Brian knew by the light on his face that it was morning. The birds were roaring in the trees, just as they did outside the window of his apartment in Parson, and, for a moment, he lost sight of the fact that it was Tuesday morning and he was lying naked on his back in a small, blue one-man tent in an overgrown field on the outskirts of Dodgintown, Connecticut. He sat up slowly, letting it all come back to him. It felt as if he had been asleep only for a moment, but a quick look at his watch told him it had been closer to ten hours. Brian pulled on his shorts and untied the flap of the tent, annoyed by the whiteness of the morning. This annoyance was nothing in comparison to the feeling that the din of the birds gave him as they sang happily, unaware of Brian's or anyone else's problems.

Brian picked up a rock, wondering what it was like to be unable to reason. He remembered the mornings in second grade, when he used to look with envy out of his mother's bedroom window at Rennie, the neighbor's German shepherd. Rennie didn't have to go to school. He had no problems, and he didn't spend time worrying about things. All that dog had to do was sit in the backyard on the warm, dry, sunny walk and do nothing. Brian used to wonder if he knew how lucky he was, but Brian had always been told that animals couldn't reason. That's what separated them from man. To Rennie, and to these obnoxious birds, and to all of God's creatures in the animal kingdom, this day, and every other day were all the same. They could not compare days because they couldn't think.

Brian stepped back and let go with the rock into the midst of their racket, shouting as he threw: "Silence!" He smiled as the birds scattered, pleased with their flight and with the silence.

"I can see that you're not a big fan of birds," said Father Landers.

Brian turned around, startled by the voice.

"Oh, Father Landers.....How long have you been standing there?"

"Not very long. Actually, just long enough to see you throw that rock."

"Oh. Well, I wasn't trying to hurt them, I just couldn't sleep with all that noise going on."

"I know. It doesn't really matter, we'll be getting up in a few minutes anyway. I'm an early riser myself and on these trips, it's a good idea to get as many miles in as possible early in the day. That way, if anything unexpected happens, you'll have a few extra miles under your belt. Just to be on the safe side." Father Landers paused for a moment, as if to consider what he had said. He seemed to be studying Brian's naked chest, but as Brian looked closer, he noticed that he was staring right through it. Brian's discomfort grew, but Father Landers turned slowly and began to speak.

"Brian, I'd like to talk to you for a moment," he said, turning around to face Brian again. Brian frowned, wondering what it was that they had just been doing. It must be speech time, he thought.

"Now I know we've only been on this trip for a day so far, but it seems to me that your heart's not really in it. I realize that you feel like you've been railroaded into it and all; but if you'd just cooperate, you'd start to enjoy yourself. This is a group Brian, and by group, I mean just that. Group. There is no letter 'I' in the word group, and that's the way you have to look at it. No individual is more important than the group. No one. Not me, not Phil, not Russ. No one. And that includes you. What you have to remember here is that the Lord gave himself to others, so much so that he even sacrificed his life for them. So, when you think about it that way, we're all pretty insignificant."

Yeah, but some of us are more insignificant than others, Brian thought to himself. He watched as the birds circled and started to gather again.

"Listen Brian, I'm not trying to be Mr. Hardguy with you, I'm just trying to put things in perspective. I remember when I was a young novitiate. I'd read practically everything that was written concerning philosophy, theology and psychology. Thought I was the smartest thing ever to wear a collar. Well, one night I was on call at the hospital in Fort Wayne,Indiana. There was this nineteen year old girl who had terminal cancer. She'd just been engaged, but found out she only had a month to live. Said she wanted to talk to someone, so I went up to her room." He paused for a moment, gazing off at the tree line. "I'll never forget the look of desperation in her eyes. With all of the books and papers I'd read, and all of my supposed knowledge, there wasn't a thing I could do for her. Not one single thing. You know Brian, it was that very night that I vowed I would never let myself indulge in pride any more. If you could've seen that poor girl's eyes......They went right through me."

Father Landers paused, as if the girl were in front of him again. He exhaled slowly and deliberately and then looked up at Brian again. "I'm sorry I went off on a tangent there Brian, but my point is that I want you to start participating in the group a little more. Talking to people and being sociable. You know, Brian, some of these people have some very serious problems. Even more serious than yours. You should try to help someone else instead of thinking about yourself all the time. Now, I'm sure this will all work itself out as we get going. If it doesn't, I can make things very difficult for you during our group discussions, not to mention what I can do to your reputation at the seminary."

Brian stood with his head down, arms folded across his chest. There was really nothing for him to say, but he knew he had to make some type of reply. Brian felt the fear growing in his stomach, and rising into his chest. Luckily, before he had a chance to speak, their conversation was interrupted by Kathi, who was wondering about the day's agenda.

"Excuse me, Father Landers? I was wondering what time we'll be leaving here."

"Good morning Kathi, it's good to see someone else is an early riser. I was just about to wake up the rest of the group. As a rule, I like to get an early start, so we'll be having a small prayer session, and then breaking camp."

"Okay. Is today the day we're going to see New York?"

"The city or the state?" Father Landers asked with a nervous laugh.

"I mean the city," Kathi answered with a slight edge to her voice. "You mentioned something about going to Radio City Music Hall."

"That's right. We should be there around noon, but, for right now, I think we'd better wake up the rest of the group." Father Landers said, noticeably agitated.

"I hope I wasn't interrupting anything," Kathi said with a weak smile.

"Oh no," Brian said quickly. "We were just talking about the itinerary. Nothing important. Well, I've got to start taking my tent down." Brian said with a slight smile as he picked up another rock and threw it into the midst of the birds. As they scattered, he walked between Kathi and Father Landers with his head down, and listened carefully to the sound of the silence.

After the tents had been taken down and packed onto the bikes, Father Landers gathered the group together in a small circle. Brian stood next to Kathi, who stood next to Dr. Chun and Dr. Landman. Next to them was Father Landers, and Russ. Phil stood directly across from them. Brian had chosen this position because it was one of the only ones in which he could hide from Father Landers' stare.

"Friends," Father Landers began slowly, "we gather together to thank the Lord for all he has done for us on this trip. We've been very fortunate in not encountering any serious difficulties as of yet, and we thank God for watching over us and guiding us. We ask that this day may be a positive one for all of us involved, and that we may serve the Lord in any way that he sees fit. And now," Father Landers said as he stepped into the center of the circle, "I'd like to ask Brian Tibbets to come forward and lead us in a group prayer."

Brian felt the blood pumping in his head as he stepped forward. His Adam's apple felt as if it was stuck in the middle of his throat, and he wondered if he would be able to speak. He drew in a deep breath in hopes of hiding his nervousness, but as he glanced at Phil, he could tell that everyone was staring at the sweat as it ran off his face. Father Landers went back to his place beside Russ, who stood with a slight, almost unnoticeable smile on his face.

"I'm sure you all know Brian," Father Landers said to the group. "I know he's been rather quiet, but I'm sure we'll get him to open up if we all work on him. And now Brian, if you'd be so kind as to lead us all in a Hail Mary." Father Landers said with a full white smile. Brian stood silently for a moment, as if to remember the prayer. It seemed that all he could hear was the sound of the birds in the trees again. He began, slowly at first, with his eyes fixed on the ground directly in front of him, and then faster. He said the last verse so fast that most of the others in the group couldn't keep up with him, but that didn't matter to Brian. All he wanted to do was finish. Besides, he had heard the Tibetans pray before, and this was nowhere near that fast. Finally, it was over. Father Landers stepped forward again, but only after what seemed to Brian to be an incredibly long silence.

"Well, I thank Brian for leading us, even if that was one of the fastest Hail Mary's I've ever heard." Father Landers smiled again as the rest of the group had a quick laugh. "Now, as you all know, we're heading for New York City today. We'll be taking route seven south to route one in Norwalk. Route one will take us right into the city. It's only about twenty miles to Norwalk, and then another thirty or so to Times Square. That should take us about three and a half, four hours, depending on how it goes, but we're in no hurry, so it doesn't really matter. As long as we're there by noon. So, unless anyone has any questions, I guess we should saddle up."

The group broke up and began checking their bikes and equipment for the ride. Father Landers remained at Brian's side. Brian could feel the tension next to him, almost like a heat wave down his left side and through his back. He started toward his bike, but Father Landers grabbed him firmly by the elbow. His grip was strong and sure.

"Not so fast my friend," he said to Brian with a hard stare. "Now I hope you won't forget our conversation this morning. Remember, I can make things very hard on you. It's your choice. Next time, it'll be a rosary."

The group pulled their bikes slowly out onto the main road. Although it was still early, it was already quite hot. Brian took his place at the rear of the group, glancing around for a glimpse of Jim or a glance from the watchful eye of Father Landers. He closed his eyes and tried to focus on the rhythm of his bike as it rolled gently beneath him, but he was too aware of the sound of the birds as they roared in the background. he listened as their noise grew fainter and fainter, until it became only the gentle whir of his tires spinning. Brian felt worse today than he had the day before. As usual, his hangover had taken an extra day to come, but when it did, it was always worse than if it had arrived on time. His mouth was dry and foul tasting, but when he tried to spit, nothing would come. Brian alternated riding with his eyes opened and closed, in an attempt to rest them. He noticed that Kathi had fallen back behind Claire Mooney and Russ. Claire looked much better today than she had before. She rode with a smile and seemed to be enjoying herself. Unlike most of the others, she still kept to herself, riding alone and concentrating on the feeling of her body as it warmed with the effort. Phil had fallen in next to Jack P. Sherine and his wife Martha. They rode together talking of marriage, divorce, and child psychology. Phil seemed fascinated with them and their life, and they were equally taken with his tales of past bike trips. Dr. Chun and Dr. Jaye stuck close together, talking occasionally, but still somewhat unsure of themselves on the bikes. They were trying too hard, and Brian found himself laughing repeatedly at their awkwardness. Father Landers had been joined by Teresa and Jeanine who were still on the shy side, but growing more and more enthusiastic. Father Landers dominated most of the conversation, and they seemed content to let him continue. Brian rode slowly behind Kathi, glancing over his shoulder every now and then in hopes of seeing Jim; but as much as he wanted to see him, there was another part of him that didn't, in fear that they might be caught. Brian noticed that Russ was riding alone, about ten yards behind Claire Mooney but still a good distance in front of him and Kathi. Russ had been working his way up through the group, but Father Landers had reprimanded him and he returned to his position near the rear. He seemed to be sweating too much and by nine o'clock, he had taken his shirt off. He was riding slowly now, head down, still sweating a good deal, but seeming not to care. Brian thought of starting a conversation with Kathi, but he was afraid of what she might say. He was also somewhat intimidated by the fact that she was a lesbian. He figured it had something to do with his mother, but he wasn't really sure what. It had been easier for him to accept his mother's lesbianism because of her situation, but Kathi was a different story. She had surrounded herself with a whole lesbian mythology, which Brian just couldn't understand. From what he had heard about her at church and around the seminary, Kathi had an opinion on everything. She was very well educated, and knew how to use her knowledge selectively to support her views. Brian had heard rumors that she had attended Columbia for four years with a three point eight cum, but she never graduated. The week of finals in her senior year, she went to the dean's office and told him to go to hell. He asked her why and she told him that that was where all men went when they died, since women had already had their hell right here on earth. Brian had never really believed that story, but he could never quite get it totally out of his head.

As the morning wore on, the heat became more and more unbearable. Brian was amazed at how well the group stayed together. They weren't exactly in a specific formation of any kind but they still managed to ride reasonably close together. The one problem that everyone was having was the heat. The temperature had risen to ninety seven degrees by ten thirty, and the water stops became more and more frequent. Still, most of them seemed to be getting used to the feeling of riding and using their bodies for an entire day. For most of them, this was quite an accomplishment, since they weren't used to much physical activity.

As they rode, Brian tried to figure out a way to start up a conversation with Kathi. There was something in the back of his mind that intrigued him about her. It was as if he somehow felt that he could lead her from her ways, not back to the mainstream of Catholicism, but instead out of her lesbianism and into 'normal' relations with men. As the towns and cities rolled by, Brian pictured himself with her. Wilton, Norwalk, Darien, and Greenwich all passed by with Brian imagining himself in a new life with Kathi. He had it all worked out in his mind, how he would quit the seminary and get a good job, and then take her out. Just friends at first, but then, as they got to know one another, she would become attracted to him and give up her lesbian ways. They would get an apartment together, with an east window to watch the sunrise, and lots of plants. There would be a west window too, so that they could watch the sunset. Together, they would fill the place with books and records, creating their own archives on every subject under the sun. Brian could even see the new brown refrigerator full of fresh fruit and vegetables and cold clean water. He would lose a few pounds and stop his drinking, and Kathi would stop her smoking. They would be happy together.

Brian continued to let it all grow in his mind, outlining every detail right up to what color the sheets would be on the bed. He made it all so livable. Brian knew that he was rationalizing. He also knew that his ability to rationalize, when combined with his imagination, was one of his main problems. It was also one of his best qualities.

Slowly the group made its way over the New York state border and into Larchmont. At eleven thirty, they rolled into he outskirts of the Bronx, slightly dazed and dizzy in the heavy air of the city. They rode past the Bronx Zoo and Yankee Stadium, in a somewhat tighter line, since Father Landers had cautioned them on the importance of remaining close together in the city. Father Landers had also decided to avoid Harlem by taking Madison Avenue. They were somewhat cooled by the shadows of the buildings, but soon the traffic slowed them and their breeze to a crawl. Father Landers dismounted and walked his bike up onto the sidewalk.

"Looks like we'll be walking from here," he said. "Oh, don't worry, it's not far. We're just going right up here a few blocks to Times Square so we can break for lunch."

Brian followed the rest of the group up the sidewalk, holding his bike by the stem in the middle of the handlebars. He and Kathi were walking side by side now, although she didn't seem to notice. There were people everywhere. Shirts and blouses unbuttoned, ties untied, women in sleeveless dresses and men in short sleeved shirts, all of them moving swiftly, as if to some important destination unknown only to the members of the group. It seemed as if everyone else was walking west, while they moved eastward, back up forty fifth street against the flow. Finally, they made it into the opening of Times Square.

"If I could have everyone's attention for a moment," Father Landers said, holding up his right hand. "We'll be stopping here for a lunch. You're free to go wherever you want, with the stipulation that you can make it back here in one hour. Now I've got five of twelve on my watch, so that means we'll meet back here in this spot at exactly five of one. The show we're going to starts at one thirty and it's going to take us a few minutes to get over there so we'll take that into consideration. I'd ask you to please keep an eye on the clock and really watch the time. In a group of this size it's hard enough to keep track of you all, never mind having to figure out who's late. Are there any questions?" Father Landers looked around at the wet faces of the group. Seeing no objections, he continued. "All right then, I hope you all enjoy your lunch."

Just as the group was about to disperse, Father Landers spoke up again.

"There is one thing that I forgot to add. Please be very careful in choosing a spot to lock your bikes. I needn't remind you that this is the city we're dealing with and in the city you can never be too careful, so watch yourselves and have a good lunch."

Brian looked around himself at the buildings which loomed up in all directions. He tried to make some order of it all, but he couldn't get his bearings. Most of the group had already gone off to lunch, but Russ and Kathi were still standing on the sidewalk, looking about in much the same way that Brian was doing.

"Hey, you all want to come to lunch with us?" Jack shouted from across the street. Martha and Phil were talking rapidly, and hadn't noticed Brian or the others.

"Naw, that's all right, you go on," Russ said as he waved back across the street at them. Without looking at either Kathi or Brian, Russ walked off in the opposite direction. Brian quickly became aware of the fact that he and Kathi were alone. Almost instantly he became nervous, and he wondered if he would be able to speak. He managed to mumble "excuse me" under his breath in an attempt to start things off, but the sound of his voice was drowned in a sea of noise from the traffic. He started again, and Kathi turned towards him.

"Did you say something?"

"Yeah, I was wondering if you were doing anything for lunch, I mean,...."

"What?" she said, stepping closer to him. Brian looked into her sharp blue eyes. They seemed to vibrate with life. Brian felt moved by their energy, and yet he could not find the words to speak.

"I asked if you'd like to go get some lunch," he managed to respond. Kathi stared at him for a moment, frowning slightly, and then ran her eyes quickly over his body.

"Well," she said, "I'm going around the corner to the Brew and Burger. If you want to join me, well then I guess you can." She glanced at Brian again, but this time her eyes seemed warmer. Kathi turned and began to walk toward the corner, without looking to see if Brian was coming. He hesitated for a moment, and then followed her down the sidewalk. Kathi locked her bike to a parking meter in front of the restaurant.

"I was wondering if you were coming or not," she said as Brian approached.

"Wouldn't miss it for the world," he said with an embarrassed smile. He locked his bike on the parking meter next to Kathi's and took his packs off. All of his valuables were in the packs, so he figured it would be a good idea to take them inside with him. Brian and Kathi paused as they entered the Brew and Burger, letting their eyes adjust to the darkness. They sat in a small booth in the back of the building, leaving their packs in the aisle.

"Air conditioning feels good," Brian said.

"Yeah, it does." Kathi paused, staring across the table into Brian's eyes. "So what's up with you anyway?"

"What d'you mean?"

"I mean, what's up? Why are you here?"

"You mean here in this restaurant or on this trip?"

"Either one." "Well, I'm on this trip because Father Nyessi recommended it to me. I'm a student at the seminary and he's my spiritual director. And as for my being here, I thought you might like some company while you were eating lunch."

A waitress came over and took their order. Brian ordered a salad and a beer, but only after Kathi had ordered first. "I'm not really all that hungry," he said to Kathi. "Probably the heat."

"I'm not either, but then again, I never really eat much at lunch time. I've got another question for you. What were you and Landers talking about in the field this morning?"

Brian paused for a moment, before answering. Lunch with Kathi was turning out to be more work than he had anticipated. He wondered if he should tell her the truth about this morning, and then he remembered her arrest in church. She's probably all right, he thought; after all, she's been forced into this trip too. "Well," he said, "we were having a little discussion about my attitude. It seems that Father Landers doesn't like the fact that I've been keeping to myself. He wants me to open up and start pouring out my soul to the rest of the group."

"And what did you say to that?"

"Nothing. I mean, what could I say?" "You could have stood up to him and told him you didn't want to talk to anyone. That you don't have to talk to anyone."

"I didn't have a chance. You walked over before I could say a word." "But what if I hadn't? What would you have done then?"

"I don't know, I was still trying to figure out an argument when you interrupted us."

"Well, I don't think you would've done anything. You got lucky. If I hadn't come along, you would've been nodding your head up and down, up and down, like one of those little plastic animal figurines people put on the dashboard of their cars that nod their heads up and down, up and down. That's what the whole Catholic church is based on, a bunch of people who just nod their heads and go right along with whatever's being told at them. You know why they all nod? It's the same reason you nod, and I nod, and everyone nods. It's because we're all looking for a daddy. That's why they call priests 'Father'. It's a big play on the father figure in the family. It's the giant babysitter. A man made myth propagated by men for their own security. Our whole society is based on that false sense of security which is supposed to be found in the family. Daddy's supposed to bring home the bacon, and take care of all the world's problems. When the bubble breaks and that doesn't really happen, we try to find it somewhere else. People spend their whole lives looking for a daddy. The president, the pope, they're all daddies."

"Except for mother nature and mother superior," Brian said with a grin.

"Goddamn it, I'm serious!" Kathi said, obviously hurt by Brian's casual attitude. "It's obvious you're just another example of it. I thought I could talk to you, but I guess I thought wrong. Your attitude is a perfect example of what's wrong with society today. No one takes these issues seriously. If they don't understand them, they either close their eyes or laugh. To make it worse, I think you're aware of it, but you purposely ignore it. You just nod your head at whatever they tell you. You and your whole religion. You know what I oughta do? I oughta make some of those little plastic head-nodding figurines for the dashboard, only mine won't be little animals, they'll be little popes and then you and all your church-tied buddies can put them in your cars and make me a millionaire."

"I don't even own a car. Never have. Listen, Kathi, I really just wanted to have lunch with you, I didn't come here for a speech. I get enough of those from Paul Landers and Roger Nyessi. I know your issues are important, and I do care about them. It might not look like we have a lot of freedom in the seminary, but we aren't slaves. You've been condemning prejudice, but aren't you prejudging me? Now I'll be honest with you, I'm no activist, but I'm sure not just another member of the flock. I've been under the gun since I've been here because of my views on prayer and the whole church history and hierarchy. You know what I said to Roger once?"

"Roger who?" Kathi asked, slightly confused.

"Roger Nyessi. Or should I call him 'Father'?" Brian said laughing. "Anyway, you know what I said to him once? I asked him where the whole church hierarchy would be if they were nude."

Kathi stared at him for a moment, and then burst out laughing. "Really," he said seriously. "Just think about it. If you lined up all the priests and the bishops and the cardinals and everyone, all of them, on main street in downtown Parson, with all of the dirt and the dust and the papers blowing around in the gutters and the pigeons flying around from building to building and all of the bag people wandering around and Mr. and Mrs. America lining the street to watch the whole thing, with people on the sidewalks and on the roofs and in the windows, and then you asked this whole magnificent church hierarchy to strip stark naked and line up in order of importance, just how big would they feel then?"

Kathi had her eyes closed, picturing the whole thing in her mind and trying to hold back her laughter.

"Just think of it. None of it would mean anything, because they'd all be standing there with their pot bellies and their cellulite thighs hanging out and their double and triple chins and skin that's whiter than the underbelly of a catfish, all sick looking and white like someone who's been locked in a closet too long and hasn't had enough light. They'd all be standing there pretending not to look at one another and being so embarrassed they could die. Then none of it would make any difference. There'd be no arguments and no debates on doctrine or dogma. None of it would mean a damn thing, because nudity's the great equalizer. It reduces everyone to the same 'naked self' if you will."

Kathi was still laughing, no longer holding it back. The waitress had come while they were talking, but neither of them had touched their food.

"I have this great mental picture that I just can't get rid of," Kathi said laughing breathlessly. "I know this one priest who's so fat, and the image of him lined up nude with all these other priests and all of the people lining the streets to have a look. It's almost too perfect. Oh God," she said wiping the tears from her eyes. "I hope I can get it out of my mind, I mean, if I don't, every time I see a priest I'll just break out laughing."

"Sometimes I have a hard time myself. It's just as good with politicians and world leaders. Just picture all of the leaders of the world trying to argue with each other naked."

Kathi laughed and raised her beer glass. "Here's to nudity," she said with a smile. Her teeth were clean and white and straight. Brian really hadn't noticed them before, but now, as she smiled he was fascinated by how perfect they were. It struck him that she was actually rather beautiful, but that she hid it in a deceptive sort of way. She wore no makeup and just let her hair hang straight down from her head without really combing it in any specific style or anything. It was almost as if she were trying to make herself look plain, Brian thought.

"To nudity," Brian said as they touched glasses. He took a long drink from his mug and finished about half of the beer. It was cold and tasted good in his dry mouth. Brian liked his beer cold, the colder the better, and this beer was cold. They had both ordered the salad special, which came with all the beer you could drink. That was one of the reasons Kathi had picked the Brew and Burger. When she was a student at Columbia, she always went to one of the city's many Brew and Burgers. Some of the best papers she had written in college had been typed out in the back of a Brew and Burger with a full plate of salad off to the side and an always full mug of beer on the all-you-can-drink special.

Brian began eating his salad. Although he hadn't been that hungry when they walked in, he was surprised at how good the food tasted. He chewed hungrily at a mouthful of lettuce and spinach.

"Take it easy." Kathi said, chewing on a single slice of cucumber dipped in blue cheese dressing. "The whole trick to this deal is not to eat too fast. That way you get more beer. If you wolf it all down in ten minutes they bring the check over and you're all through. As long as you've got food on your plate, they'll keep brining the beers."

"You've got it all figured out."

"I should have by now. I went to school on the other side of town. It got to the point where I was almost spending more time in these places than I was in school."

"So those stories are true."

"What stories?"

"About you going to Columbia."

"So you've heard about that. What did they tell you?"

"Oh, not much, just that you went to Columbia and quit the week before finals."

"I didn't quit, I graduated."

"You graduated? I thought you told the dean to go to hell and didn't go to any of your finals?"

"I didn't."

"But I thought you just said you graduated?"

"I did. I graduated to the point where I realized that all of their institutionalized academics were crap. Just a big game to see who can remember the most useless information. It got to the point where I was reading so much on my own and learning so much from it that I just couldn't see the point of sitting through classes that were so elementary and unimaginative that high schoolers would've fallen asleep. It only made sense for me to get out of there."

"What about the dean? Did you really tell the dean to go to hell?"

"Yeah. He was a closet-minded old man. You know the type, no conception of reality, think they know it all. Lost in 'the good old days'. It was no big deal really. It just got blown out of proportion by all the head nodders at the school, but anyway, enough about me. What about you? How come you're on this trip?"

"I told you, Father Nyessi is my spiritual director and he recommended it."

"No, I mean the real reason. He didn't just recommend it for no reason at all. There's a lot of tension between you and Father Landers, anyone can see that."

"Yeah, I guess there is, but that's understandable. You see, I really didn't want to come on this trip, but they made me. Part of it was because of all the questions I asked, but most of it was because I have these visions."

"What kind of visions?"

"Well, mostly they're just sort of mystical states where I see things from an altered perspective, and it's nothing like the altered perspective we're in now," he said laughing. They had been ordering beers constantly while they were talking, and Brian was beginning to feel quite drunk.

"Oh, I'm not ready to pass out yet," Kathi said with a white smile. "Go on about your visions. What kind of things do you see? The past? The future?"

"No, not anything like that really. Mostly just images, and sometimes I'm not even sure what they are or what they mean."

"What about people?"

"Sometimes people. But mostly images. That's the whole problem, I really can't put them into words. They're more like feelings, sort of layered together in a way that makes me know that I'm not seeing things normally. I don't know, it's really hard to explain."

"That's all right, you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."

"Oh, I don't mind, I mean, it's not something I just go around telling everyone about, but I don't mind talking about it with people I know."

"But you don't really know me."

"Well, you're right, in some ways I don't know you, but in others I do. I just feel I can trust you, that's all."


"I don't know. I guess it's just the way you look, I can see it in your eyes. There's just something there. I don't know."

Kathi sat quietly for a moment, staring at her half empty beer.

"You're sure a lot different than I thought you were," she said softly, almost to herself.


"Nothing. It's just that you're a lot different than I thought you would be when I met you. You know, that first impression."

"Well, I guess that just goes to show you can never trust first impressions."

"That's true. Still, I'm usually a pretty good judge of character. I can usually tell right off the bat if I'm not going to like someone."

"Well, I guess this time you were wrong."

"Oh, I'm not saying that I hated you, I just wasn't sure what you were up to."

Brian took a long drink from his mug and finished his beer. It was warm and flat and left a sour taste in his mouth. It was the sour taste that suddenly made him realize that they had been there too long. Brian slowly raised his wrist to look at his watch, afraid to see what time it was. It was one o'clock. He stood up quickly and reached for Kathi's arm.

"C'mon. We're late," he said, pulling her out of the booth.

"Oh my God, what time is it?"

"It's one o'clock." Brian said, handing the cashier a ten dollar bill and five crumpled ones.

"We'd better run to the corner and walk from there. We don't want to make it look like we're guilty of anything".

"Listen, you go on, I'm going to get a pack of gum."

"We don't have time, we're late as it is."

"They'll be able to smell it on our breath. I can smell you from here," she said laughing. "Don't get so uptight. Just act natural and we'll say our waitress was slow."

"What's up?" a voice said as Brian felt a hand grasping him firmly on the shoulder. He turned slowly, not wanting to see who it was.

"Lighten up, it's only me," Jim said with a smile. "What's the matter, you look like you're waiting to get mugged."

"Oh God, I thought you were Father Landers," Brian said as he blew out a deep breath. "Listen, we don't have time, we were supposed to be back with the group five minutes ago."

"Don't sweat it. What're they gonna do, leave without you?"

"No, worse than that, they'll all be waiting for us, and I'm in enough trouble with Father Landers as it is."

"Oh, you mean something different for a change?"

"Listen Jim, we just don't have the time."

"Sure you do. You haven't even introduced me to your friend here."

"Kathi, this is Jim Lyman. Jim this is Kathi."

"Kathi? Is that it? Kathi? Doesn't she have a last name or anything?"

"Who is this guy, Brian?"

"He's my next door neighbor. I'll tell you all about it later, but right now, we've got to get back. Listen Jim, we'll see you later on."

"Where is it that you're in such a hurry to get to?"

"I told you, we were supposed to meet the group in Times Square at five of one, now we're late already and we have to go."

"Isn't this the afternoon of the famed Rockettes show?"

"Yeah, and it starts in twenty-five minutes."

"Listen, why don't we go somewhere else? I mean face it, you don't really want to sit through that."

"I know, but we don't have any choice. We've got to go."

"No you don't. Just go along with them till you get to the door and then duck out the side. Find out how long they'll be in there from the ticket girl and then meet me around the corner. We'll go have a few beers."

"That's just what I need," Brian said flatly.

"And what about me?" Kathi asked "Am I just supposed to disappear?"

"No, I meant that you'd come too, that is unless you don't want to. But you have to admit, it's better than going to see the Rockettes with the rest of them."

"That's true, but then again, anything's better than that," she said laughing.

"I can't believe you're agreeing with him," Brian said to Kathi. "We're late as it is, now let's go."

"C'mon Brian, loosen up. You know you don't want to go either, and since Kathi here doesn't want to go, and you know I don't want to go, which means that none of us wants to go, so we're not going."


"Brian, they're running your life again. Listen, no one's going to notice that you're gone. Don't flatter yourself. By four o'clock you'll be back on your bike at the end of the line and on your merry way."

"He's right, Brian; you can't let them run your life forever. Let's just blow it off and have a good time this afternoon. Besides, Father Landers is so into this whole Rockettes thing, he won't even miss us."

"C'mon Brian, you know we're right."

Brian stood there for a moment with his hands on his hips, trying to think of a way out. "All right. Whatever."

"Great. Now, here's what we'll do. You guys go back to the group and act like everything's normal. Then, when they go in to the show, just follow them right along, and wait till the lights go down. When the show starts, head for the bathrooms, and then get on out of there. I'll be waiting around the corner at Santonio's coffee shop."

"Sounds good," Kathi said. "Well Jim, until we see you later, it was nice to meet you."

"You too," Jim said. "And guys," he said with a smirk, "why don't you buy yourself some gum, you smell like the bathroom in a barroom."

Brian was already walking toward the corner, shaking his head and staring at the sidewalk. Kathi ran after him, laughing as she did, excited with the feeling of freedom. She stopped at a Seven-Eleven store and bought a pack of gum, which she and Brian split, three sticks each, throwing the package away so Father Landers wouldn't be suspicious.