Larry grins.Â That’s a rare thing.Â He lets his feet dangle over the side of the roof, lets his eyes stray over the Fairgrounds, where there are no rooftops, and even through the Mirage, despite that the garden’s also got a metro station.
Larry’s not comfortable underground, and so much of Midnight, too much of Midnight, is made up of caverns and crevices and cracks and holes.Â On the rooftops, he can breathe.Â He can drink the rain when it comes.
And he can count birds.
That magpie, there, on the fire escape, proud of its black feathers and its white feathers, makes seven so far for the night, and the red light of dawn shall soon grace the mountaintops.Â Seven’s wonderful.Â Mystical and magical.Â The number of releasing secrets.
Larry knows so many counting rhymes he’s lost count.Â Some involve fingers or thumbs, eggs, marbles, or aces.Â Many of the rhymes, maybe even most, agree with the Bible: seven is important.Â Many end at seven.
He has to be careful.Â When the new day starts, he can begin counting anew.Â It’s always sad, starting with one, but since Larry cannot remember a night that ended with only one, it’s a brief bit of sad and he can handle it.
Larry he likes secrets.Â He love mystery.Â If he ends the night at seven, that’s the best kind of omen.Â He’d go down to the surface, to the streets, amid the cars and the noise and the chaos of all those damn people, to discover his secret.Â He’d go into the womb of the city, the tomb, the catacombs with their skulls and the sewers with their shit.Â He’d ask questions.
He practices, now, using a voice that scratches his throat.Â He says, “Hello,” slow and uneasy, and then again with emphasis on the last syllable.Â He tries, “Hi,” but it sounds like he’s clearing his throat.Â He tries again.Â Still dusty and rough, like charcoal.Â He opens his canteen, the water canteen not the whiskey, wets his lips and his tongue, then takes a swallow.Â He says it again: “Hi.”Â It sounds almost human, or at least a reasonable facsimile of what he thinks human sounds like.Â He’s still grinning.Â He says, “My name is…Larry.”
He’s happy being Larry.Â He’s always been Larry.Â He sometimes tries to imagine being someone else, but it never works right and often ends in panic.
Maybe this time–with his seven magpie omen guiding him to the asphalt and pavement–maybe this time the secret he’ll uncover is the name of the woman who first called him Larry.Â It counts as a secret if you knew once but no longer.
Larry turns to the magpie perched beside to him, nearly delirious with joy and wonder and hope and fear, and says, “Hi.”Â He says it before realizing dawn has yet to redden the sky mountaintops.Â He says it before realizing his count has jumped.
Eight.Â No secrets for eight.Â He’s not ready for eight.Â Larry’s grin retreats, though he’s not sad, not really.Â Maybe tomorrow night he’ll count only as high as seven.