iv) Cang awakes in the night to find the road people approaching

Cang awakes in the night to find the road people approaching on their tip-toes. Their son still sleeps, wrapped in coarse linens, along with the others. Fassn, ostensibly on watch, snoozes just beside. A dull orange flicker from within the wagon tells him the soup’s still warm.

The road people freeze when they perceive Cang’s alertness. Tension fills the air as he awaits their next move, but they’ve felt his observations and are at a loss for action.

“Perhaps you have mylar on the mind?” Cang asks the darkness in a sibillant whisper.

After a beat or two, the woman replies, “No, sir, just helping my husband to relieve himself. At our age,” she says, trailing off. “You understand.”

Cang sits up and checks his bag, draws tight the straps, secures the clasps. He keeps a stony glare fixed in the direction of the road people, whom he cannot perceive in the gloom. He makes such a racket with his gear that Abia is awoken to a harsh clanging.

“Quiet, please,” she says, rolling over.

Cang sneers. “Friends, why not sleep? I shall take over your watch. I am, after all, awake, and much alert.”

When no reply comes, Cang’s blood turns icy. He hunches himself over his large backpack, embraces it with his short arms. Now and then, he drags the mighty thing to the wagon, to stir and inspect the pot. The night passes, and as the grey-lavender hints of sun creep over the treeline, Cang finds the road people opposite him, beside their prone son, in a squatting pose, their faces hard, watching him.

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