1. Concerto in Do Maggiore, Rv 444 – Allegro Molto – Vivaldi (2:47)
The scenery was a blur. Every imperfection in the road jolted through the chassis and pushed up through the leather of the seats, making Tod's teeth rattle.
'Hey, come on, tiger,' he said eventually. His hand was braced on the dash, not that that would help if they came to a sudden stop. 'You've got a right to be angry, but I don't want to die – not quite yet.'
'I'm not trying to die,' Buz said through clenched teeth. The air was whipping at his hair, smoothing it back from his head. His eyes were burning.
'Then easy off the gas, buddy,' Tod urged him. 'I know some things were said that should never have been said, but you can't run away on an open road – not from words. Not from people's minds.'
2. Golden Skans – The Klaxons (Live Lounge) (3:05)
'How often do we get to spend time at the beach?' Tod asked. He was stretched back on the sand, his arms behind his head, just lifting his shirt enough that a soft line of belly showed under the fabric.
Buz let his eyes slip sideways and a shiver ran through him. He shouldn't let himself think like that. He tried so hard not to think like that. But that thin slip of skin, vulnerable and soft and spidered with hair, stirred something inside him that was almost impossible to suppress. The midday sun was turning those hairs golden and glinting and Tod's skin was slowly gaining a red flush from the heat.
He closed his eyes and thought of girls instead. The beach was littered with girls. Girls in bikinis, girls in swimsuits, girls walking up out of the water with the droplets beaded on their skin.
3. Golden Touch – Razorlight (3:25)
It was no good. Every one of those girls with the golden skin shimmered somehow and turned into Tod, into his sandy hair and freckled face and arms. Those freckles made him think of the shadows of leaves on the sidewalk on a hot day, of the ripples on the surface of a river when the wind blew. He thought of a girl with waist-length blonde hair and a bikini and sand beaded on her body, and instead he felt the trail of fingertips on his arm and opened his eyes and saw Tod.
He had rolled onto his side and the sand was light and falling silently from his arms and there was sand in his hair and on his cheek and Buz wanted to reach out and brush the silica beads from his skin.
'Ice cream?' Tod asked, and Buz blinked confusedly.
'Uh – um – yeah,' he said eventually. 'Yeah, I need something to cool me down.'
4. Home – Vanessa Carlton (5:37)
Every time a screen door shut or a metal latch clicked closed or the door of a trailer pushed into its frame there was a new home before them. There was always a new bed, or a new sofa, perhaps some cushions on the floor. New sheets, old sheets that had seen hundreds of travellers before them. They made their home wherever they could sleep for a full night. Tod always felt better once he had woken up in a place, once he had swung his feet to the floor and used the bathroom and was fixing eggs or toast in the kitchen.
Sometimes it seemed that their only true home was that sleek Corvette. The seats had shaped themselves to their bodies after all this time. They knew that car like a lover, knew which parts slipped pleasingly beneath the palm, knew what needed fixing before it broke, knew how to cajole it and coax it when it started to feel the miles. The sky was their ceiling and the road the grounds in which their home stood.
'One day we'll find a place we can stick a pole in the ground and put a name on the mailbox, and we'll call it home,' Buz would say, and Tod would look at him and smile. He had grown up with all those things. It was Buz who craved stability, for all of his wild ways. It was Buz who craved a key to more than just a car and a tree that knocked against the window in the wind and a path to the front door.
5. Boy With The Thorn In His Side – Scott Matthews (2:59)
'What is it with you, Buz?' Tod asked, taking a step back. He tolerated Buz. He liked him. He loved him like a brother. But sometimes, just sometimes, the enormous chip that balanced on Buz's shoulder made Tod snap. He liked to take life as a soft and easy thing, something to be looked at with a smile and made better, not worse. Buz seemed to get so angry at so many things – at children and their parents, children without parents, at cruelty, at neglect. He couldn't fault him. Buz had grown up fast and hard and his anger was a response to the unfairness of the unfeeling world – but he wished, sometimes, that his friend would hold his tongue and his anger just a little longer.
6. Us – Regina Spektor (4:52)
Us. That's what it came down to. You and me. Me and him. The two of us travelling the straight and level road, taking turns when they came, rolling up and swooping down. When the car moved the world was a blur and there was just the us, the wind lifting Buz's hair and teasing through Tod's own, the two suitcases strapped side by side on the luggage rack, the music on the radio that was clear to their ears but a swooping Doppler shift to those left at the side of the road.
'You want me to take the wheel awhile?' Buz asked, looking sideways with the laziness of hours travelling in his eyes.
Tod shook his head. His hands were set on the steering wheel, the vibration of the car travelling through the bones of his wrists and up his arms to his shoulders. He didn't want to let go. He didn't want to stop and pull the key from the ignition and find a bed for the night. He wanted to drive on towards the sun, catching it before it set fire to the horizon, staving off the night and making the day stretch out forever.
'You've been driving an hour already,' Buz said, and Tod laughed.
'I like it,' he said. 'I feel like driving.'
He saw a sign swoop up, draw level, and fall away.
'Leafall, Arizona,' he said. 'What d'you say, Buz? Shall we take the left, or stay on the straight and narrow?'
7. Delta (Little Boy Blues) – Badly Drawn Boy (4:00)
The sweat hung across Tod's forehead, across his shoulders, across his chest. It ran down the hollow of his spine and he could feel it in his knee pits and on his thighs. It was so humid that there was no way for his body to exchange the water with the air.
'I can't take much more of this,' Buz said as he hauled another log onto the trailer. 'Honestly, I would never have signed up for this…'
'I'm about to become one with the ground,' Tod said tartly. His chest was heaving, and every breath was warm and moist. 'Can't beat Louisiana heat.'
'It's about to beat me,' Buz said. He dropped the log with a clatter and sank down to the ground, unbuttoning his shirt and flapping the fabric to make a draught. A powerful scent of sweat rose up into the air, and Tod coughed. 'Don't pretend you smell any better,' Buz told him. 'Sit down. Have a drink.'
8. Toxic Girl – Kings of Convenience (3:06)
'How could she do that?' Tod asked, staring about himself dejectedly. The contents of his suitcase were strewn everywhere. Everything had been turned out and gone through, and the case itself was battered as if it had been stood on. 'All my money, my dad's watch…'
'Some chicks are toxic,' Buz said, picking up a shirt and shaking it out and beginning to fold it up. 'That's it, buddy. Some of them have grown up with something evil inside them and it comes out in the end. It always does.'
'I thought I loved her…' Tod said, sinking down on the edge of the bed. He rubbed his hands over her face and then looked up, his eyes wide with pain. He looked like a little boy sometimes, Buz thought, with those golden freckles and that wide-eyed look of innocence.
9. Black Eyed Dog/Free To Run – Gomez (8:51)
They first saw it out ahead of them, a speck far down the road, something dark and moving. It was too low to be a man, to swift to be a child. As the Corvette purred closer Buz suddenly called out, 'It's a dog!'
'What's a dog doing all the way out here?'
Tod looked to the left and the right. The land was flat and studded with dry bushes. There were no houses, no rivers, no other roads. There was no one to take care of a dog out here.
Buz shrugged. 'You know, some people say they're an omen – a black dog crossing your path.'
'An omen of what?' Tod laughed acerbically. 'I thought that was supposed to be cats, anyway?'
Buz shook his head. 'Nah, dogs too – to some people. An omen of death, or a fate worse than death.'
Tod laughed again. 'It's just a dog,' he said as they drew closer. 'Just a poor old dog, making its way somewhere. Look,' he said, 'It's limping, poor old fella.'
Buz's expression immediately tightened in concern. 'Perhaps we should stop,' he said.
Tod turned the wheel a little as they drew up to the creature, pulling the car out so that they were travelling alongside. The dog kept running, its left front paw barely touching the ground, its tongue hanging out and its dark eyes fixed firmly on the road ahead.
Buz draped his hand over the side of the car. 'Hey, buddy,' he said in a low voice.
The dog snapped him a look, and then turned away again, disinterested. Buz reached down between his feet and brought out a flask.
'Hey, old fella,' he said, shaking the container so the water splashed inside.
This time the dog looked for longer. Tod let the car roll to a stop and the dog stopped too. Buz opened the door cautiously, for, tired as it was, the dog was big and powerful looking. Its long black hair was matted and dusty, but he had no illusions that its teeth would not be effective.
The dog sat down, resting its haunches on the hot road, and Buz knelt too, pouring a little water into the palm of his hand.
'Here, fella,' he said. 'Have a drink.'
The dog drank as if it had not seen water for days. Buz looked up at his friend, concerned.
'I think we should take it in to the next town,' he said.
10. Happy – The Rolling Stones (3:06)
His head was tipped back to the cloudless sky. The spring sun was hot but not burning, the breeze cool but not cold. Every mouthful of air he took reached to the bottom of his lungs.
There were times on the streets of New York that he couldn't imagine this kind of happiness. Times when the tenement buildings seemed to reach up and cover over the sky, when the only words he read were street signs and newsprint drifting by. He walked sometimes, block to block, the sidewalk hard and filthy under his feet, thinking how he was walking from nothing to nowhere. There was no mom or dad at home to wipe a smut of dirt from his face or ask him why he was upset. No kindly grandparents a few blocks away to take him in and give him milk and cookies. It was a world of streets like ravines and a sky like the last crack of freedom that a coffin saw as it was lowered down.