Monday, November 27, 2006

"Those aren't clouds..."

Driving home through the Arizona desert, long stretches of hard empty. Disintegrating garages and drive-ins eaten away by sun and wind; ruins, like ancient Roman roads in odd corners of Britain. Cockeyed trailers with stripped or rusted cars out front, half-shielded from the highway by palm trees.

I point out clouds lying low over the distant mountains before Yuma. We watch giant saguaros roll by, dancing in couples, arms reaching for the wide blue sky.

Further down the road, Mr. Billy squints through the windshield. "Those aren't clouds," he says.

It looks more like smoke.

Before long, traffic comes to a stop. A firetruck passes on the shoulder.

Finally, we can see the lights flashing ahead, orange cones marking off the scene.
We approach the source of the smoke

I'm clicking away, furiously.
The passengers

I'm thrilled. I can see the wreck is just beyond the firetruck. Traffic speeds up.
We pass too quickly

No, no, no, we're going too fast.
I can't even tell what kind of vehicle it used to be

I didn't have time to zoom out; I've fucked the money shot.

"Shit," I say, twisting around in my seat as we leave the burning skeleton behind, winding up to speed. "Shit, fuck, fuck!"

I'm scrolling back through the photos, foaming with frustration. Dammit, I need more practice with this thing, I could've had a great shot.

Then I stop at this photo.
The passengers

There was no ambulance. Was anyone in there? We couldn't even tell what kind of vehicle it was, before. Was it an RV? Were they on their way home after Thanksgiving, like us? I shield my eyes, looking closely at the picture. I can't read their faces.

I'm quiet for a long while after.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Billy in the desert

I'm off for a week in Arizona. Will bring back stories and pictures.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


My laptop is back, finally finally, purring warmly on my lap, glowing in the dim light of the living room.

I've missed you all.

Tonight, waiting at the bus stop, an old black man, bent at the waist, holding on to the signpost with both hands. A car passes, and he reaches out a hand, hailing it, watching it down the road.

"I need a cab..." he says.

A younger man with gray black skin, missing several front teeth walks by. "You need a cab?" he asks loudly. "I'll find you a cab."

The younger man stands on the corner, eyes open for cabs. It's a busy corner, surely one will come by soon.

The old man thinks every car is a cab.

"Cab!" he says, cranky now. "I need a cab."

Finally one stops on the opposite side of the street. I wave to the cabbie, then ask the man if he needs help crossing the street.

"Wha-?" he says, eyes looking wide into mine, tightening his grasp on the signpost. "I'm not going over there, no. No." He braces his feet against whoever is surely determined to drag him away. His irises are ringed with blue.

The younger man yells at the cabbie to turn around. The cab pulls around the corner, slows, then drives away up the street.

The younger man walks away, shaking his head, frustrated. "If he won't take a cab when I find him one..." I think I see another cab on the opposite side of the street. I ask the old man if he could cross the street with my help. He seems to be considering it when he spies another car.

"CAB!" he cries.

I watch for a taxi on my side of the street, when a bus pulls up. "Cab..." the old man says, then climbs the stairs onto the bus.

The younger man reappears. "He find a cab?"

"Got on the bus."

"Well, good. I figger, I hope someone helps me out when I'm old, you know?"

I nod and thank him. My bus is arriving. Time to go home.