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So, I asked, what's the plan? Each time I fly home, Kilbey promises that things would be taken care of and insists on being secretive about it. Such a strange routine, seeing Kilbey, coming face to face with a part of myself and still not knowing what to expect. What we were going to do, where was I going to sleep, these were all mysteries to me.
Kilbey slumped back over the steering wheel and grinned. It's a surprise, he said and lit another cigarette.
Kilbey had an old friend who lived up the mountain. Known him way longer than I known you, he said. I had known Kilbey since grade school and I never believed, then or now, he had friends other than me.
We were driving down a narrow road flanked on both side by heavy trees. Kilbey reached under his seat and pulled out a can of beer. Are you sure about that, I asked. Kilbey cracked the can open. The truck hit a pothole and some beer spilt onto his lap. Shit, he said, you want one? I shrugged and held out my hand. Wait till you see this place, Kilbey said, it's nice, lots of land, no one around for miles. He reached back under his seat, found a beer and gave it to me. My friend, he said, is a cool guy, letting us stay up there, you’re gonna like him.
As we got further up on the mountain the trees became less plentiful, scrubby and anemic. Some completely dead, their skeletons half uprooted from the dirt. Crows, silent and cold as bullets, clung to the branches. When we passed, they watched us go. The sky, too, was turning, becoming heavier, more oppressive. The clouds hung low over the brown earth. I tried to focus on nothing. I tried to ignore how the trees slipped past the window.
When we came to a balding spot of field grass, what I figured must be the very top of the mountain, we turned off the road onto a gravel driveway. The truck swayed and bucked, rocks popped under the tires. Something vibrated angrily in the glove box. This guy is an A-plus, original mountain man, Kilbey said. His voice came out in a stutter, the ridged and pleated road shaking us so violently I pressed my hand to the ceiling to keep from hitting my head. Beer sprung from Kilbey’s can, shot out like sparks, ash sprinkled off his cigarette, peppering his clothes and the dash, but he didn't seem to mind. He just barreled down the driveway, jerking the wheel back and forth to dodge pits and ditches, grinning like a snake.