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It’s February and the ground is brown. Leaves left in piles for critters seeking refuge are dry (isn’t the whole state dry?) and they whisper as roaming breezes search for somewhere to hide. It’s February and the air is hard and cold. A few creeping myrtle leaves in a rock garden, liverish green and curled into commas, hint at new life. Nobody’s buying it.

My imagination, some call her Fancy, is perched on a headstone just inside the cemetery, throwing pebbles at a crooked row of  markers. She hasn’t hit any yet. Her knees poke through her jeans, and her mud-brown jacket is threadbare. “I wish you’d come up with a decent idea,” she mutters when she runs out of ammo. Her chin jerks toward the pathetic line of crosses. “One you can’t bury in ten minutes.”

She throws rocks at everything I come up with. “The sun’s going down,” I announce. “We ought to go.”

She shoots me such a look. “It’s one-thirty-two, you dork.” Her arm lifts to point above us at the shrouded sun. “We’ve been out here for less than an hour. You can’t hole up all day and let Nostalgia get in your head. She’s deadly!”

I hunch my shoulders and turn away. “I need to get the tax prep done.”

“There’s a creative idea.”

Fancy brushes past me and I smell cloves, her signature scent. Maybe I should dab clove oil behind my ears. It might jump-start some brain cells.

“Come on, then,” she calls back to me from the gate. “While you work on taxes, I’ll watch old movies. It’ll give me something–anything–to think about.” Her tone is grim.

“Bitch,” I whisper as I follow her. She always grabs at fun while I get stuck with the humdrum. And image floats into my mind. A man humming as he cleans a gun. He has blood on his hands.