Sixty years now the town of Centralia has been burning. Some folks say it’ll take two hundred years more to burn itself through. The maze of coal mines underneath us caught fire and there’s enough kindling there for centuries and air will always find its way through the cracks of the earth to keep it going.
On 9/11, with the radio transcribing the ongoing events and his white coworkers in the plant nursery going mad as though the place was burning down, all my dad could do was laugh. As far as he knew, the Omaha nursery was fine. The roof was still above their heads. The ground was unmoving. The sky still blue, and most importantly there was work to be done.
Address: Papa has a lot of rules and his new rule is that we’d better not tell people where we live anymore. He used to not care, and I was allowed to invite my friends over and give them the apartment number and everything, but ever since that guy followed Mama home in his truck yelling about she’s a dirty commie and she should go back to where she came from, Papa says to just keep it general and tell my friends if they want to come over...
At the time of my commission, I did not know all the things this man would do, which means I did not know federal troops would be ordered into the cities, that water cannons would be fired, that there would be dogs, horses, rubber bullets, tear gas, that all of this that had for decades been taking place against civilians abroad would now take place, here, against civilians at home
When Toni and Lola have a good run with the oilmen, we all get to go up to Dallas for steaks and Neiman Marcus and drink thirty dollar cocktails made with real gold. Tina finished paying her forty-eight blowjobs for the red mustang convertible and it's hers now, fair and square, and Tina and Lola in front and Toni and me in back and there's no need for a hotel because we're not ever going to sleep again. Sleeping is for people who haven't been paid.
In early May we are driving south from Phoenix on Interstate 10. The land in every direction is sparsely vegetated—saguaro cactus, organ pipe cholla, barrel cactus, and mesquite. Dust blows across this big sandbox. The sky is hazy. To the east, in the distance, are what appear to be massive heaps of dirt left over from some grand construction project gone wrong. But this is a trick of light.