away for mars or whatever."
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Mr. Danya
Joined: February 22nd, 2013, 1:59 am

August 5th, 2016, 11:17 pm #10

There it was, then. Tacit admission of what Raina had already known for some time: Johnny had given up.

Raina was surprised at herself, actually, for the sudden and violent disgust that welled up in her in response to Johnny's words. For all her talk about how this thing or that appalled her, the truth of the matter was that true disgust was something she rarely felt. Her usual reaction to whatever had raised her ire could best be summed up as a sense of frustrated duty, but if she really thought back on it, she'd have to admit that she hadn't felt that way towards Johnny in a long time.

Maybe the truth was that she'd given up too, where he was concerned.

She didn't say anything for a while, biting the inside of her cheek to keep from bursting out with confused, angry words that she'd surely regret later. Instead, she moved back to the telescope to adjust it, leaning forward to look into the eyepiece while she adjusted the focus once more.

When she stepped back, she jerked her head at the telescope, indicating that Johnny should have another look. Once he did, she finally spoke, quietly.

"That's Mars. It's farther away from us than Venus, but it's the most similar planet to Earth in the Solar System. Maybe the universe. We've explored it the most out of any celestial body other than our moon; we know what pretty much the whole thing looks like." She crossed her arms and glanced up again, at the little bright point in the sky that she'd directed the telescope at. She could see it in her mind's eye as well as she could with any telescope, a little brownish-red disc hung against the void of space.

"If it was a little closer to the Sun and had a little more atmosphere, it would be almost exactly like Earth. But since it's the way it is, life can't develop there. All we can do is send robots to look around and maybe in the future we'll have the technology to terraform it and put a colony there or something."

Raina crossed her arms tighter, almost hugging herself. She didn't know why she felt so upset and angry all of a sudden, or why her explanation suddenly seemed like some ironic metaphor. Her voice was steady enough, at least, and the Sun had slid below the horizon now so her expression probably wasn't readable. She doubted Johnny would notice anything was off.
"Art enriches the community, Steve, no less than a pulsing fire hose, or a fireman beating down a blazing door. So what if we're drawing a nude man? So what if all we ever draw is a nude man, or the same nude man over and over in all sorts of provocative positions? Context, not content! Process, not subject! Don't be so gauche, Steve, it's beneath you."
[+] spoiler
V5:
G063 Natali Greer was just unlucky.
B047 Marcus Leung lost his way. (Adopted from Solomir.)

V6:
B001 Min-jae Parker is locked away.
B021 Crist?bal Morales let his guard down.
G017 Raina Rose got washed away.
G003 Bridgette Sommerfeld got a shock. (Adopted from Aloha.)
G029 Georgia Lee Day went home. (Adopted from frogue.)
Nathan Lovegrove was left behind.

V7 Pregame:
Myles Roux is considering his options.
Dolores Upton is exploring the past.
Andy Silverman is balling out.
Siyanda Nagi is on the run.
Mercy Ames is passing judgment.
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