v) He stares them down

He stares them down. An intense hour passes before Cang’s dedication to the gold outweighs his suspicions, and he climbs into the wagon. Its tiny space is filled with a snoring Fassn, and the cookfire is low and cool. With a start, Cang restores its vitality, then smacks Fassn to wake him up. The older man just grumbles and rolls over. Cang takes up the ladle and stirs.

The road people appear at the window, watching. “We’re awful hungry,” says the woman. “Share some soup?”

“We told you already,” Cang says, in an angry voice unheeding of his sleeping companions. “This soup is not for eating.”

“Share some mylar?” the man asks.

Cang’s face hardens. Slowly, with deliberate movements, he loosens his backpack, withdraws a crinkly bag of mylar. Light floods the road peoples’ eyes despite their attempts to stay cool.

“This, you may share,” Cang says.

The man tears the bag open without skill and vibrant orange arcs the length of a finger come spilling out. A few land in the soup, others upon Fassn’s stringy beard. The road people grab up the orange arcs and start munching.

At the noise, Fassn awakens. Blinking, with a gritty voice, he mumbles, “Hey, Cang. You’ve got mylar in there?”

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