Straw into Gold

Hope is just gone.

She’d coughed up the first blue bug in Wyoming, and at the state line a voice had asked what its name was. She’d said, “Rumpelstiltskin,” and when the voice had shrieked long enough about that, she’d said, “Well, it’s not Drake Jr.”

In Utah, on all fours on the side of the interstate, her motorcycle tipped over in haste, she sprayed a swarm of neon blue bugs from her mouth and the voice exploded.


More bugs in Nevada, but the voice let her puke in peace.

Now, the being of brilliant light that had birthed itself from Hillary’s skull crawled along the black glass beach, where the boiling-blood Pacific kept tugging on her motorcycle. Hillary sat cross-legged with the shotgun in her lap and her arms around her knees. The skeleton paced and smoked and said Barack could use her help.

“Maybe I could use his,” she said, but she spoke in a quiet monotone. She stared at the horizon that she’d followed from Des Moines, hoping to find a vanished world. The skeleton breathed a smoke ring.

“What in your life made you think that a thing could be fated?”

The being was human-shaped, and it planted its shining feet on the ground to push its butt in the air. It was trying to stand. It wiggled, then fell back to the earth and wept.

“I don’t want to be Rumpelstiltskin,” it whined. “I want to be something pretty.”

“I didn’t give you your name,” muttered Hillary. “I just told you what it was.”

“You won’t come to the quiz show,” said the skeleton. “You’ll just sit here and know awful things. I’ll still tell you that the world hasn’t finished ending. Something else awful to know. And the monster that wants to wrap it all up has a sadist’s idea how. Who knows if he’ll pull it off, but don’t waste your bullet on a beast. That’s just fangs and claws. Over in hours at worst. If it looks like you’ll have to shoot, just let the monster feast.”

“Why don’t you know if he’ll pull it off?” asked Hillary. “I thought you knew everything.”

“It’s embarrassing,” said the skeleton. “I can’t see my own future. The monster wants to torture everything forever. I’m part of everything, so I’m not allowed to see what happens.”


The being was sitting up. It had finished its genuine weeping and now faked loud sobs. The skeleton knelt to stub its cigarette out on the glass, then placed a hand on Hillary’s shoulder.

“I don’t think you’ll have much warning.”

Hillary closed her eyes, and the skeleton stood to help the being stand.

“Everyone knows you’re faking. Would you like to be part of a quiz show?”

“Do I have to be called Rumpelstiltskin?”

“You can choose your name yourself.”

The being considered this. As the two blinked away, Hillary heard it say, “Beyoncé.” Then she was alone with the hiss of the waves, focusing alternately on the shotgun in her lap and the last thing she had tried for.

That’s where she was the last time I heard about her. Don’t act like that’s where I left her.


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