It’s just after a rain. The afternoon sun has come back out, and the clouds, puffed in drippy gray and blue, have disappeared over the town. The buildings overhang, resting on the hillside. Hamilton leans forward against the window frame, condensation dripping down the glass from the inside steam of the kitchen. Out of the back window are rising grey-rock hills, brushed over by the burn of the sun, but growing dark just as easily as the clouds gloat by at a low altitude. Near the next hill the clouds encroach for the duration of the distance up the hill, alongside garbage, and abandoned furniture, broken and weakened in the sun. Wheel frames, broken bottles – broken and half filled with sand or plants growing into them – clothes, and smashed, rusty iron.
“The storm has moved away.”
“Yea? I can still hear the thunder out there.”
He stayed focused, looking out, nearly directly into the sun. His eyes seemed yellow, like snakeskins glowing in the light. He tugged at his collar, and adjusted a navy polkadot bandana tied around his neck. The sun glimmered in through the front window, resting on the corner of a wooden-framed newspaper article hanging by the door, but it just as quickly disappeared, covered by the clouds from far off.
“What’s Benedict think about what’s been happening at night?” Sandle looked up for a second, then back down into the tin wash basin filled with grey water, biting his bottom lip, light steam coming up from the surface as he worked on the plates and glasses, anything wooden floating in the grey murk. His hair was thin in the front and frizzy behind the ears, disheveled and looking dirty, and his round wire-frame glasses kept fogging up from his labored breathing leaning over, staring into the steam.
“Why’re you out of breath? You’re washing dishes.” Hamilton asked, not turning around.
“I’m not outta breath, my nose is stopped up.” He said, sniffling and wiping his nose with the palm of his hand.
“He doesn’t know about everything. Nobody tells him everything. Last time he got so angry he broke Green’s shoulder.” Hamilton said turning, but not looking at Sandle. “The problem is that he always finds out regardless.”
“Did Mustly tell you what they found at the Gold King?” Sandle said, drying off his hands and wiping his nose with the grey towel on the bar.
“He should be careful who he talks to about anything up there.”
“Yeah well he told me yesterday that he heard somebody found gold there. But nobody’s ever found anything there. You can’t get anymore gold there than you can from picking your nose.”
“I don’t think anybody listens to him anyway. He’s always talking about something he’s seen somewhere or something he heard somehow, and it’s never true.”
“But he said there was this new building up there. It’s on the river, not on the mountainside. He said it was glowing like a gateway to heaven.”
“Gateway to heaven! Hah. Some imagination. I’ll talk to him when I get up there. He at least shouldn’t be telling anybody, even if it’s nothing at all going on up there.”
“I’d sure hate to see something happen to him. It’s always the poor boys that get it. They’re not even looking for it, but they’re the first to stumble into it, and the first to be dead.”
“There is a new building up there. But it’s not a mine.”
“How do you know about that?”
“A few days ago on my way to Diamond Head, I happened on it by accident running some maps over. It’s a factory that’s using the river. I told them I was supplying the store over on Diamond Head, and they asked me some questions about the river, who uses it, who comes around, and so on. I told him I didn’t know much other than that people go by on the road, and they think the place is abandoned.”
“Who was running it?” he said, drying off his hands, and opening up a bottle for a drink from behind him, next to the wall-long mirror.
“I’d never seen them before, any of them. But they all dressed really sharp.” he said, turning out the window, the windows of the town still dark as the sun had already disappeared over the mountainside.