On the blanket we’ve laid out, we eat tomato sandwiches as
we listen to three nearby musicians, on guitar, violin, and wood flute, play a
major tune that lifts and lilts with strange cadences, like the spider in my
mind, gluing up the rungs of its web with the pluck of a leg. Helena and I
don’t speak as we watch and listen to them play. I focus on my chewing, trying
not to think of any specific person’s face as this rare accompaniment delights
a small audience with song. When it’s time to go, she says, “Ready, Tristan?”
We fold the blanket up together and I mount the back seat of her bicycle, which
is painted red and chipped a little here and there, with tires twice as wide as
Dylan’s. She pedals half as fast as him and never swerves or rides the fringe
or catches air. We pass the hillock, but I don’t look.
“Did you notice the costumes?” Helena says.
“The band—they were dressed like elves.”
“Oh, then yes.”
“You thought they normally dressed like that?”
“I don’t know.”
Helena yelps with laughter, and she keeps on laughing, and that makes me happy. We ride west, under vine tents, through the black stone heat-absorption fields, past the succulent fields with millions of glowing cactus needles . . . past the Crafts Contribution Compound, where Helena contributes, with its smithy and kilns and the woodshop and the lens cutter, the roofed lean-tos in which the gear contributors sit while they stitch and thread and reinforce . . . take the straight wide road past the wildflowers and juniper, the migrating clouds of bees, the young saplings that will one day be a forest, home to chipmunks and foxes and birds and more trees . . . beside the riparian sagebrush lining the shallow arroyo that feeds a trickle of water to all of Canland . . . and finally arrive at the three largest buildings in the whole Part, each one austere, constructed or renovated with recycled materials, and aesthetically unique. One, small and plain, is devoted to housing and recreation; another, larger and seeming as if pulled together by a magnetic force that attracted all the nearest metals, is devoted to offices, classrooms, and supply storage; the third, devoted to energy manufacturing, scientific research, and greenhouses, is the largest and newest-looking, though it is actually the longest-standing—a refurbished warehouse that used to store goods for one of the largest capitalist organizations on Earth, before the Evanescence.