Through the Middle – J.B. Kish

Through the Middle – J.B. Kish

December 2022

There’s a woman driving slowly down highway 27 in their direction, and every couple of miles, she opens her window and lets a handful of something human-tasting scatter in the wind. Ashes, Rory suspects. She misses the man who’s now dust and cries a little as she goes, singing Bill Withers because the radio doesn’t play much more than static and gospel out this far. Bump thinks the powdered man must have liked Bill Withers very much.

At the speed she’s going, she’ll reach the diner in about thirty minutes. Rory presses a finger into the countertop and thanks Bump for the heads up. Then he puts on a fresh pot of coffee. Coffee’s a good start for sadness like this, Rory thinks, and he should know. He’s only just found happiness again.

Rory sits behind the counter, shaped like a farm egg. He’s put on weight that rounds him. Muscular legs stick out beneath his body like a pair of clearance sale limbs not intended for him, and he wears the rest of his skin like thick diving dress, rich with small folds that retreat from his ribs and neck. His body is a game of hide and seek: American traditional appearing around each corner. There’s a woman in a bathing suit diving down his forearm. A faded anchor on his bicep. Twin sparrows on his chest that no longer fly straight.

Half an hour passes, and her Civic pulls up to the far-flung roadside diner. Rory plays “Grandma’s Hands” on the jukebox and pours a fresh cup of coffee. The woman walks in with a newborn puppy, and he greets her warmly. When she hears Bill Withers, she buckles a little, and Rory helps her to a nearby booth. “Here,” he says, placing a ceramic mug in front of her. “This will make you feel better.”

Rory disappears into the kitchen and fixes the woman—her name is Aliyah—something to eat. For a long time, Aliyah reclines in the booth and stares at the sunset with the puppy in her lap. Her t-shirt is cotton-white, floating elegantly above a pair of cut off shorts and some skateboard sneakers. The skin of her cheek is pocked with dark acne scars that she’s not covered up. She looks like the subject in a Rockwell painting.

Bump asks who Rockwell is and Rory places a finger on the wall like he’s using a walkie talkie. Silently, he explains Norman Rockwell was an artist who used to paint restaurants like theirs. Then Rory slides a turkey sandwich in front of Aliyah and asks if she’d appreciate company. She accepts politely, and he wonders for one terrifying moment what he—an old man in his seventies—can offer this woman, if anything. He knows nothing about being young or black or growing up in these times. But he has an ear, which is all she seems to need, and Aliyah explains she’s wandering southern Oregon, spreading her father’s ashes. He was one of the west coast’s most celebrated archeologists, and he died peacefully of old age a month ago. After an hour, Aliyah makes an embarrassed face. She’s been talking this whole time and hasn’t asked Rory one question about himself.

Rory prefers it this way. He doesn’t like talking about his father or the Navy; he’s not the kind of discarded thing that complains. Anyway, nothing before matters because this is where he matters most. Of course, Aliyah doesn’t understand that at all and surprises him by asking, What’s next.

Rory laughs through his nose. “The only way this diner shuts down is because I’ve died and there’s no one left to open it.”

“Suppose you win the lottery.”

He sips his coffee too quickly and wets his mustache; Aliyah grins as he dabs his mouth dry. “I grew this thing in the Navy because I had a baby face. My commanding officer said it would make me look smart.”

“Did it?”

Rory nods and sits back. “In the Navy, you know exactly where you matter most. They tell you where to be and what to do. How to shave, how to dress. After I got out, I spent a long time searching for value again. When I found this restaurant and its customers, I did win the lottery. I don’t think I could ever walk away from that.”

Aliyah ponders his words a while before dismissing them with the wave of a hand; he can’t help but fall in love with her a little. Aliyah’s value, she explains, chases her like the puppy on her lap. She gets job offers because her father had important friends and they think her trowel was destined to continue his legacy. But she doesn’t want a life in the dirt. She wants to start a vegan bakery. “But is that a terrible idea?”

It’s not, and Rory envies how clearly she sees herself.

“You know, I’ve heard of you,” Aliyah says. He points to his breast, and she nods. “They say there’s a hermit in the desert that helps people. That’s you, I think.”

He shrugs. “Most folks know what they need. Sometimes they have to hear it a specific way.”

On the way out the door, she thanks him for good company and happy coincidences. “Bill Withers was my father’s favorite, you know.”

Rory holds up a finger and fetches a cup of coffee to-go. “For the road,” he explains, and then he grabs a handful of sugar packets from the table. “And for the bakery.”

Aliyah chuckles at the gift and gives Rory a squeezing hug. “We’ll see.”

His heart beats like a young man’s as she heads down the road. It was a nice cup of shared coffee, he thinks. Coffee’s always a good start for sadness like that. Then Bump asks if Norman Rockwell can come paint their restaurant, and Rory laughs before turning in for the night.

Bump came through the middle.

That’s the only way he’s able to tell it. One day, he ‘passed through the middle and surfaced here’, just about the same as most customers. He could be extraterrestrial, but Bump didn’t come from the great above. He came from deep, deep below, ‘through the middle’, and burst up against the ground like a pimple on the cheek of southern Oregon’s desert.

Rory never tries to dig him up because it wouldn’t be polite, and Bump seems satisfied enough to exist under the asphalt bloom behind the diner, which houses him like a geodesic dome. Besides, Bump says the asphalt is what connects him to the road and the people traveling their way. It’s through this that he can feel the vibration of human emotions, touch palms through cracked leather steering wheels, and read Rory the prologue of their customers. It’s what makes the pair a uniquely wonderful team, and why Rory is truly happy for the first time in a long while.

This is why Rory’s stomach drops when Bump says someone is coming, but he can’t sense anything about them. Bump can perceive the subtle weight of their body through the driver’s side tires, but the rest feels eerie and quiet. It’s almost as if there’s no one there at all. Can Mustangs drive themselves on this planet? he asks Rory realizes he’s not breathing and tries to inhale casually.

Anyway, says Bump. They should be here tomorrow afternoon.

But first, there’s a man and a woman—a college couple in their twenties—coming down the highway, and whenever she brings up his temper, he wrings the steering wheel in a way she can’t see. His little outbursts are growing more frequent, and even though he apologizes, they seem to be dancing around an incident—something like a push or maybe a fall, Bump says. They can’t agree on which. The woman is assertive, but occasionally her voice is nervous around the edge. Rory thanks Bump for the heads up. With a frown, he puts on a fresh pot of coffee. Coffee’s a good start when dealing with men like this. As it drips, he can’t help his mind wandering to his tools out back and finds himself asking how hard it might be to dig a man-sized hole.

You’ll not stick him down here with me, Bump jokes.

A while later, the bell rings, and without asking, Rory pours two fresh cups of coffee.

A tattooed woman appears at his counter, looks down with a smile, and dubs him a saint. She holds the ceramic mug under her nose with both hands and breathes deep. She’s brunette and diamond shaped, with as much life as a fresh battery. When the boyfriend appears over her shoulder, he has a square head and practiced neutrality. A chameleon: Rory spots it right away. Polite. Jovial. Makes pleasant conversation all the way up until he leaves for the bathroom, which is outside around back. Rory forgets to mention the very specific jimmy required to unlock its door from inside, and that buys him a while to chat.

He places a pastrami sandwich in front of the tattooed woman with a roll of silverware. Her jaw drops playfully, and she asks why Rory owns a diner in the absolute middle of nowhere.

“Pills,” he says candidly because she needs to hear this a specific way. She doesn’t follow. “When I got out of the Navy, I took a job as a line cook and spent thirty years making people happy. And then we got bought out; I was fired by a hot shot celebrity for not understanding molecular gastronomy. No one in Portland wants to hire an old cook with bad knees, so when I hit the bottom, I drove down here to eat enough Oxycodone to put me in the ground.”

Her eyes grow wide, and she has the packed cheek of a squirrel.

Rory smiles, easing a bit of this uninvited tension, “I found this restaurant instead.”

The woman smiles uncomfortably. “Good for you.” She tries to end the conversation on a high note. “So many five-star ratings online, you must be doing something right.”

Suddenly Bump is there, in Rory’s mind. The mustang is going much faster. It will be here sooner, he says.

Rory’s heart skips a beat. What is all this nonsense about self-driving cars and phantom drivers? He discretely presses his right fingertip into the counter. The entire finger has vibrated with heat since the day he met Bump, when he pressed down on the asphalt dome curiously, and their connection was calcified. He theorizes it’s a kind of foreign energy that comes from the other side—through the middle. When he presses down, he can sense its vein-like release, connecting him from the counter to the floor below, which joins with the building’s foundation, the earth around, and ultimately allows him to project thoughts to his friend out back. You’re imagining things, he tells Bump, and then he lifts his finger, ending the conversation.

Rory returns to the woman, distracted. “The point is,” he continues, “it wasn’t good enough to keep telling my family I’d change. People tell themselves they can just wake up tomorrow and do better. But I had to work at it. Leave an unhealthy environment, change my life. Otherwise, all those good intentions were just smoke and vapor.”

The woman’s eyes narrow slightly.

He makes a noise in the back of his throat, then nods toward the bathroom. “What I’m saying is, people don’t magically wake up and do better. Unless he does the work, his apologies are just smoke and vapor.” Then Rory tops off her coffee. “Understand?”

The blood drains from the woman’s face and the bell rings over her shoulder. “Old man,” her boyfriend growls. He walks up to the counter and throws the key into Rory’s chest. It lands against the floor with a jingle. “Bathroom door is broken as hell.” Then he nudges the woman with his elbow. “Hurry up and pay.”

The whole interaction was a bit heavier handed than Rory prefers. When they’ve left, he walks out to the road and stares into the distance. He envisions a Mustang blowing fire from its tailpipe, riding a cloud of smog. And then, for reasons he cannot explain, he thinks of constructing a white tower for the first time in years.

What would you do if I passed back through the middle? Bump asks.

The sun is tangerine-orange and quickly fading. Rory flips a chicken breast on the charcoal grill he’s rolled out back. With an elderly groan, he touches a finger to the ground. You know it’s rather unfair that I must speak through my finger, but you can project your thoughts directly into me.

Humans are surprisingly complex, Bump answers. Would you stay at the diner?

Rory is annoyed and tense. I’d climb the white tower and throw myself off, he snips.

Bump is quiet a while, then says, The mustang will be here soon.

“Lord!” Rory shouts with his actual voice. “What is all this about?”

When Bump doesn’t respond, Rory splays his fingers in frustration. “Fine,” he says, “Let it come,” and he walks inside. He grabs a large piece of parchment paper and writes ‘PERMANENTLY CLOSED’, then tapes it to the front door and kills the lights. There’s not a single glowing bulb in the entire dining room. Out back, he waves a dismissive hand at bump and takes his dinner to bed.

He’s here, Bump whispers.

Rory opens his eyes with a start, then sticks his head out the trailer door and spots a light in the restaurant. “He?”

The one driving the Mustang. He’s waiting for you inside.

“It’s nearly five in the morning.”

You should go in, is all Bump says.

Inside, there’s a handsome man sitting at the counter eating a bag of potato chips. He looks like he stepped off a Hollywood movie set, but Rory can’t decide why. His features are elusive: Latin American one moment, Eastern European the next. There is a fresh pot of coffee on the counter, and he invites Rory to join him.

“Who are you?” Rory whispers, looking down at his parchment paper sign, which has been folded into a perfect square on the counter.

“Name’s Very Hungry,” the man says with a punchline smile. It’s a joke, but Rory’s not laughing. The stranger reaches into his pocket and pulls out three one-hundred-dollar bills. “Can you make the perfect burger?”

Well now, just what in the hell is this? Rory wonders. And why are you suddenly so damned quiet? he asks Bump through the countertop. Bump doesn’t answer.

“Every time I come here, I can’t wait to get my hands on a real American cheeseburger.” The stranger makes two fists. “But you can’t go to a drive thru. What’s the point of anticipation if the food’s no good?” He slides the money forward. “Three hundred dollars for the best burger you can make.”

Rory scowls. Breaking into his diner—scaring his friend—that’s one thing. Questioning his ability on the grill is another entirely! He takes the money and draws up his torso. “I’ll make it to-go.”

Rory returns with possibly the greatest hamburger he’s ever made. Carefully sculpted. Cooked to perfection. Golden French fries that could usher in the seventh trumpet! Lettuce so crisp it looked plastic!

And what does he find waiting for him? Nothing.

The Mustang is still parked outside, but there’s no one sitting behind the counter.

Rory, says Bump.

He closes his eyes. Shit, he thinks, keeping this particular thought to himself. Cautiously, he walks out back and finds the handsome man standing above Bump, looking down at the asphalt dome with a mouth full of potato chips. Rory licks his lips and presses a finger into a wooden railing. “What is this?” he asks.

Rory, says Bump, this is Hadrian. Hadrian, this is Rory.

Hadrian waves and smiles. It’s not unkind, and Rory hates him for that.

Hadrian is my grandchild, adds Bump.

Inside, the to-go box is empty. Rory is three hundred dollars richer, and he’s never felt worse.

Hadrian is here to take Bump home. Bump left without telling anyone, and at his age, he really needs to be looked after. A depression drapes over Rory like a series of blankets, one after the other. He feels heavier the longer Hadrian talks.

“But,” Rory whispers. “We’re quite good friends.”

“That’s a funny pair,” suggests Hadrian. The sun illuminates the diner with a warm glow. Dust floats along the rays of light like sad poetry.

“I’ve come to care for your grandfather very deeply,” explains Rory. He finds himself appealing to the man’s sense of empathy, but who’s to say if Hadrian has any to begin with. His kind comes through the middle and takes on a form that emulates the planet’s inhabitants. That didn’t necessarily mean they possess the same emotional capacity. “Perhaps he could stay here with me?” Rory’s smile is desperate.

Hadrian shakes his head. “Grandfather got stuck trying to emerge. It happens occasionally. I’m here to help.” He takes a long sip of coffee and sighs gratefully. “Have you considered what you’ll do when Bump passes back through the middle?”

Rory’s too scared of the white tower to answer, so Hadrian adds, “Would you like to pass through the middle with us instead?”

Through the middle—it’s a terrifying notion! Timid, he whispers, “Your grandfather’s never told me much about where you come from. And this is my home.”

“So, you wish to stay here?”

“I wish for things to stay as they are!”

“They cannot,” Hadrian says in a way that’s not unkind. ”We leave tonight.”

Tears gallop down Rory’s cheek. It’s just like life to do this to him again. The bell over the door rings, and Rory jumps. Quickly, he dries his cheeks and waves hello to a pair of men with a young boy. Farmers perhaps? “Be right with you,” he calls. “Grab a seat anywhere.”

Rory plucks his apron from the counter, pausing long enough to ask Bump why he didn’t give a heads up on their new customers.

“‘I’ve suspended your connection to my grandfather,” Hadrian whispers. “Only temporarily.”

Suspended their connect—how dare he! What kind of game was he playing? Rory’s face is beet read. He opens his mouth to shout when—

“Hey fella,” one of the men calls. “Coffees and a juice.”

Rory is shaking. Gradually, his expression lifts upward and he fetches their order. Standing above them, he withdraws a pad of paper and a pencil, clears his throat, and wonders why he’s so uneasy.

“Y’all from around here?”

Neither man looks up from their menus. They’re vaguely like one another. Brother’s maybe? Or perhaps it’s just coincidence. The youngest, a boy of ten or eleven, stares out the window thoughtfully. He has a book on his lap—The Spectator Bird—but never opens it. The eldest, a leathery man with ruddy cheeks, looks down at his wristwatch and speaks in a way that’s not intended for Rory. “Two hours,” he whispers.

The other nods and looks up from his menu. “Three omelets, bacon, white toast all around.”

Rory notes the order and retrieves the menus. “Beautiful day out there.”

The younger man slides his cup forward. “Top off, please.”

As Rory steps back into the kitchen, Hadrian raises a polite finger. “I’d love one of those omelets, if it’s not a complete bother.”

The kitchen door swings shut, and for a long while, Rory stares at the range. Slowly, he begins making the order. It’s easy. It’s muscle memory. He could make omelets in his sleep, and without meaning it, his mind drifts to the white tower. He makes sure his index finger isn’t touching anything that connects him to Bump, and he’s ashamed of it. How much is left? he wonders. He is pulled from the question by the distinct smell of eggs starting to burn. He saves the omelets just in time. Again, it’s muscle memory. He really could do this in his sleep.

After breakfast, the man with ruddy cheeks pays and Rory asks how everything was. “Sure,” the man answers. “Good enough.”

The blood drains from Rory’s face as their truck pulls out the lot and disappears down the road. Hadrian picks at the men’s leftovers while Rory dumbly removes his apron and floats outside, into his trailer, and opens the closet door. He pushes aside a few shirts and finds a shoebox tucked all the way in the back. Inside is an orange prescription bottle with ten tablets that make a maraca sound when he shakes them. His heart pounds as if it means to crack his ribs, and suddenly Rory can’t breathe. He races outside for air.

Hadrian sits on a folding chair next to Bump, finishing a side of potatoes. After Rory’s caught his breath, he drags a chair next to them and squeezes the plastic bottle between both hands.

Were you able to serve those men? Bump asks.

Hadrian nods; he’s allowed them to speak again.

“I was able to feed them,” Rory answers. “If that’s what you mean.”

Quietly, he opens the plastic bottle and slides half the contents into his palm. They’re heavier than he remembers, like they have somewhere important to be. He imagines them pecking through his skin and dropping out the back of his hand, so he stacks them one by one on his armrest before they can get away. Carefully, he constructs a beautiful white tower and envisions himself standing atop it, leaning out over a smooth, granite edge. The vast Oregon desert yawns beneath him, and his heart flutters at the brush of an old friend. An adrenaline he hasn’t felt in years.

Rory’s only closed his eyes for a moment when his chair nudges strangely, and when he looks back down, the tower is missing, and Hadrian is making a childish face. “These aren’t good at all.”

“You ate that?” Rory sits up as Hadrian dry swallows a white paste.

Hadrian’s eyes widen. “The mints?”

“You can’t have.”

“Hadrian,” Bump says. “Those were Rory’s mints.”

Rory presses a finger into his armrest. “They’re not mints.” Then to Hadrian, “You need to vomit.”

“You mean on command?”


“What happens if I don’t?”

Rory doesn’t answer, which is answer enough. “Oh.” says Hadrian, sitting back. “Interesting.”

“How exactly?”

“Well, if I don’t, then my grandfather stays here, and you get what you want.”

Rory’s blood thickens with pressure. “I don’t want your grandfather to be stuck here.”

“But you don’t want him to leave either.”

“I don’t want things to change.” He’s about to stand and force Hadrian to vomit himself. “What about our customers?”

“Will they stop coming?”

“How do you propose I help them without your grandfather here? Look what happened in there.”

Hadrian makes a face like he finally understands the riddle in front of him. “My grandfather gives you value.”

Rory draws himself upright. “Of course not.”

“Is there someone else who does that?”

“His commanding officer,” Bump says brightly.

Rory twists his hands anxiously. “My what?”

“You told the dust-man’s daughter that your commanding officer made you grow that mustache and now you’re smarter. He has given you value.”


“You’re not smart?”

“I was always smart.”

“The mustache doesn’t make you smart?”

“You need to throw up right now.”

Hadrian holds out both palms like he didn’t read that part of the human manual. “Do I punch myself?”

“Who then?” Bump asks.

“No one gives me value,” Rory barks. “Stick your finger all the way down your throat until something happens.”

Hadrian does as he’s told.

Rory twist the cap onto the prescription bottle and stuffs the remaining pills into his pocket. “What would you have me do?” he growls. “Leave the diner tonight? Abandon my customers?”

“The diner gives you value,” Bump clarifies.

“No.” Rory pinches his brow and then points at Hadrian. “Deeper.” Hadrian grunts in acknowledgment and his finger descends another inch.

“Then what?”

I do,” Rory shouts. “I’m good at this. I’m good at helping people!” He stands and grabs Hadrian’s elbow. He pushes upward and the man’s finger disappears another inch. Hadrian gags fantastically; he vomits white bile onto Rory’s clothes. It’s unclear if he’s disposed of all five pills, but Rory suspects it’s enough. He’s about to stumble backward when a small voice clears its throat: “Sir?”

They turn in surprise. The boy from breakfast peeks around the corner with a cautious expression. Rory let’s go of Hadrian, who wipes his mouth and waves.

Bravely, the child asks, “You seen my book?”

“Book?” Then Rory understands. He waves the boy inside and searches the booth where they ate. He gets down on his hands and knees, hoping to find it under the table.

“What were you two fighting about?” the boy asks from behind.

“If I told you my mustache,” Rory mutters, “would you believe me?”

Rory cranes his neck and spots the book wedged between the wall and booth. He reaches out and can nearly touch it with the tip of his finger, but Bump is idling there. Instead, Rory uses his ring finger to paddle at the book’s spine until it falls to the floor.

Grunting, he shuffles backward and feels every vertebrae of his back unfurl. “Here.” The boy takes the book and nods in thanks.

“Those men.” Rory motions to the truck outside.

“My uncles.”

“They don’t talk much, do they?”

“Sure they do.”

Sure they do. Rory’s about to ask what terrible things they’ve been saying about breakfast when the boy turns and heads for the door.

“Wait—” Rory calls out and the child stops to look over his shoulder. Rory wants to ask; he’s desperate to know, but a thick feeling of shame coats his throat. Frankly, the words are so dull in shape that even his mouth is bored with them, on top of which he’s just realized how badly he stinks. The truth is, he’s so insecure that this entire moment feels perfectly normal, and he hates himself for that.

The boy startles him by going first. “It doesn’t matter if he doesn’t like it.”

Rory stops. He doesn’t understand.

“Your mustache.” The boy draws himself upward and walks across the checkered floor with raw, adolescent confidence. He places a companionable hand on Rory’s bicep and says firmly, “I think it only matters if you like the mustache.”

There’s an inaudible crack of ivory-white granite.

With a radiant clap on his arm, the boy turns and jogs out. Rory opens and closes his mouth like a fish. His eyes have gently doubled in size, and there’s a tangible warmth in his bicep. He floats to the window, and as the boy climbs up into the truck, he spots Rory. The boy waves and then reaches backward, withdrawing a plastic comb from his pocket. He holds it horizontally beneath his nose and smiles through the prongs.

Nothing here is as she remembers it. Aliyah sits in her Civic, staring up at the diner which is no longer the diner. It’s Dot’s, and Dot is a woman who doesn’t allow dogs in her restaurant, so Koda waits in the car. Aliyah sits at a booth craning her neck, waiting for the hermit to round a corner.

Dot is a short Thai woman in her fifties who can carry more plates than seems possible. She tends to a busy dining room before dropping a cup of coffee in front of Aliyah. “Morning. Need some time or are you ready?”

“The man who worked here, an older gentleman.”

Dot doesn’t follow.

“He was the owner just a few months ago. Did he…” Aliyah tilts her head morbidly.

Dot shakes her chin no. “He sold.”

Aliyah’s stomach pirouettes. “He what?”

Dot smiles politely while scanning the restaurant from the corner of her eye. “If you need a little time with the menu…”

Aliyah nods and falls back into the booth, struggling to understand. She’s driven all this way so he could talk her out of it. What’s she supposed to do now? Take the job and play secretary for a department of PhDs obsessed with her last name? How could this have happened?

The hermit sold his lottery?

Aliyah sips her coffee and stares at a caddy of sugar packets and room temperature creamer. Dot returns a while later and refills her cup.

“Did he say anything?” Aliyah asks. “Or where he was going?”

“Were you friends?” When Aliyah doesn’t answer, Dot nods. “He sold quickly.”

Aliyah knits her brow and chews the inside of her cheek. She can feel herself sinking inward.

“He left something.” Dot speaks softly as if telling a secret. “A funny note taped out front with a couple urns of coffee.” Then she turns and points to a bulletin board near the door. “I couldn’t bring myself to throw it away.”

When she spots the note, Aliyah’s skin prickles. She climbs out of the booth and walks to the board.

Passed through the middle, she reads. Help yourself to some coffee. No matter the problem, I’ve always found coffee is a good start.

“Hon?” Dot’s voice appears over her shoulder. “Do you need more time with the menu?”

Rubbing her thumb over the note, Aliyah shakes her head. She pays for a coffee to-go and Dot fetches her a paper cup. As she turns to leave, Aliyah plucks a few sugar packets from a nearby caddy. She pictures the old hermit in the desert who used to help people. Who told people things they knew, just said a specific way. Without thinking, she grabs a handful more. She stuffs her jacket pockets with little white packets until they are full. Pretty soon, she’s emptying another caddy over a table and scooping them into her saddle bag.

“Hey!” Dot shouts from the register, her eyes wide.

Aliyah smiles apologetically as she empties a third caddy directly into her bag. Then a fourth.

“I said stop!” calls Dot, but the bell above the door is already ringing. Aliyah is racing to her car, shouting an apology through the window. She’s got to get going!

Bill Withers glides into place as she and Koda soar down the highway toward home. Aliyah’s turning down the job; she was never meant for a life in the dirt. She’s decided to take her sugar packets and build something brand new.

Your thoughts?

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