Sûrah XLIV
SMOKE
"That will envelop the people."

44
MARLBORO COUNTRY

Still assembled on the coffeehouse patio, Amy / Judy / Greer contribute avidly to the smoke-infused environs. The air, like fog, distorts eccentric shadows cast across graffiti-altered cowboys; unframed details from expropriated billboards grace the fence; assorted he-man features peer in warped 3D relief. The jukebox squalls. Its revamped Wurlitzer-innards shuffle shiny stacks of compact discs to deal a counter-cultural onslaught of cacophony. No one listens. Patrons read, ply laptops, chat, play chess, and, in the case of one triumvirate, adamantly bicker.

AMY

You did, too!

GREER

Because it got us out of the line of fire; nothing else seemed practical. I'd have rubber-stamped his being shot, so long as she pulled the trigger—and did the dirty deed, of course, off site.

AMY

In other words, "Me first; screw the rest of you?" God, you're selfish!

GREER

I'm pragmatic. What we really oughta do—and fast—is dump her.

Hard-of-heart, Greer's stance, if woefully consistent, raises the suspicions of his erstwhile intimate.

AMY

You make a pass at her; is that it?

GREER

Don't be stupid; not my type.

AMY

Then why'd you go there? This is Tuesday.

JUDY

Hey, that's right; you're out of turn.

Greer's withering look at Judy prompts a gesture of neutrality; palms turned up and spread she reverts to referee.

GREER
(to Amy)

Just curious.

AMY

Bull! We had to twist your arm before you'd 'condescend' to pay one visit. Now you're asking me to believe that...

GREER

What I'm asking you is this; are you and Zahra lovers?

Like a fart that imparts its odor to the overheated atmosphere, Greer's impolitic question hangs in the air.

JUDY

Hey; be real! You know as well as anyone Amy's straight. What's with this shit?

(to Amy)

He's kidding.

(to Greer)

Aren't you?

Amy glowers mutely. Greer refuses to relent.

JUDY

This isn't funny, guys; come on!

The two combatants disengage without a token of acknowledgement, Amy marching toward the exit, Greer left glaring into space, while Judy—torn between allegiances—sighs with consternation.