He comes back reciting the poetry of war. Not that crap from high school, those stupid roads diverging. The real poetry of war. It recites itself to him, and he recites it back.

He’d like to give a rat’s ass about the night school teachers and bartenders his wife has been sleeping with. He’d like to get all riled up and crash his new pick-up. But he’s busy listening to the poetry of war which no body else can hear.

His mother just sucks it up and cooks. His father is hopeless. Crying when those busses pulled up to the Ramada two years ago and now Dad’s – what’s that word? – baffled. Yeah. Join the club.

Then one day at the mall there’s this girl at the Hospitality Desk. Plain. Staring at a book maybe because everybody knows where the Gap Outlet is and half the other stores are closed.

And he manages to put together a sentence. “What are you reading?”

“Something,” she says, “sufficiently sordid to keep me from falling asleep.”

Sufficiently sordid. Even the poetry of war stopped to listen.

Her nametag said Ivy and he knew, from a life before this one, how ivy could, in time, bring down any wall.

“Is that your real name?” he asks.

“What happened to your face?” she answers.