In literary theory, the chronotope is how a moment in time and space collide through language.

the state capital

The Walmart Supercenter stayed open 24/7. It was where Marley bought her groceries late at night, with no one else there except the graveyard shift, unpacking cans and boxes onto the shelves. Sometimes there were other shoppers leaning on their carts and walking slowly, like they were savoring it. Marley passed them quickly or went down different aisles. She never made eye contact with anyone. At night the roads were lonely, there were no other cars and she noticed for the first time how many streetlights there were.
One night she saw her father there, a person she came so late in order to avoid. They snuck up on each other in the dairy section. Marley set down her basket and walked out of the store. It was so early that the sky was already gray, with clouds like pink food coloring. Probably everything was not okay.
At home she fell asleep in her bedroom with the door closed. When it was fully daylight there was a creak, and Colton crawled up under the sheet, whispered “I love you,” barely waking her. Above them the ceiling fan was going crazy. She hugged his body and they slept for a while longer before it was time to get up.

Oscar got a job in the state capital, and he wanted Marley to move there with him. The people were more attractive, he said, there were more places to get a job, she could even apply to the university. Marley didn’t realize that he really meant it, when he’d always said that they had to stick together. He told her that the other day he’d seen his parents in Walmart. That convinced her to move with him and that life could still be a thing that was green and new.
She was unfamiliar with the city. As a girl she’d gone to its outskirts with her family to visit the State Fair. She remembered the sprawling dark parking lot, windshields reflecting stray neons, the murmur of children and lovers. She remembered with deranged clarity the fair’s main strip, waterguns ringing and bottles splashing, giant stuffed giraffes, plastic bags with goldfish floating in them. Meat and sweat and dung warming the sparkling October air. She had ridden the swings, begged to do it twice, and then the Ferris wheel, further off the ground than she’d ever been in her life. Like all carnivals it made the world noisy and colorful and exciting in order to cloak the danger that it also summoned, the violence, the sexuality. Only a few years later she was at the State Fair again, at the top of the same Ferris wheel where she kissed the boy who would become Colton’s father. That time, too, she had not been properly attuned the grotesqueness that was flaunted and unfathomed.

In the state capital Oscar couldn’t tell if he was halfway or all the way. He met a boy who was not like anyone he’d ever met in his life. Tall and thin and dark-haired, somehow foreign with an intelligent drawl that drew him in, revealed unknown fascinations. It was as though the town Oscar came from did not even have such a thing as vinyl records. He became accustomed, also, to the taste of more expensive cigarettes.
“I’m from a small town, too,” the boy reassured him. “Most people are.”
He was a student, and lived in an old house downtown. There was a tiny balcony above the front porch that they leaned on while smoking, especially before thunderstorms.
When Oscar explained about Marley and Colton, he was self-conscious, it seemed as though there were too many excuses. But the boy was delighted, and he asked questions. Oscar was put at ease until the boy said “What a queer set-up.”
His mouth twitched. He’d heard it a few times in his life, at distinct angles. The boy caught him: “It’s an academic term.” A lengthy conversation followed, mostly one-sided, and Oscar wondered what other tastes he would have to acquire. He was unaware that he had not totally lost his virginity.

Colton was thrown outside to play. He hated the backyard, it’d been better before. Now, though, there was an entire neighborhood. With the trees and the street and the light and the air there was a lot to take in, but he could still smell his banana. Already a neurotic, he never finished the fruit to the bottom of the peel. At the entrance to an alleyway two kids scraped their bikes to a halt. After examining him a moment one of them declared, “We’re playing a game.”
The rest of the afternoon Colton was drawn into a strange world that he would later visit and revisit. The game the children played had two sides, and everyone joined in, there was really not a choice. As a newcomer Colton was treated with respect and reluctance. His gauntlet came when he freed a group of prisoners from the enemy’s stronghold, setting off a full-scale flux in allegiances and hierarchy. Summer crept into fall and winter. He thought of archives and armories. He became a spy, and then an autocrat, and recycled his downfalls, his daring escapes. For Christmas he got a new bike and a stack of books. On his birthday nothing seemed to change; it was sunny and the trees were bright and he went out to play.

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Lorincz