The Plastic Flower Option

by Robert B. Travis



There’s enough light in the desert to kill small rabbits and lizards. Their hearts pop. Their brains boil. The desert is fed up with light. It gets the purest, hottest light there is. It gets it and gets it and then it’s dark. Like a coma after your car slams into a light post, like reliving your birth in reverse.

Way out in the desert east of El Paso the light can’t bleed in. You can see the stars, but not your hand. The light can’t span the gap. The sand in the wind tears it up. The desert’s had enough light. Plenty by sunset.

In the darkness of the desert there are trailers. I’m speaking of one. The trailer is like a giant shoebox. It has sun bleached siding, like most. It has a short set of rough-grained wooden steps leading to a small landing of the same kind of wood. The steps and the landing are the same as most trailers’ steps and landings. The trailer has a screen door with a plasti-glass window turned the color of burnt sugar. The trailer also has a satellite dish. It’s a gray matte-plastic satellite dish bolted to a metal plate on a corner of the roof of the trailer. A thing of relative beauty and seeming purpose, as if the trailer was dropped there to hold it. The satellite dish, and its relative beauty, are common trailer sorts of things.

To get to this trailer, you’ll have to go way out. Take Montana Avenue east past where the trailers come in clusters around convenience stores and carnicerías and dollar stores and adult theaters and strip clubs. The skeleton frames of suburbs yet to be will loom black behind you, unlit but promising change.

Keep going.

Go past the clusters and the trailers spread out, as if one of those clusters exploded and scattered itself across the desert. The road will still be paved, but your neighbor’s house will look like an actual, normal-sized shoebox and you’ll have to drive awhile before you get to a convenience store or carnicería or adult theatre or strip club. It will be hard to find a pizza place that delivers.

Keep going.

Out farther, where your neighbor’s trailers are little more than pixels. Go until you sweat it because you forgot to fill your gas tank and you might not make it back. Drive where pizza delivery drivers will not go. Go until the amber streetlights along Montana Avenue disappear and you’re left floating in the dark with your glowing dash gauges and the pillars of your headlights. You’ll find company on your trip. Balloon bodies of dead dogs will greet you with their stiff-twig legs pointing the way. They’ll flare up in your high-beams then disappear. Sometimes they won’t be balloons. Sometimes you’ll find one spread out like a busted sack of beans. Dry beans, because you won’t see the slick gloss of gore you’d expect. Blood dries quick out here.

Keep going.

There’s a dirt road you’ll have to take marked on either side by metal stakes with round, red reflectors like cherries on top. The dirt road is named Calcott, but there’s no street sign to gleam green and bare the name. The mail man knows, the Calcott dwellers, too. No one else knows. No one needs to.

Keep going.

Follow Calcott. Kick up dirt like silt on the bottom of an ocean trench. Go until you see a trailer with sun bleached siding and a rough-grained set of wooden steps with a rough-grained wooden landing that leads to a screen door with a plasti-glass window turned the color of burnt sugar. If the trailer appears to be a giant shoebox pedestal for a gray matte-plastic satellite dish, you’re at the right place. There should be a man inside. His name is Ian. He’s taking a shower. It’s going to be a very long shower, and you’ve just missed the story.

Ian is in a carnicería.

He strains his flat hand into his back pocket for his billfold and works it out from the tight lip and takes a five. Ian breathes hard through his nose and sweat trickles from his scalp and curls around his eyebrows to sting his eyes raw pink in the whites. He wipes with his forearm. More sweat. Ian takes the hem of his shirt in hand. He bares his belly and wipes his face and waits.

The carnicería gasps burnt pork and Pine-Sol and Ian curls his nostrils and waits behind a guy in Dickies with paint splatter like bird shit behind the knees. A faded Che Guevara on the olive-drab back of the guy’s shirt stares at the Coke in Ian’s hand. The guy thumps his Bush quart on the counter and asks for lottery tickets. He asks for the ones with the boots.

The clerk nods and hunches over the roller full of tickets of all sorts and tears off the ticket with the boots.

Ian hates Texasy things: toothpicks, ten gallon hats, snuff can circles in the back pockets of Wranglers, big belt buckles, and especially cowboy boots. Ostrich, snake, alligator—he hates them all. Ian hates Texasy things and he hates guys that waste his time on a day hot as hell for a lottery ticket with the boots that won’t win anyways, and waste his time in the heat and the burnt pork and Pine-Sol vapor with his eyes sweat-stung when he could have what he needs and be on his way.

He wonders how he’d draw this guy in his Dickies and his Che shirt, waiting slack-jawed for his lottery ticket: mouth stuffed with tickets and all of them the ones with boots and none of them winners and stuffed until his jaw is unhinged and his eyes bulge and maybe a quart of Bush shoved up his ass for good measure. Maybe two, because Ian can draw whatever he wants. Ian is an artist. He has fingers that can make what forms in the dim place between thought and sight where Ian reforms the world in the spiral-bound notebooks he keeps in his closet. Years of notebooks, piled in the dark, where he can boil you in acid or make you spontaneously combust. If you’re a man he can draw you with tits and a pussy. If you’re a woman he can draw you with a dick and a beard. He can sodomize you with a beer bottle or make you fuck a pig. He can make you gay if you’re straight and straight if you’re gay. He can bare your innards to open flame and split your dick like a hotdog. He can make you a pedophile, a necrophiliac, or a talking tube of feces. Ian can do whatever he wants on paper.

Che-guy pays for his beer and his ticket, and Ian takes his place.

The clerk says que paso and calls him Mr. Ian.

“Nada, Mr. M,” Ian says.

The clerk is a husk of a man in an oil-smeared jump-suit. On the breast, embroidered in tight, white stitch: Mickey. Mickey has one finger bent at the smallest joint like a hook. Arthritis and redundant use. Mops and hand-trucks. Deep, dirt bearing parenthesis of wrinkles spread from the smile set side-cocked in Mickey’s face. Ian puts his Coke down on the counter and doesn’t say anything about the Marlboros. Mickey has them scanned and ready and he recites the price they both know like a joke they never finish.

Ian puts down the five and Mickey pinches two dimes between his thumb and bent finger and makes to hand them across the counter. Ian waves the change away. Mickey drops the change back in the register and tells Ian adios.

“Later,” Ian says.

Ian walks out of burnt pork and Pine-Sol into gasoline, dust, and distant road kill. His eyes wither in the light before they pull tight and adjust as he walks across the bone-bleach gravel to his pick-up. It was a maroon pick-up, in some place apart from time and the sun. It’s pink as a wound with rust spots and mud along the wheel wells. A man’s truck despite the pink. Loud and deep and no AC with the suspension broken in and given to complain like a mattress under hard fucking.

Ian hops in the cab. The suspension creaks. He turns the ignition and pulses the gas as it catches so the engine won’t sputter out. It roars into a grumbling idle and shakes Ian’s guts until he’s numb. It’s a good enough pick-up. Old and familiar. Good enough, but it’s not really Ian’s. It’s his brother’s.

Ian’s brother George wears Wranglers with snuff circles in the back pocket and a big belt buckle with two pewter cowboys roping a pewter steer in the middle of the flat leather face framed in coiling pewter. George owns alligator, snake, and ostrich skin cowboy boots and is Ian’s older brother.

Put them side-by-side and you’d think George had leached all of Ian’s potential for height and strength through his hand placed on their mother’s swollen belly in some obscene blood rite while Ian was still in the womb.

It’s not that George is huge; it’s that Ian is small. George eats steak and Ian eats Cocoa-Puffs.

Sometimes George calls Ian ‘Peein’ Ian, Art-fag Extraordinaire’. Flip through one of Ian’s notebooks to find headless-George, transvestite-George, sheep-fucking George, dog-shit-eating George, and rotting-husk-being-devoured-by-vultures George.

Not that Ian doesn’t love George. He does. George lends Ian the pick-up. George bought Ian’s cigarettes until he turned 18. George is Ian’s brother, and that counts for something. Ian’s mother told him that George used to feed him strained squash from a rubber-coated spoon. Ian would fall asleep on George’s chest watching the Disney Channel through an illegal descrambler late on Saturday nights. George stuck his fingers in Ian’s mouth and pulled his first loose tooth like a thorn from Ian’s gums. George wore baggy pants with the bottoms stuffed in his shoes into a 7-11 and walked out with Ian’s first beer jutting against the denim like a broken ankle. George built a bonfire of dried mesquite and yucca husks to keep Ian warm while he drank it.

Ian grinds the gears and gives the truck gas. The rear wheels snake on the gravel before the pick-up lurches and limps onto Montana’s smooth asphalt. Ian squints out across the cracked dash and into the fading road to where the distance between his eyes and the end of sight is condensed and drawn thin as a razor’s edge. The edge wavers in the heat.

Ian tears the shrink-wrap from his Marlboros and flips it out the window. He pulls off the silver tab that covers the cigarettes and flips it out, too. Ian pinches a cigarette and steadies the wheel with his palm and digs his flat hand into his front pocket and gropes for matches. No matches. He forgot the matches. The pick-up’s push-in lighter doesn’t work.

“Fuck me,” Ian says.

Ian tries to put the cigarette back in the pack, but it doesn’t want to fit. He sticks the cigarette behind his ear instead. There’s a lighter in the trailer and if not there’s the stove with its circles of ash from Ian lighting cigarettes on the spiral coils.

Ian’s nic-fit tweaks his jaw and nibbles at his stomach while he drives the five minutes to Calcott. Ian opens his Coke and puts the mouth to his lips and fills his cheeks with the Coke and pumps it down his throat. He slows to forty-five on the 400 yards of pebble-dirt that leads to the trailer and the truck jolts hard on the furrows and bottoms out from time to time with a hollow metal thump. Pebbles ping in the wheel wells and ping sharp in Ian’s ears and through his jaw to tap in his teeth. He drinks his coke and the creosote on either side of Calcott blurs and seethes as he passes. The wind comes hot and stale from the window and Ian’s shirt sticks to his skin under his arms and stifles him so he raises his elbows to dry them out.

The truck slides and grinds gravel before it stops outside Ian’s trailer. The engine shudders before it dies. Ian is a short walk and a screen door away from fire. Ian hops down from the cab and the suspension creaks and the cigarette behind his ear weighs heavy like a whisper and the sun’s light murmurs but the stove’s red coil will be there and so will Leanne.

Leanne spent the night, and most days when Ian gets off of work after she’s spent the night she is up and dressed and waiting to go home.

Ian is off early and so Leanne will be asleep and he can lift his blanket and feel Leanne’s warm air and he can get under the blanket and be in her warm air and he can put his nose in her hair and smell it and it will smell like candy, sweat, and cigarettes. He can feel the thin hairs on the nape of her neck against his lips and if he wants to kiss her all he’ll have to do is pucker and her neck will not be warm like her air. Her neck will be cool because Leanne’s skin burns cool. And maybe today she’ll let him inside her, past the cool burning skin into the warm inside. She gave him her hand, once, when he kept kissing her shoulder and pulling her towards him in the dark. She gave him that, but Ian wanted more. Maybe today. And when they get up, slicked in mutual sweat, he can make pancakes while she’s in the shower. Maybe he’ll watch her in the shower, the shadow of her figure through the plastic shower curtain, the ghosts of her hands on her shapes in the shower while she thinks he’s cooking pancakes in the kitchen.

Ian bites his lip. He closes his eyes against the murmuring sun to see her in the space between where he can see her shapes. He has drawn her. Bent her arms and legs on paper, stretched them long and sinuous. Ian has made her anew in his dim space and even when she sat there and posed in plain sight he made her there instead, where she belongs to him. Where everything is his.

Ian met Leanne through Dave. Dave takes over security at the Longhorn Petroleum Pipeline when Ian’s shift is done. He’s Leanne’s older brother. Nothing much happens at the Longhorn. Ian drives back and forth. Sometimes he sees the shining eyes of a stray dog in his headlights. It’s not important, and neither is Dave. Dave likes to talk about work. Nothing happens at work. Dave, mostly, has nothing to say. But Leanne’s not like her brother. Leanne’s important– Leanne’s something.

When Ian first saw Leanne she was dirty and she walked across the dim hallway of Dave’s trailer and the bottoms of her feet were black and her skin was dull as if it was covered in a second skin of dried sweat. Her hair was flat on one side and slept in. Her eyes were rings of smudgy eyeliner and Ian saw smudgy bruises on her thin calves, little girl’s calves. He saw three-day stubble.

Leanne is Ian’s girlfriend, sorta. She says she is ‘seeing’ Ian. Leanne lives with her older brother and her younger sister, Neli. Leanne told Ian that their father lives in New Mexico and sends them a check for two hundred dollars a month, sometimes. Leanne told Ian these things, but there are things she doesn’t have to tell.

Leanne is thin and pale, except for her shoulders which are bronze knobs. If she gets sun anywhere else she just turns red. Leanne has a scar just above her pubic hair. It’s about three inches long. Ian touched it, once, and she turned her hips away from his hand. The scar was hard and thin, like a piece of wire just beneath her skin. Leanne told him it was ectopic.

Leanne wears black satin nightgowns under her kid sister’s shirts. It makes her long and narrow. Leanne wears surplus army boots, lots of eyeliner, and scowls. She dyes her hair black and she wears lots of pewter rings with skulls and spiders and shit like that. Leanne looks as if she’s mourning her own death. It makes her seem desperate and lonely, the kind of girl who will hop into pick-up with Ian so that they can run away from El Paso forever.

Ian is close to the coil. The rough-grain steps up to the trailer’s landing creak and bow beneath Ian’s weight. Ian tilts the Coke up and closes his eyes and waits for the dregs. He swallows and throws the bottle out into the sand and opens the trailer’s plasti-glass door and leaves the white-bright light behind. It’s dim inside. Ian pauses and closes his eyes to adjust before he goes to the stove and turns it on high. He hears a thump. Ian waits for the coil to glow. No good pressing his cigarette till it’s red hot. He hears a thump from the back of the trailer. Ian turns toward the thump. The trailer thumps again, and Ian follows the noise.

The first door he gets to is his. He sees his bed unmade and empty. Sees the towel from the morning’s shower. Leanne’s not there, in his bed, under his blanket with her warm air where she ought to be. No running water from the bathroom. Across the hall, the bathroom door is open. Dark inside. Ian hears a thump and moan. He follows the noise to the end of the hall, to George’s door.

The door is cracked. It swings open silently before Ian’s careful hand. From the doorway Ian sees George’s ass hover and fall. Leanne is on her belly and her flesh ripples away from George’s hips in waves and her arms stick straight back to hold her ankles in her hands, glowing pink against the pale, as if she’s trying to turn into a human wheel. Her forehead is an inch from the wall. When George falls, her head meets her shadow and thumps against the wall. Leanne moans from the inside out. The room smells of beer and sweat.

Ian tries to think of what he’ll draw for this. He tries to think of what he’ll draw but he can only see George and Leanne there, on the bed, glossy with sweat. Ian tries to think, but nothing comes. Ian grabs a lamp.

The lamp is marble. It belonged to their grandmother. It’s heavy with a shimmering satin shade and little yellow tassels. Ian feels the cord pull tight and then come free of the wall socket. The dense marble absorbs the impact when the corner of its felt-bottomed base hits George in the back of the head. Ian doesn’t feel the blow in his arms, just the weight of the lamp.

George falls forward as if he’s trying to swan dive and Leanne gets out of her human wheel. She rolls over and closes her legs and screams and her scream shakes in Ian’s eyes but Ian can’t hear it. The base of the lamp comes down between Leanne’s eyes and the room gets still.

George has blue sheets. On the sheets the blood is purple. On Leanne it’s red. On George it’s red too, but darker because George has a tan. Ian drops the lamp. The base comes down corner-first between the bones of his foot.

“Fuck,” Ian says.

Ian hops on one foot. George and Leanne go up and down.

“Oh, fuck,” Ian says.

Ian goes back into the kitchen. His foot is forgotten. His fingers fumble the cigarette from behind his ear. It shakes between his fingers above the spiral coil, glowing red now in the dim. Ian puts the cigarette in his mouth. The heat makes his eyes water. He sucks on the cigarette, smells his eyebrows singe, and the end of the Marlboro flares.

He smokes his cigarette. He uses the orange ember at the end of the filter of the first to light the second. He smokes the second until it’s a filter with an ember at the end. He uses the second to light the third as he thinks about burying them. He knows how to bury things in the desert.

Ian had a dog named Jasper. Jasper died beneath the trailer.

Jasper was a good dog. He loped to Ian out of the desert on long goofy legs. Jasper was a desert dog. Hips like axe heads, a spine of giant pearls, a tongue like a thick slab of bologna.

Ian used black plastic garbage bags rolled up around his arms and cinched at his wrists with rubber bands as gloves. Jasper was stiff like a rocking horse when Ian pulled him by a hind leg from under the trailer, dragged Jasper a few yards away from the house, and started digging.

Digging holes in the desert is hard. Sand fills in what you dig out, but if you keep at it you can make progress. Ian dug three feet deep by sunset. It was a nice sunset, a perk of the desert. The sky was all orange at the horizon and above the orange horizon it was purple like the middle of a fresh bruise. The mountains in the west were flat and sharp-edged shadow like the cracked edge of an eggshell cupping the world.

While Ian was digging George brought a big white toolbox from the pick-up. It was the kind of toolbox that you install on the back rim of a truck bed, right next to the back window. George sat on the toolbox with a silver can of Coors Light and watched Ian dig. Ian had paid thirty dollars so that George would let him use the toolbox as a coffin. George thought it was a waste, but he needed the money for beer and dip and he didn’t have any tools to put in it anyways. Ian needed the toolbox. Desert dogs would migrate in the night from miles around to dig up Jasper and eat him. Some of them might be Jasper’s own children, if Jasper had any. Jasper probably had lots of children because desert dogs are never fixed.

By the time Ian got to four feet the top half of the eggshell had settled back over the earth. Ian picked Jasper up and the half-digested kibble still caked in Jasper’s hair felt like frog skin through Ian’s garbage bag gloves. Ian put Jasper in the toolbox and the awkward weight almost brought Ian tumbling in but he caught himself with his palm on the edge of the toolbox and stood and closed the lid. He locked the toolbox with a tiny silver key and shoved the toolbox off the lip of the hole and let it slide down on the sand to the bottom. George smirked with the silver beer in his hand. Ian put the key on his Budweiser Promotional Bottle-Opener key chain. George laughed at him and asked, “What? You’re going to maybe want to dig him up sometime?”

George wiped beer spittle from his lips while Ian shoveled sand back in the hole. He used a blown tire to mark the grave when he was done.

Ian flicks the spent filter into the pan under the coil and digs his flat hand into his pocket and gropes for his key ring. He gets it out and holds it up before him. The silver key dangles, but who? Only one can fit. Ian considers a coin flip. He considers enny-meeny-minny-moe. Ian decides to save the decision for later. Either way he’ll need another coffin.

Ian takes off his shirt and goes outside.

Outside it’s bright and the ground is bleached and glaring and the bumper of the pick-up is a silver explosion. Ian walks in the desert with a shovel. His eyes are closed to slits and his feet sink in the sand and the bones of his right foot still hurt. Ian will find an appropriate coffin. It’s a matter of looking.

The desert is a dump. Garbage from decades past lies buried beneath the sand like fossils. The desert is full of naturally occurring soiled mattresses, tubeless television husks, Beta-max cassettes, Beta-max tape players, cracked and bent aluminum siding, headless dolls, bodiless doll heads, rusted swing-set skeletons, stray dogs, and plastic flowers.

There’s a cemetery ten miles to the west of Ian’s trailer. It’s the Evergreen Cemetery. It’s a patch on the desert like some secret garden granting entrance to an underworld, and it’s always green. The cemetery sprinklers hiss at sun sets. The bodies float in their coffins. In the morning, when the bodies settle, the caretakers place plastic flowers on the markers. The flowers migrate in the wind. Eventually they get stuck in the branches of the creosote around Ian’s trailer.

Ian walks toward a dark glob in the sand. It’s too solid to be chaparral. It’s a thing and it’s big. Big enough for a body. Ian walks and the thing resolves. The thing is an oil drum. It’s intact except for small rust-rimmed .22 holes. The oil drum’s mouth gapes too small for George’s shoulders, but Leanne should fit.

The oil drum is half-full of sand and Ian can’t lift it. He scrapes out sand, green and brown pieces of broken bottles, and an ice cube tray with his shovel. Ian can’t get all the sand out, but he doesn’t have to. Ian grabs the rusty edge of the drum and pulls. The rough edge cuts into his palms, but the drum rises and spews streams of sand from the .22 holes.

Ian puts his shovel in the barrel and drags it back to the trailer. He picks up plastic flowers and throws them in along the way. Sand gets mixed with sweat between the metal and his palms and scours his skin. The drum leaves a giant snake’s trail behind it.

Raw palms and the snake’s trails or no, Ian is thinking about what he’ll tell Dave. Dave will see him at shift-change and ask him if he’s seen Leanne and Ian could say he dropped her off and hasn’t seen her since or he could say that he caught George and Leanne in bed together, which is true, and that they professed their love and ran off together, which isn’t. Two birds, one stone, but Ian has the pick-up. If Ian has the pick-up then that leaves George and Leanne to run away together on foot through the desert. Improbable. Ian decides to deal with them one at a time. He practices his line:

“I dropped her off…”

Ian is the monkey with his hands over his ears.

“I dropped her off at the mall…”

He is the monkey with his hands over his eyes.

“I dropped her off at the mall and I haven’t seen her since.”

He is the monkey with his hands over his mouth.

Ian is the six-handed monkey.

Ian leaves the barrel by the trailer in the shadow of the satellite dish. Ian needs to cool off. He can feel the grit of sand in his sweat on his skin. The gloom is heavy in the trailer. It’s dark but not cool. Ian goes to the freezer and opens it and sticks his head inside. He rests his forehead on a family sized bag of chicken tenders. It makes his forehead numb and helps him think and he thinks he should clean the blood off the lamp. Ian thinks he should wrap Leanne up in the sheets and drag the bodies outside before they make a smell inside the trailer that will never clear out.

Ian gets the lamp. The shade is clean. It fell off when Ian picked it up. The marble base is caked with dried blood like dark chocolate. Ian takes the lamp to the kitchen and puts it in the sink. He leaves the cord dangling over the side and glosses the marble with yellow Palmolive gel.

Ian turns on the water and the soap mixes with blood to make warm, pink foam in spirals down the drain. Ian leaves the faucet on until the water and foam spinning down the drain goes from pink to clear. Clean the lamp: done.

George and Leanne are naked and dead on the bed. Leanne is fetal. George is parallel with the far edge of the mattress on his stomach. His eyes are closed and soft like sleeping. One arm hangs from the side as if he’s reaching for something under the bed. The other arm ends with George’s hand still holding his boxers. Ian grabs George by an ankle and pulls. George’s own weight takes him over the edge and onto the floor. George didn’t bleed bad. There’s a stripe down his back that ends an inch below his shoulder blades. Ian leaves George on the floor and turns to Leanne.

A triangle of blood starts between Leanne’s eyes and paints the bottom-half of her face. Ian can see little white bits of bone like baby teeth in the red, wedge dent between her eyes.

Ian doesn’t linger on Leanne. He pulls the elastic at the corners of the sheets free from the mattress and wraps Leanne in the sheet. Ian tries it like a burrito first. He folds one side over and puts his hands on her back. He feels her, firm and warm through the cotton. Ian pushes against her back so that she’ll roll. Leanne will not roll. Ian pulls the sheet back, bearing her flesh again. He bites his finger, grinds his palm against his forehead, and nods to himself. Ian grabs a corner of the sheet. He folds it over Leanne. He folds the opposite corner: top-left to bottom-right. He folds top-right to bottom-left and ties the corners together. Leanne is in a giant hobo’s handkerchief sack.

Ian gets his flat hand in the hollow between Leanne’s arm-pit and the floor. He shoves his arm in. He gets his other arm under, behind her knees, and lifts. A threshold carry for Leanne: a crumbled up mannequin bride in a purple wedding dress. Her arms stay out and bent, like she’s holding an invisible beach ball.

The arm under Leanne’s knees does most of the work. It burns by Ian’s third step. Leanne hits her head on the doorframe. Leanne drags her feet along the hallway wall. In the living room, Leanne catches a corner of the television in the eye socket. Ian sways to keep her weight afloat. When he gets to the landing he takes a blind step towards the first stair. He over shoots and his heel comes down on the edge. Leanne and Ian fall to the sand.

Leanne hits first and Ian comes down hard on Leanne’s hipbone just below his ribs. It digs up and under, crushing his air out just before his nose comes down on her knee. Ian smells copper and his eyes flood. Inside the trailer the phone rings.

Ian gets to his feet and tries to fill his lungs again and bends over with his hands on his knees. Everything is blur through the tears from his sore nose. He can feel warmth building in his sinuses. He gets to the phone on the fifth ring. He feels as if he’s going to sneeze and the desire not to hear a sixth, seventh, eight, or ninth ring picks up the phone.

“Hello?”

Ian’s mom says, “Hi, hon.”

Ian’s mom is 49. She is a medical assistant in Phoenix Arizona. She is divorced, has been divorced, since Ian turned 18. She carried Ian for nine and a half months, she gave birth to him at the tail-end of the 1970s, and she’s on the phone. She calls every Friday. It’s Friday.

Ian’s mom says he sounds like he has a cold. Ian sniffs and smells more copper.

“Allergies. Mom, I’m —”

Ian’s mom asks how he is doing. Ian is preparing to bury his brother and his girlfriend on a Friday afternoon.

“Fine. Mom I —”

Ian’s mom asks how his brother is doing. He is dead on the floor in his bedroom face down on the carpet.

“Fine. Mom —”

Ian’s mom wants to know how work is going. Ian can taste copper dripping into his throat. His nose is bleeding. He is beginning to get nauseous.

“Fine. I’m —”

Ian’s mom asks if he’s busy. The copper taste is replaced by Coke and bile. She asks what he’s making. He sees a note on the refrigerator. A yellow post-it note he left for George.

It says, G: Out of milk. Will pick up OMW from wk.

Ian forgot to get the milk.

“Cooking. Mom, I’m cooking. It’s burning —”

Outside, Ian can see the bottom of Leanne’s foot sticking out of the sheet. It looks oddly lavender against the glowing sand. Ian’s mom asks if she should let him go.

“Yeah. It’s burning. Sorry mom. Call you back, love you.”

Ian’s mom says she loves him too. Ian hangs up the phone.

When the phone hits the cradle, Ian runs to the bathroom. He has to slide on his knees to kneel before the toilet. He can feel solids in his throat and more solids rising. Ian vomits.

When the heaves subside, Ian gasps. He breathes hard into the bowl and closes his eyes with his cheek on the cold plastic toilet seat and listens to his breath, dying into a fading hush in the bowl, but beyond his breath he hears something drone. An engine. There is a corpse at the bottom of his front steps wrapped in a purple sheet and, somewhere out there, an engine.

Ian hits his knee on the toilet getting up.

The engine belongs to a mail truck. It is white with a blue postal eagle on the side. The mailman is wearing his blue uniform with short-shorts and dark socks pushed down around his ankles. Ian waves from the landing to see what the mailman will do, to see if he has seen. The mailman waves back and his smile is a melded blotch of harsh white in the darker blotch of his face across the distance. The mailbox is about fifty yards away from Ian’s trailer and it serves everyone who lives on Calcott. It’s a big aluminum cube on an aluminum pedestal. It has a blue postal eagle on both sides. It has nine locked compartments. The mailman has the back of the cube open so he can see all nine compartments at once. He takes nothing, puts nothing in, gets in his mail truck, and makes a U-turn.

When the truck turns into a white pixel, Ian gets the shovel from the oil drum and leaves it in the sand. He leans into the barrel and grabs the plastic flowers and drops them in the sand next to the shovel.

Ian covers the foot that escaped the sheet and dead-lifts Leanne. He dumps her headfirst into the barrel. Her shoulders stop her against the side of the barrel, so Ian grabs it by the rim and shakes it. Leanne inches down while Ian wobbles the barrel until her head hits the bottom. Leanne’s legs are sticking out of the drum from her knees up to her feet. Ian wraps his hands around her shins and pushes. Her legs are locked in L’s. He feels them give a little but they spring back as soon as he stops pushing. Ian kicks the drum. He uses the drum’s rim to pull himself up backwards to sit and bounce on Leanne’s shins until something in her legs snaps. The stiff muscles release and Ian falls inside. His ass is wedged in and he can feel Leanne’s toes. Ian pushes with his palms on the lip of the barrel and the small of his back scrapes against the wall of the drum. The drum tips and Ian is free. He grabs the shovel and swings. The blow jolts up the handle and stings Ian’s palms.

“Fucker,” he screams.

He swings again and the blow stings his palms and he says, “Fuck.”

Leanne is in the barrel. Ian starts to dig. His skin spreads tight and dry across his back in the sun. His nose throbs and he sucks back copper-and-bile-tinged snot as he digs with robotic persistence against the sand that tries to rush back in to fill his hole. The sun sinks towards the mountains. Ian digs until he’s done.

Ian rolls the barrel into the hole. The barrel rolls like an egg. Leanne’s odd weight fights against the rolling and then speeds it up. Covering the barrel is easy work. Ian scrapes sand and caliche back in from the pile he made. When he’s done, Ian plants the thin green stems of the plastic flowers in the shallow mound of displaced sand and stands with his hands on the small of his back to see the grave in the round shadow of the satellite dish bolted to the corner of the trailer’s roof. Sleek and grey and relatively beautiful, as if the trailer was put there just to hold it. A pedestal of sorts. Ian judges the flowered grave good enough for Leanne. He judges it fit and wipes his brow and heads inside for his brother.

George is still loose. It’s as if he’s made of rubber. Ian drags him across the floor because George is almost twice as heavy as Leanne, and Leanne had been difficult. The carpet makes the dragging difficult, but Ian has his hands wrapped tight around George’s ankles and gets him to the front door. George is naked. Ian is tired of seeing his penis. Ian grabs George’s boxers from his half-clenched hand. They’re green boxers with monkey heads on them. Yellow bubble print says Monkey Business. Ian kneels before George and slides the boxers on with his head turned. He is very tired of seeing George’s penis. He forces the boxers under George’s ass and pulls hard on the elastic hem and the penis is gone.

Ian drags George until his legs are out on the landing. He hooks his arms under George’s and props him on the doorframe. Ian’s forearms come away wet with George’s sweat. Ian tries to make him look natural. He crosses George’s arms across his lap. He bends one leg and lets the other one hang off the landing. George looks as if he’s resting after a long day’s work, watching the sun set.

There’s a tire sticking out of the ground just a few yards from the trailer. It’s a blown retread tombstone. A couple of feet beneath the tire there is a white metal toolbox. It’s the kind that goes on the back of pick-up trucks. There’s a dog inside. It takes Ian three seconds to pull the tire up. It takes him an hour to hit metal with the spade of his shovel. The toolbox looks the same as before it was buried. Rust damage on the right corner, a dent in the middle of the lid where George sat. Ian unlocks it with the tiny silver key and opens it to find that Jasper is little more than bones. Not just bones, because there are still tendons like dried strands of wood glue and patches of skin like sandpaper with hair still intact. Jasper is a mummy dog. His teeth are very white.

Ian can’t work anymore. He’s drained. He is sticky with dried sweat. He doesn’t even want a cigarette. Ian leaves the toolbox and Jasper to get George’s last Coors Light from the fridge. The cold burns his throat and Ian can imagine himself drinking Coors Light after Coors Light until he bloats and passes out next to his brother. There is only one Coors Light though, and Ian takes his time with it. He sits down next to George, puts his arm around George. When he’s not sipping his Coors Light he rests his cheek on George’s head. Ian smells George’s familiar smell: sweat and Irish Spring. Ian tries to say he’s sorry. What comes out not of vocal chords, but of other, deeper innards. An animal sound. Ian has his mouth open with his lips on George’s head and he can taste the sweat on the prickling hairs while he makes this sound.

Ian cries and tears roll down through George’s hair to wet the dried blood so it runs in thin pink lines down George’s back. Ian rocks his brother back and forth in his arms on the landing of their trailer and, for the first time in this long day, he has time to think. Ian knows they’re nowhere, now. Knows there’s nothing left of Leanne because he saw the wedge he made, the bone and blood wedge between Leanne’s eyes, as if there used to be a gem there and Ian worked it out with a pocket knife. There’s nothing left of her. Nothing left of George either, anymore. Only sand. Sand to hide them like it hides all kinds of secret trash.

And it wasn’t fair that the lamp was so heavy and so close to his hand when he saw them and he wishes it had been a normal plastic, or aluminum, or ceramic lamp. He wishes he had worked his full shift. He wishes the pick-up truck had blown a piston on the way home. He wishes he had remembered to ask for matches. He wishes he had stayed in the living room and watched TV until they were done.

The milk. If he’d gotten the milk he wouldn’t have grabbed the lamp. He would’ve hit them with the milk instead, busted the container on George’s head and spilt milk all over the bed—just milk.

And through his tears, Ian sees his brother’s scalp, the pattern and purpose and chattering frenzy of his brother’s hair.

There are bugs in the desert, hidden in the creosote. They hum. The noise spreads to the horizon like the desert around, staring blank-faced up at the sky. Not the sky before with others, people, beneath it—Ian’s own hideous sky, now, hideous for it’s nothing because it’s not even blue but grey as something vast and black erased, telling him how he’s alone and he can sit on the landing of his trailer with his dead brother in his arms and no passerby will ever gasp at the Cain and Able scene. He can sit on the landing for days, rocking his brother until the body begins bloat and bruise, its face becoming the face of some gargantuan, asphyxiated infant before a vent opens in the decay and the body begins to waste and fall apart in Ian’s arms and no one would ever know. The bugs won’t care. They won’t care and Ian can mourn as he sees fit. He can scream and no one and nothing will care.

Ian props his brother against the trailer and strips down to his boxers. The air feels good on the sweat on his legs. The sand is warm on his feet. He screams at the big sky. His scream isn’t much. Ian’s mouth is open and his teeth are barred but what comes out is a whimper from his dry throat. Weak, but it doesn’t matter. No one’s there to hear it.

Ian pushes off with his right leg. He jumps and turns in the air and lands in the sand on his left foot. It buries itself and he pushes off again, kicking up a trail of dust. Ian picks up speed. He turns in a wide circle and jumps and flails his limbs as if he’s on fire. His feet sink into the sand, but he pushes himself free, over and over. Sometimes he falls to his knees, but he gets up and keeps going. Sometimes he lands wrong so that it feels as if one of his toes might pop out of its socket. He keeps going. He is silent and his tongue is moist against his upper lip. He can’t catch his breath long enough to scream, so he does it in his head.

Ian lands on rocks sometimes, sharp bits of gravel kicked from the road. His weight grinds them into the soft flesh of his arches.

Ian feels his sunburn rise and feels the blisters bubble up. He feels the skin on his shoulders pulled tight and numb. It won’t be numb for long, but it doesn’t matter.

Why’re you dancing, Ian?

Because the hot, hot sun.

His limbs burn. The dry air hurts his lungs and his pulse beats hard and loud in his temples, his neck, his chest. He keeps going. His muscles cut shadows across his back and limbs, surging tense then lapsing to surge again to keep Ian going, to pull each foot in turn from the soft sand. The chattering frenzy of his brother’s hair is pulling away like clouds fat with rain from his circle where he turns and works his body and drives memory from the desert.

You’re not an Indian, Ian.

Do I have to be?

Sweat stings his eyes and congeals on his skin. The big sky and his dead brother and the trailer and the creosote and the mountains come and go. He keeps going.

You’re dancing like an Indian.

Am I?

I think so.

Indians don’t dance anymore.

The horizon heaves and tilts. Ian stumbles and his shoulder slams into the door of the pick-up.

They don’t?

I don’t know.

The metal gives and bounces back. Ian is reflexive. An outstretched arm keeps him up, keeps him going. Ian’s pulse and breath beat time in his head.

Are you still dancing, Ian?

Yes. It’s not an Indian dance. Has nothing to do with Indians.

You figured that out?

Yes.

Ian can feel his body struggle and his body moves without his mind to keep him going.

Why’re you still dancing?

The hot, hot sun. The hot hot mother fucker.

Ian sees the obvious way.

But it’s almost gone now, Ian.

The sun sets while Ian dances. The light simmers and the mountains to the west become flat and grey beyond the clumped grids of streetlights which twinkle in the bruised distance. To the east, a false horizon like a welt before the Huecos. Close at hand the creosote casts bristling shadows where the pick-up and trailer come and go like relics of some failed venture abandoned and forgotten for shame. All in passing. In glimpses. Ian keeps going.

I’m dancing till it’s gone.

But it will return. You know that don’t you?

No. It won’t. Not for me.

Ian is not alone. There’s a dog, a brown mutt desert dog watching with dull eyes. The dogs plods down from a dune and anchors its confounded shadow beneath its haunches. Its bologna tongue lolls and retracts in time with its breath. The long mouth smiles. It pants and laughs and watches Ian dance. It barks, tilts its head and watches and waits. Ian screams. There is no voice in him. The dog gets off its haunches and retreats a few steps with its tail between legs. It comes back. It sits and lolls and watches and laughs – it waits. It will eat George. It will dig up Leanne and eat her, too, if Ian can just keep going. If Ian can just keep going, the dog will eat him, too. A little bit longer. It will close in and everything will go back to normal or go on to nothing. If he doesn’t stop the dog will eat him and eat the whole damned desert if he can just keep dancing: because it’s waiting and hungry, because it’s almost over now. The sand at Ian’s feet is marred but patient in his wake. The sun is almost gone.

What about the milk?

G: Out of milk…

He forgot the fucking milk, and Ian’s right knee buckles. He falls at his brother’s feet and feels the sand on his gums and in the spit on his lips. He has sand in the snot that runs down from his nose and sand in the sweat all over his body. Where Ian is wet there is sand. He can feel it. His hamstring cramps and spasms and there is a pain in his side like a hard, solid thing driven deep in his flesh and under his bones. Ian can see what’s left of the sun through the skin of his eyes like a blood-veined yolk, pulsing with his pulse. Ian opens his eyes and sees his brother’s toes swinging back and forth. The trailer swings, too. The mosaic of sand with its light and dark grains, so close to Ian’s eye, swings back and forth. He sees the empty Coke bottle, close in the sand. It swings like the sand and the trailer and George’s toes. Before was the Coke. It slows and slows and stops. Ian tries to stand, but falters and winces at his leg’s quiet pain. His arms work, though, and he hauls himself up like a seal. Ian sees the dog. It watches. It cocks its head and turns to trot behind the dune. It disappears. Ian forgot the milk. From the Carnicería, he forgot to get the fucking milk. The last words between them, the last promised thing, and he failed. He forgot the milk.

Why’d you dance like that, Ian?

I forgot the fucking milk.

Before was Coke and a cigarette, but no milk. Ian forgot the milk so now is the heavy lamp and skin sacks of meat and guts. Before was George alive between hate and love and wanting Leanne alive under his blanket with kisses and pancakes and a shower. Could have been was the milk, but Ian forgot the milk, so now is dead George and dead Leanne with no souls or thoughts, between hate and love, because they are dead and all the sand and a shovel for hiding now. But it could have been milk. He forgot the fucking milk, so everything is now. And before and now and then could have been nothing, but his legs won’t work and he can’t dance and since it’s all not nothing it has to be now. The dog is gone to chase rabbits.

What’re you going to do now, Ian?

And now is horrible, and now becomes a horrible then when the bodies get under the sand. And under the sand is where it’s very simple, and that’s where Ian decides to put George so he can just act like it’s all before, for himself, because what else can he do?

What’re you going to do, Ian?

Bury him.

Ian rests his head on George. He hugs his brother’s legs while his own legs spasm. He wishes the mountains to the east and west would come in around him and hem in the sky, be close enough to have depth and mass, to hide him. Ian coats George’s shins with snot and tears. His cheek slides against the slickness.

Ian punches the sand. His fist sinks in. Ian wants to roll under the trailer where it’s cool and smells like wet stone, to rest and prepare to put his brother under the sand. He forgot to get the milk and his legs were weak, but none of that will matter if he can just get his brother under the sand. Under is cool and dark and quiet. When George is in the tool box under the sand that’s all there’ll be. All that needs to be.

But George groans.

Ian tries to stop crying. It shakes inside him, tries to convulse its way out. Ian heaves. George groans and opens his eyes.

Ian lets go of George and rolls away. George can groan and George can speak. He tells Ian he can’t move.

“George?”

George says he can’t move.

“I’m sorry, George. I’m sorry. Oh, fuck.”

Ian’s eyes ache and George asks what the fuck is going on. Ian rubs the back of his leg, he digs his fingers deep and kneads his flesh. The muscles there convulse against him. He gets on his knees. He stands and winces.

“I forgot the milk.” Ian can’t catch his breath and his legs shudder and threaten to bring him to the ground again. “Oh, fuck.”

George asks Ian what he did.

“I forgot the milk.”

George’s eyes roll around and land on a mound of dirt covered in plastic flowers. George asks Ian where Leanne went. Ian takes a deep breath.

“You can’t move?”

George says no, he can’t. George says it feels like he’s trapped inside his skull. He says it’s like he forgot how to use his body.

“But you can talk. You know how to talk. Try moving.”

George looks at his hand as if it’s a spoon he’s going to bend. George’s hand doesn’t move. Ian limps closer to George, reaches out and touches his cheek. It’s a tender touch. Ian has caught his breath, the nausea has passed.

“You can’t move.”

George asks what happened. He asks it angry.

“I hit you with the lamp.”

George‘s eyes roll back to the mound. He asks if Ian hit Leanne too.

“Yes.”

George tells Ian it’s okay. He says he won’t tell. George tells Ian to call an ambulance.

George is dead. Ian hit him with the lamp. He hit him and left him dead in the bedroom while he smoked a cigarette. He was dead when Ian went out to find the barrel. He was dead when Ian pulled him off the bed. He was dead when their mom called. He was dead when Ian buried Leanne. He was dead when Ian dug up the toolbox. He was dead when Ian broke down and cried like an animal and hated the sky and felt too alone for words. George is dead, has been dead. Dead is dead, and can never be alive again.

“But you’re dead.”

George says he isn’t dead. He says it angry.

“You’re dead, George.”

George says he isn’t. Ian puts two fingers on George’s neck.

“No pulse. You died George. You died hours ago.”

George’s eyes bounce around and land on a white metal toolbox. George says that Ian put his fingers on the wrong place. He says Ian missed the vein. There’s a muscle on the left side of George’s neck that ticks. Ian thinks it might snap and writhe at him like a snake.

“No, you’re dead. I caught you fucking Leanne and I hit you with the lamp. I didn’t mean to hit you, I meant to say something, I just wanted you to know I knew but instead I hit you with the lamp and then you died and Leanne screamed so I hit her, too.”

George says he’s sorry. He says she came to him. He tells Ian to call an ambulance. He asks it desperate. George says he’ll say he fell. George says he’ll go with whatever story Ian wants. George tells Ian to please, just use the phone.

“No, I can’t. No ambulances.”

George says fine, says to put him in the truck instead. George tells Ian to drive him to a hospital so the ambulance doesn’t have to come. George says Ian has to. He just fucking has to.

“No hospitals.”

George is a zombie. He has risen from the dead after six hours of non-life. Ian thinks it must be a progressive condition. If George can talk now in a few hours he’ll be able to walk. If he can walk he can grab and bite. Zombies are incredibly strong. Zombies want revenge. That’s what makes them. It spreads slowly and animates. George is a zombie, and he wants to eat Ian. It is because of the boots. George has no boots on and he wants his boots, must have them to be buried and rest in peace. Boots because they will always fit because the flesh rots and the clothes fall off but the boots stay on the bones that will never rot. George’s boots—his snake-skin and ostrich and alligator boots. It’s because the boots, but it’s too late for that now.

“You’re a zombie, George. You don’t need boots.”

George’s eyes are still on the toolbox. He asks Ian what he’s going to do.

“Don’t have time to fuck with boots.”

George says he is not fucking dead, says he doesn’t give a shit for boots. He says it angry and loud.

Ian nods. The sun is setting. The mountains are like the broken edge of an ebony eggshell. George says he is not a fucking zombie. George says Ian is fucking nuts.

“You’re a zombie, George.”

George says fuck you. He screams it. Ian locks his arms under George’s. George tells Ian don’t do it. George tells Ian he can’t. George’s feet dig trenches in the sand. The sky moves above him. George’s eyes roll to see behind him and he screams, talk to me. Say something, Ian. Speak. George tells Ian to stop, to look. Just listen.

Ian stares at the toolbox. He judges the gloomy space fit for his brother. George tells Ian to just stop, listen. Just for a sec.

Ian looks at his right index finger. It’s dirty. He can see the ribs of his fingerprints full of black dirt and rust from the oil drum. He smells his finger, the rust and sweat. There is a tang to the smell, chemical-lemon, from the Dawn soap.

George tells Ian he has to listen. Just one fucking minute. There have to be other options. There’s got to be something else.

Ian picks up the shovel. He stabs it into the sand and a splinter slides into his palm. Ian looks at the tiny blur-line of dark wood beneath his skin. He chews at the splinter, trying to catch some tiny piece between his front teeth so that he can pull it out. The splinter is stubborn. Ian resists the urge to bite deep and leaves the splinter. He wipes his hands on his jeans and runs his hand through his hair to bring it off his forehead. The sweat stings his palm.

George says Ian has to hear him. Look, listen. George says Ian owes it, for what he’s done. George says say something. Say something. Speak you mother fucker.

“Shut up, zombie.”

George says he’ll lie, that he’ll help make sure Ian never gets caught. George says that once he lies about how he fell he can never tell the truth. George says they can fix this, escape it, together. He says they’ll get their story straight, get it smooth and flawless. Ian turns away at looks up at the satellite dish looming on the corner of the trailer’s roof like a blank-faced witness.

George says fuck you. George calls Ian a fag. He calls Ian a pussy. Cunt. Motherfucker. A bolt of spittle flies from George’s mouth and a tail tethers it to George’s lips. The bolt dribbles down George’s chin and reminds Ian of a spider’s egg hanging from a strand of silk. Ian limps around the toolbox. George softens.

Ian stares up at the satellite dish. The edges are smooth and perfect-molded and unmeant for the desert. Ian turns to face George.

George tells Ian not to do it like this. He tells Ian to hit him with the shovel. He says that if he’s a zombie then Ian has to. Ian paces and stares at the satellite dish. George calls Ian a pussy. Ian turns away. George says no. He tells Ian not to bury him in the toolbox. George says it crying. George tells Ian not to do it. George says please. He shuts his eyes so tight they flicker. George tells Ian that he can’t fucking do this to him. George says we’re brothers. Brothers, Ian. Talk. Fucking say something. Ian.

“Shut up.”

George calls Ian a fag and Ian stares at the satellite dish.

“Shut you’re fucking mouth.”

George calls Ian a cunt. Motherfucker. Fucking pussy ass. George calls Ian a murderer. Ian slumps and stares at the satellite dish. George calls Ian a murdering fag. Ian grabs a handful of his own hair and pulls. His grip wrings a drop of murky sweat.

“Shut up.”

Murdering fag.

“I’ll brain you.”

White trash mother fucking fag. Murderer.

“Shut up. Stop it.”

Ian grabs the shovel and holds it high above his head and stumbles toward the trailer. He swings the shovel at the satellite dish. The spade hits the dish and cracks it. Ian swings again, the plastic bends, and the shovel bounces back. Ian falls to a knee but he pulls himself up with the shovel. He stumbles to stand above George with the shovel in his hand.

“I swear to God I’ll brain you.”

Ian’s face is furrowed and red and his lips quiver as he stares down at his brother in the sand. George is silent.

George will find a way out of the toolbox. George will dig his way out from the sand. George will come into Ian’s room while he is sleeping days or months or years from now. George will grab Ian and eat him alive.

You cannot suffer a zombie to live. They are unnatural things. When you see a zombie, and it was someone you knew, it is not the person you knew is gone. They can’t hold jobs, they can’t go to the movies, they can’t chew a pinch or drink a beer and they can’t be your brother. Ian’s brother is dead. The thing in the sand is a zombie. There’s only one thing a living, breathing, human should do with a zombie. When you find a zombie you have to kill it.

George lies with his legs straight in the sand and his hands above his head, as if he’s being stretched at both ends. He is wearing Monkey Business boxers. Ian raises the shovel. George waits for the blow with his eyes pressed shut.

In the desert east of El Paso Texas, out on Montana Avenue, there’s a trailer. Inside this trailer is a man. His name is Ian. Ian is taking a shower. He is almost done. His story is over. It is Friday night and the sun is finally gone. There’s a blown out tire that marks a grave. Beneath the tire there’s a toolbox. Inside the toolbox there’s a dog’s skeleton and a dead zombie that used to be Ian’s brother. His skull is crushed and he will never rise again. There’s a mound of dirt with scattered plastic flowers too, beneath a cracked satellite dish, beautiful for its crack so that nothing can desecrate the satellite dish’s sacred space. The plastic flowers look like offerings to the satellite dish, but they’re not. The flowers are for Leanne. You can’t see these graves in the darkness but they’re there, and in a hundred years they will be buried under tons of migrating sand.

When Ian is done with his shower he wants to sleep. In the morning, he wants to move to someplace where there’s trees and green stuff everywhere. He’ll be twenty-four soon. He can get financial aid and go to a community college somewhere and take art classes. Ian wants a place where the sky isn’t so huge and the sun isn’t so bright. He wants a place where strange shit can’t happen because there’s too much life. Strange shit has no room to breath. Ian wants to leave the desert and the memory it keeps in the sand just as well as it keeps bodies, the only things it keeps aside from junk. Ian will leave them behind. His story can’t follow him where he’s going, there’s not enough sun, but he will draw it all in a notebook and take that with him. He will change the story a little. His brother will be in it, alive and well in full Texan glory. Leanne will be in it, with full breasts, a curving ass and a pulse. Ian will be in it too, and they’ll all live together. Maybe he’ll set it up so that George and Leanne were always together. Ian’s not sure. There will be no marble lamps and no zombies. He knows he might get caught. It’s so likely he’ll get caught. He deserves to get caught, but maybe he won’t. He’s going to keep going. He’s going to leave in his pick-up with nothing but money, clothes, a spiral-bound notebook, and the satellite dish, because it’s beautiful and because maybe, without a reason to exist, the trailer will just blow away.


It’s hard to be a person who lives in a trailer in the desert and not have a story. People with stories used to live in shacks, or huts or caves before someone invented trailers for them. They lived in cold, grey places and wore moss for clothes. They ate the fresh meat of their strange stories. Now people with stories have trailers in the desert.