Saturday, August 13, 2016


February 26, 2016.  First day ride-along but I’m driving, behind the wheel of a Penske box truck.  The woman training me, this is her seventy-second consecutive day of Red Cross disaster deployment in Flint.  Winter long and cold, she tells of slippery stairs, sopping feet, ice covered sidewalks.  It’s snowing now, spring still weeks away.  In back, three layers of bottled water ride upended like old seabed thrust up by plate tectonics, cases heaped atop the wheel well.  I dumped the pallet on the first turn leaving the warehouse.  Look at that place I say, nodding toward a ramshackle mobile home park.  A shifting landscape of colorless trailers hunkered among black skeletal trees, branches utterly convincing as the dead fingers of a lost race of giants.  The woman doesn’t suffer fools.  Says her aunt used to live there.  Not a bad park compared to some.  Hours later, water gone, list checked off, we’re heading back to the warehouse.  It’s snowing big wet flakes, sunset bullied into submission by shouldering clouds.  Now, this park is really bad, the woman says, looking out her window.  A low place, scrub woods, dark forms dissolving into twilight.  The trailers nearest the road look like gaping skulls, black rectangles once fitted with windows and doors.  Aluminum long since stripped, insulation exposed, they appear in twilight as box car size bales of filthy cotton.  No lights are visible.  Oncoming darkness, damp, encroaching woods have rubbed away what’s left of this place, left holes in the newsprint, obliterating what amounts to the drawing of an amoral two year old.  The woman says there are squatters.  I peer into the gloom for cooking fires.  Oncoming headlights on the road ahead, torches of the Kings men bearing news of plague, braving a shortcut, black woods closing in from all sides.  My collar is soaked, shoes turned to sponges, shuddering from the cold, the cold and nothing more I tell myself.    

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