Sun rising over the desert, Alice stumbles out the employee entrance, the little door in back of Ceasar's Palace, around and out of sight from the moving walkways, the pillars the white tigers the recorded voice-over Willie made must have been, what, ten years ago now.
Jeans and a t-shirt on after a long night, headdress on the rack back in the dressing room, a quick cold-cream wipedown, but you can still see the fading black around her eyes, trace of blue above, last trails of lipstick, blush.
This is the best time of day, the Strip asleep as it gets, desert that washed-out clean white, Alice parks at a friend's motel down the street instead of Ceasar's employee lot, this walk is what matters, she can see straight down the road for miles and all the crazy fantasy-casinos look smaller in the early morning light, the colors evened out, they're not the whole world anymore like it seems at night, just some toys a giant kid dropped in the middle of the clean, bright desert.
Maybe today she won't drive home to the double-wide just yet, maybe turn right out onto the freeway, in only forty-five minutes, maybe less this early, she could be in Valley of Fire, her own private Martian world, pull over to the side of the road, engine kicking before it dies out, she could walk out of the car, door hanging open, keys dangling from the ignition, just walk out into the desert, red rocks piled on either side, walk straight ahead while the sun rises, how far could she get before Randall fought out of his hangover and missed her, how far before someone noticed the car hanging open by the side of the road, before one thing matched the other and people came looking, how far out into the middle of big nowhere, big everywhere, sun hot above and clean dry desert dirt at her feet?
Far enough, thought Alice, maybe just far enough.