Susan’s leaning against a tree looking at the sky when the star falls down.
He’s got bright gray hair, like it’s lit up inside, and there’s a spike in his lower lip. He’s wearing enough leather to apoplecticize six PETA warriors and a pair of fuck-you shades. He lands hard, but he lands rolling, and when the dust settles, he cracks his neck and looks pretty much okay.
“I’m late,” he says.
He looks around.
There’s a freeway not too far. There’s Susan’s bike parked on a bed of gravel. There’s a tree and dead withered grass. There’s Susan. There’s the cigarette that Susan dropped.
“Hey,” he says. “Do I know you?”
Susan shakes her head.
“No,” he says. “I’m sure I know you. Names are hard. Sharon? Siffer?”
“Nobody’s named Siffer,” she says. “I mean, hardly anybody.”
“That’s fair,” he agrees.
He stares at her for a moment longer. Then he grins. “Susan,” he says. “That’s right. I flared in the sky over Corner Road to celebrate your birth.”
“Like with Bethlehem,” he says. “Only, you know, for you, rather than for a messiah.”
“Glad that’s settled,” he says. “It’d be nagging me all day.”
He walks over to her bike. He gets on it. He grips the handles. Somewhat to Susan’s surprise, the engine turns on.
“Um . . .”
He kicks up the kickstand.
“Um, that’s my bike,” Susan says. “And this is the middle of nowhere. And it’s getting cold.”
“There’s a sparrow that’s going to die of malnutrition thataways in about thirty-seven minutes,” the star says, “and I’m on watching-sparrow-die duty.”
She lurches forward, but she’s slow and clumsy compared to the movements of the star.
The bike roars out, and there’s a bit of gravel on her face, and blood slowly trickling down from it, and he’s gone.