They stop for lunch at a little park on the outskirts of some town so small the only people who can remember the name of it without referring to a map are the residents. The sparrows here are fat and fearless, a quality which Howell finds fascinating. They dart and scatter around the ankles of the other parkgoers, countless domestic disputes over crumbs playing out in the five minutes it takes Theresa to buy sandwiches from a cafe down the street.

Howell starts on his last blister of antihistamines, pulling the respirator down around his neck to dry swallow a capsule. Theresa hands him a sandwich.

"Why do so many people stop here, do you think?" he asks.

"The fact that the only thing between here and the next stop is interminable alpine desert masquerading as national park?"

"Point," says Howell, pulling his respirator back up. "Hey, give me your crusts."


"Sparrow tax."

"You shouldn't encourage them," says Theresa.

"I'm not," says Howell, clearly encouraging them. "Besides, I thought you liked birds?"

"For all you know maybe sparrows killed my parents or whatever. Can we go, already? I have a thing lined up for tonight."

"Killed your parents?"

Theresa makes a frustrated noise like "uughhh" and extricates herself from the picnic table, a shower of crumbs sparking a minor sparrow civil war. Howell watches them for a little while longer, but now that he's out of food they have no use for him.

"Hey," says Theresa, when he gets back to the car. "Come here for a second?"

Howell starts to say something but she's already grabbing his lapel and pulling him closer and for a split second he thinks she's going to kiss him but then he remembers the respirator and by that time her other hand has already fished his phone out of his inside coat pocket. She winks at him; he glares back.

"My name's Theresa," he says, "and I'm a manic pixie dream girl."

"My name's Andrew," she says, handing him the keys, "and my stupid mask makes me look like a b-movie alien."

"If you write over my Post-Apocalyptic Biker Gang save game," he says, "with god as my witness - I will never speak to you again."