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.


jkirlin said...

I heart your illustrated stories.

Chemical Billy said...

They heart you back, jk.