“Take the river path,” the old woman said.
“Is there a road beyond?” asked the younger.
“There may well be, but there’s no way to know.”
“You never looked?”
“How long have you lived here?”
“In this house? Sixty years.”
“And you never looked.”
The old woman frowned. There would always be something just outside her experience, but it was no use telling a young girl like this, who was already walking away.
Up over the ridge, she found a man with his feet in the water, reading printed pages. His pant legs were rolled up at his calves and he had quite the sunburn.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Submissions,” the man said. He picked up a glass of bourbon, which he had tucked in the shallows.
“Do you know where the path I’m on ends up?”
“Sure,” he said.
She waited, but he didn’t elaborate.
“Does it lead to a road?” she asked.
“This one’s kind of a dud,” he said, turning the page. “It’s fine, but I’m not sure where it goes.”
“That’s like me on this path,” she said.
“It’s really not.”
“Is there one that’s like me on this path?”
He pointed to a set of pages floating face-down in the river.
“Ouch,” she said. “Listen, I came from that way and I’m going up there. I was curious more or less to know what your experience was.”
“What does it matter to you?” the man said. “I can’t give you a thing you wouldn’t better see for yourself.”
“That’s all fine if there’s a road or a tavern. But what if there’s a venomous horde?”
“I don’t know dude,” he said. “You’ll figure it out, and you will have done it on your own. Now, will you stop reading over my shoulder?”
“This one really is a dud,” she said. “Did someone write this as a joke?”
“Christ,” the man said, “I hope so.”