Back at the Wilbur's place, Mike was again sitting in front of the TV. It was nearly three in the morning, and Mike still couldn't sleep. Why was it his disorder couldn't flip him out when he was having a bad time? Only ever happened once, as far as he could remember. About a year ago, in Las Vegas. Mike had been cut by a bunch of muggers who wanted his bag. It was full of dirty socks and underwear, and a few other things, but he would not let go - even when the knife came out. They cut him deep on the hand and then he flipped. When he woke up Scottie was there, and another guy they used to hang out with. That was the one time his condition had taken him away from anything really bad. Scottie had cleaned and bandaged the wound and stayed by him, like he always did. Until he inherited all that money. Then he cut Mike, and it hurt worse than the knife. It still hurt. Mike felt a tingle in his nose and pricking at the back of his eyes.
'Shit! Haven't blubbed since that time at brother Richard's trailer,' Mike whispered. 'Not starting again now.'
'Maybe you should, Mike?'
Mike jumped out of his skin, but kind of internally, so Dan didn't notice anything but Mike's head turn slowly as their eyes met.
'What's up, Dan? You can't sleep either?'
Dan pulled his robe tight round him and sat next to Mike. 'Hell, no. Feel kind of - rode hard and put up wet,' he said pushing a big hand through his mane of salt-and-pepper hair. 'Hettie though, she's up there with the angels. Smile on her sleeping face like a wave on a slop-bucket.'
Mike smiled. A warmth came off Dan, a warmth that scared the chill out of a man's bones. Dan nodded towards the congealing coffee. 'Fix you another? It's decaf so it won't keep you awake. Any more 'n you are already.' Mike shook his head.
Dan looked at Mike who looked at the TV screen. A good-looking kid stuffed his face with Golden Grahams while the voice-over spouted on about how cool you'd be if you ate them. 'Sometimes,' Dan said 'you need to talk, best person to talk with is yourself. Like you was when I came in. Other times... What I'm saying, is if you need anyone to listen, I'm right here.'
A long silence stretched between the ticking of the clock. Conflicting emotions flowed through Mike, back and forth, back and forth, like the waves on Dan's proverbial slop-bucket. Dan didn't fill the silence; he left it alone. A lesson Dan learned from his time as a cop, nature abhors a vacuum, and dammed up words hate silence even more. 'I appreciate that Dan,' mumbled Mike. 'Like, I feel I can talk with you. And I'd like to.' Mike looked around the room lit only by a small table lamp and the flickering TV images. 'It's just that, some of the things I need to say - well, they're not in words yet. See, I don't know how to say them and make them sound the way they should.' Mike fixed on Dan looking for a sign. Dan sat, his green eyes soft and understanding.
'Whenever, Mike. If you find the words, and you want to let them out, you know?'
'Yeah. Thanks.' Mike looked at the floor and curled his toes. 'You know Dan. I haven't been a real good person. There are things in my life...' Mike trailed off with a slow, long intake of breath and an even longer sigh. The time wasn't right, and Dan sensed it.
'Like I said, Mike. Whenever. Right now, I reckon maybe I can get some sleep.'
'Me too,' said Mike. 'Thanks Dan.' As Dan turned to go, Mike pulled him up short by calling out his name. He turned slowly, like his bones were tired and aching. 'What is it Quaker people believe in, Dan?'
Dan screwed up his face while he wiped cobwebs out the corners of his mind. 'They believe in peace, as best as I can sum it up, Mike.'
'Yeah, but, like do they believe Jesus was God's son and all?'
'Some do. Some don't.'
'An' all that other stuff in the Bible?'
'Same answer as before. Reckon Quakers don't believe God stopped talking to us as soon as the Bible was writ. Those prophets and saints who wrote the Bible were listening to God's voice, and we can still do that listening today.'
Mike nodded as he thought over Dan's answers. 'What about, oh I don't know - things like - a queer faggot guy - stuff like that? Would he be damned all to Hell?' To Mike, this was the question that would test any religion. Would Quakers damn themselves by damning others, or would they pass Mike's test?
Dan yawned. 'Pretty ugly words, seems to me, for a man who just loves in a different way. Damn him to Hell for killing someone - maybe. Do the same if he rapes someone - maybe. Don't damn him for loving someone.'
'That what it says in the Quaker Bible?' asked Mike.
'That's what it says in this Quaker Bible,' said Dan pointed to his heart. 'And end of the day, that's all any Quaker has as a Bible.'
Mike yawned as he nodded understanding, setting off another yawn in Dan. The talking seemed done. Dan left the room as Mike took one more look out of the window. The moon was high, and looked twice as big as Mike could ever remember seeing it before.
Out in the mountains, that big old moon threw the shadow of a coyote pack gathered replete from a meal they didn't have to kill. Vinnie's empty ribcage reflected the light like the picket fence he's once helped to paint for Dan Wilbur.