Mounted trout of suspicious hue hung on the walls where the remnants of pencil scrawl surrounded them and bled outward. Reinhardt got up close in a half-hearted attempt to decipher what was said there, but his eyes functioned at half capacity since the fire and even before that when the beams of the sun found a haphazardly-hung mirror once and bore themselves in a point no bigger around, he imagined, than a mosquito, onto the bare red flesh of his retina. The proprietor discouraged close examination anyway because he thought the secrets of something enormous rested there on the plaster of the walls of the building he had purchased three years previous and he wanted to be the first to unleash it, to staple his name forever to events such as no one had been able to imagine since the days when the Titans (or something like them) roamed the earth and challenged one another to contests of strength and realistic storytelling and the people in the villages and the metropolises close by fled in every direction because they were afraid of what they would hear. Old-fashioned tedium sits on the fence row like a cat and when you attempt to chase it away, your limbs are stiff and uncooperative and you realize you only have about twenty more truly viable years left, if that, and you ought to get busy constructing the arbors someone you love or tolerate has requested, or get busy studying the black arts before it is too late, before those who know you by sight and reputation begin to rethink their position on encroachment, on taking to the skies with cardboard wings. Cortez whispered in Reinhardt’s ear when he was sleeping and what she said sounded so much like the howling of a pack of wolves that he thought for a moment, as he rose slowly from the underworld he inhabited when he did not inhabit this one, that he was somewhere on the vast steppes and the ice that helped define that part of the world was in his eyes and on his moustache, and his fingers had turned black from the cold, which was not a presence or a state exactly, so much as it was an idea of the sort you think up when you have nothing better to keep yourself occupied. No pressing engagements with your accountant, no wayward strolls along the lip of the canyon where once, when you were a child, you saw a man jump to his death with a smile on his face, and you were never as traumatized by what you had seen that day as everyone seemed to think you ought to be – their every question, their every gesture communicating this to you as loudly as if they had been holding a megaphone. But why must it be trauma exactly? Why unravel the fabric at the center of your abdomen given the fact that what one witnesses at any given moment is hopelessly outnumbered and undone by what one witnesses at all other times and in all other places? And this was precisely the message Cortez was attempting to deliver, her lips on the rim of Reinhardt’s ear, her breath heavy with the intoxication of this all-inclusiveness, with this immersion that swamps and swallows the significant, that submerges it in the everyday enormity of breath itself, and whatever is not breath, is living between one breath and another like a stonefish lying in wait between stones, only twice as patient.