Two weeks earlier than Chapter 1, where Kyle went up against some very tough vultures. Same day as section 2.1 Mustang, section 2.2 Beatty, section 2.3 Echoes, section 2.4 Tracks, and section 2.5 Diner, section 2.6 Cohuanga.
Letting loose a steady patter in the ancient metal urinal, Kyle’s thoughts turned to the day’s travels and the unexpected sequence of events that had taken them to a diner on the edge of the night. Connecting the threads, there was one common denominator––Dylan. Unsettled vibes had first asserted themselves in the Sierra foothills after a morning escaping persistent tendrils of Bay Area traffic. Waiting for burgers at In N’ Out, Dylan had seemed fidgety––continuously checking his phone, texting. When Kyle raised an eyebrow, a breath away from a comment on the obnoxiously connected, Dylan put the phone away. The instinct to text had been suppressed, not extinguished––a couple minutes later he excused himself to the bathroom.
Back on the road, Dylan had suggested that they visit a ghost town Kyle was certain neither of them had known about that morning. Not to say he was adverse to the detour––it was an opportunity to venture beyond Google's insistent blue line, leave the highway blur behind. In Beattie, Dylan had again set his sights on an unexpected route, this time as a way of making up for lost time. As exhilarating as Kyle found their kamikaze ride down a track that did not appear on any map, it had thrown their interpersonal dynamics in flux. Gone was the assumption that Dylan would lead and Kyle simply follow.
Washing his hands and exiting the bathroom, Kyle ran into Dylan in a beer-induced rush to expel fluids. Kyle settled back at the counter, his thoughts turning with interest––if not quite hunger––to pecan pie. He was leaning toward gastronomic sanity when an elegant solution presented itself. Pie à la mode, split two ways––the perfect peace offering after a day of low-level friction. Let pie be the bridge that brought their friendship into some semblance of normalcy. If Kyle had to humble himself, so be it.
Dylan returned from the bathroom as Lynn set out generous slices of pecan pie, topped with vanilla ice cream. That first bite transcended aching stomach––a perfect contrast of granularity, cold smoothness, insistent creaminess. Finishing his piece with surprising speed, Kyle leaned back and rubbed his stomach with a sigh. Dylan flashed a smile, “That was fucking good.”
Kyle and Dylan turned with a start. The Native American with graying pony tail had gravitated from the jukebox and stood before them with weathered eyes. Reading them as if from a far distance, from a time immemorial, he said in a disarmingly American voice “Cohuanga.” The flatness of his accent did not take away from the force of the utterance. There was silence as he hitched his thumb on belt, taking a long draught of Tecate. Then, as if everything made perfect sense,“After mile marker 168 you’ll see a dirt road on the right. Turn on it and continue until you find a pull-off with a large boulder." Kyle glanced at Dylan, who seemed to have his usual skepticism under control. If anything, his attention was rapt, receptive.
"Seek out the narrow trail marked by three stacked rocks. After a climb, you’ll reach an open area, with a large tree and a well. You can pass the night safely here, connected with spirits…. Cohuanga.” Draining beer bottle, the Native American walked to the door without a glance back, as the last strains of La Pistola y Corazon emptied into the night.