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: It was a patio, fringed by a little lawn and with a swimming pool, bricked in by cinder block walls. It could have been the backyard of anyone in any LA suburb. It was quiet, like in the mountains, like when someone turns off a radio.

"Why have you taken me here, spirit?" The hooded figure said nothing, just stared at the blossoms that floated across the pool in a fragrant scum.

There was a grimy barbecue grill off to one side of the patio. A garden hose stretched halfway across the lawn like an exhausted snake. The sky was blue with a couple smears of clouds, looking as though they had been put there to distinguish the sky from other blue things. All these were facts about the area, but which one was the important one?

I played it cool. I turned on the garden hose and watered the lawn for a little bit. There was a white metal gate to an unused side yard with lawn chairs stacked in it. I ran out of lawn and started spraying the cinder blocks with water, my thumb over the mouth of the hose.

The figure turned and pointed a finger at me. The finger, the hand, the arm that held it up were shrouded in a darkness as deep as the void.

"At the age of fifty," it said, "your fingernails stop growing."

Now I knew the game. I dropped the hose and parried.

"If the pancreas fails," I said, "the liver can take over some of its functionality."

"Jellyfish are chordates, like tunicates," said the spirit.

"Some wasps make honey, the way bees do," I said. "But you shouldn't eat it because it'll make you sick."

"That's very interesting," said the spirit. "I never knew--". It shook from the bottom up, like a movie hologram. It fell, or leapt, into the swimming pool, which swallowed it whole. A slick remained on the surface, which I dispersed with the hose.

Wasp honey. I'd have to look that up. I went into the house.


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