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Solar buggies

Story: The Night Witches

Months before the fire—the big one that cuts up through the homes in our hills like a plane through a flock of doves—I see Rochelle in the street. It’s a Sunday. She has her hand in some guy’s pocket. Her hair is paler than I remember it, and it hangs down around her face like she still cuts it herself. She is tanned, broken-in, like she’s been living outdoors all these years.
“Is that Rochi?” I ask Hope, forgetting that Hope never knew Rochelle.
Hope is pointing out the pneumatic metal ostrich to Noah as it hisses and clanks past us. He studies it from up on Hope’s shoulders with a look like he’s swallowed a spider. It’s a moment of summer in Santa Cruz as drawn by Miyazaki: creatures of many colors leap and strut and caper in the street. Pyrotechnic children and dogs with wings grin from alleyways. Cosplay cyborgs loom in doorways. Shops are filled with clockwork angels and satyrs on stilts. Demons with mechanical jaws and painted breasts laugh and hoist lattes. A Victorian house roll…