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Noble Gases

The old man took the news better than most. Shuffling across the threadbare rugs in bare feet, he fell into an ancient velvet chair. A dust cloud rose from it like the ash release of volcanic pressure. Not once did he mention that name. Simply referring to “him”; the abstract concept. Life and death occured regularly in the outside world, but here in the country villa, it was a foreigner. The house was as much a part of the old man as an arm or leg, and had seen no new life since the birth of his son. Twenty-three years of stillness unshaken by the boy’s absence, and just as unmoved by his death. A cracked porcelain cup warmed the patron’s hand. In utter isolation, he peered at swallows perched outside. Feeding the young in their nest. Long ago, he had shared that responsibility, but now his blood was slow and saturated. Standing, the old man moved silently toward the dining room. Dinner was always served at Eight.

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