Caribou, lead guitarist and principal songwriter for the White Bryans, was home from the road. I can’t do it anymore, he thought as he hobbled down the block, squinting in the slantwise morning sun. Lumbago and Irritable Bowel Syndrome jockeyed for control of his abdomen.
He ducked into Rhino’s Tavern and ordered a glass of room-temperature bitters. Sometimes that helped.
“You just get back from tour?” asked Emu the bartender.
“Yeah. Maybe the last one.”
“Nah, don’t say that. You want a shot? On the house.”
Caribou leaned low over his bitters, antlers grazing the wine glasses overhead. He was thinking of getting out of the game. Touring had become Caribou’s personal version of Hell: stuck in a van for numberless hours with four distinct personality disorders, each with his own variously malfunctioning digestive tract, none of whom could actually play their instrument. Meanwhile, his daughters grew increasingly distant over Skype, and his wife, a top-earning software engineer and the family’s chief breadwinner, had settled on a monastic existence that made his absence irrelevant. And his presence, for that matter.
Caribou picked the girls up from school and drove them to Tae Kwon Do. They regarded him with the bland formality one would afford a too-chatty taxi driver. Once home, he settled onto a heating pad, Pepto Bismol at the ready.
“Caribou?” Musk Ox shouted from the den. Lately most of his conversations with his wife were conducted across several rooms. “Did you change the laundry over? And did you call that guy about the roof?”
Lava bubbles sputtered in Caribou’s stomach. “Not yet, dear.”
He put his headphones on and returned to watching funny human videos on his laptop. They were the only thing that cheered him up—the humans so innocent and carefree, so heedless in their bustling zest for life as they slipped around on ice and fell off trampolines. But lately he saw something else in their eyes: a sadness that he had never noticed before. A darkness.
“Caribou! Can you hear me?”
Caribou turned up the volume and reached for his guitar.
Illustration by Tiffany Prothero.