Request

"Wal-Mart?" Madison says.

"Yes," I answer. My mouthís tired so I let it hang loosely.

We cross Mill Plain Boulevard, then move diagonally over the parking lot which is wide and concrete with perpendicular white lines and dusty islands of low dead shrubs and sloped bent trees.

"Chop the trees," Madison says.

The white tips of my Converses are dirty and thereís a little hole in one of them. I consider fixing the hole but thereís only one hole and I donít feel comfortable destroying the one hole because everywhere there are holes and people filling the holes but some holes donít want to be filled. I could live in potholes, maybeócarefully shrink my body, or choose the body parts I value mostóeye, mouth, finger, stomachóinvert or implode the parts, stuff them slowly into the pothole. Weíre inside Wal-Mart. Thereís no asphalt or holes. The tiles are wide and buffed and my Converses slide as we move. Madison walks with her shoulders sloped forward so my shoulders imitate her shoulders but itís impossible because Iím conscious of the man watching me from the McDonaldís stand.

"I could work here," Madison says. "Iíd take over. Discount everything. Sell employees. Tie Ďem to shelves, lock Ďem in ball-cages, the rubber-ball-cage. Poke íem for the customers, with a broom. ĎPoke Ďem,í Iíd say. ĎKeep Ďem in your closet,í Iíd say. Then hand them a stick. ĎTry it,í Iíd say, Ďpoke the closet peopleí." Madison turns down an aisle.

When I imagine closet people I picture five thousand dwarves with sharp pointed teeth, stowed tightly in cramped dormitory-closets, in cubbies, then bored college students pulling the dwarves from the cubbies and rolling them around concrete dorm rooms, or roller hockey in basement parking lotsómidnightópuck-dwarves, fluorescent light bulbs, a circle of Nissan Pathfinders.

"Do you like these?" Madison asks. Madisonís holding a rock. "You hide your key in it."

I donít answer. I think about the man at the McDonaldís stand. He could be anyone, anywhere. Tall, I think, and bored. Brown, corduroy hat. Flat, expressionless face. I know him, probably. A neighbor, or childhood neighbor, in the low silver trailer, maybe, in the short dead grass. He had rocks for hands and ate paperclips.

I explain this to Madison.

"Donít be melodramatic," Madison says.

"Holiday Resort Trailer Park," I say.

"What?"

"Nothing."

"How can I help you?" Thereís a man in a tight blue vest.

"No thanks," Madison says.

I see the brown-corduroy hat-man at the end of the aisle, holding a faux-leather steering wheel cover.

"Wrong answer," blue-vest man says.

"What?" Madison asks. "I donít need help."

"My nameís George." George points to the name tag on his blue vest.

I move past them.

"I asked you an open-ended question," George says.

"So?" Madison says.

I stand next to the brown-corduroy hat-man and watch the steering wheel covers.

"So you canít answer "yes" or "no" to an open-ended question. I said Ďhowí which implies at least a short answer with complete sentences. You have to explain the method by which I can help you," George pauses. "You see that mirror? There are cameras, okay. Help me out, okay? How can I help you today, Miss? The question presupposes a worldview in which I can help you, after all. I can help, if you let me, if you would only explain how, and really, here at Wal-Mart, helping you, the customer, is my modus operandi."

"Hi," Brown-corduroy hat-man says. "Whatís your name?"

I donít answer.

"We should go on a double date with George," Brown-corduroy hat-guy says. "Iím Anthony."

"Yes?" I say.

"Do you have pornography?" Madison says.

George is silent.

"I need Wal-Mart porn for my little brotherís birthday extravaganza, with big tits, big Wal-Mart tits, but I canít find the aisle."

"Iím not a stunt double," Anthony whispers, covering part of his mouth with his hand. "Donít let my appearance fool you."

 

Weíre at the park. Across the river, I see a jetliner take off.

"What do you think about closet people?" Madison asks.

I wonder how many closet people are in the jetliner, in the overhead compartment, waiting to be poked.

George sits in the sand and watches a caterpillar.

Itís evening and cold.

"Hmm?" says Anthony.

"Closet people for your closet," Madison says. "Keep them there, maybe dwarves, or small children. Poke Ďem with a stick when youíre bored. Kick Ďem around the room."

Anthony moves Georgeís caterpillar to a new sand-wrinkle. "I donít know," Anthony says. He blocks the caterpillar.

"Youíd forget to provide nourishment," George says.

"What?"

"And theyíd die, slowly, of starvation. Modern culture creates humans too busy to care for dwarf-slave closet people, and providing a well-balanced diet, moderated for dwarf-metabolism, is nearly impossible with professional concerns, commuting, filling your car with gasoline at midnight, etc...Youíd forget and thereíre consequences and police and then prison for five million years. It happened to my sister."

Madison looks at her hand.

"Do you work tomorrow?" Anthony says to me.

"Yes, probably."

"Okay."

"I wouldnít forget to feed them. I feed everything," Madison says.

"Did you live in a trailer park?" I ask Anthony. "You know where Iím talking about, right?"

"Dead distended bellies, television news, corpses, necrophilia, or something." Georgeís voice is tight and even. "Horror movie suicide, probably. Eating Cheerios on the couch. Police. Ten dwarf corpses lined end to end."

"Itís gone," I say. "Thereís a bike trail now. And a pile of dirt."

"Letís move this way," Anthony says.

I follow Anthony. Another jetliner takes off over the Columbia River. Thereís wind and sand in the wind and Anthony and me on the beach of the river. Iíd have to watch the water forever to notice movement. We walk toward a narrow peninsula. Across the path, thereís a dolphin statue above a waterless fountain in front of a half-constructed office building.

"Stand next to the dolphin," I say. "I dare you."

"I donít think I should."

"You could sit on the dolphin. Iíll take a picture with my phone." We move closer to the dolphin.

"Thereís a trench between us and the dolphin. Itís dangerous."

"Did you live in the trailer park or not? When you were young? I think I remember you somehow, but Iím bad with faces. Everybody has a face, you know. Everybody."

Anthony doesnít answer. He stands very still and watches my face, then jumps across the trench and sits on the dolphin. I take a picture with my cell phone.

"This is my fucking dolphin," Anthony says. "Iím taking it home."

 

"Show me your penis," I say. Madisonís asleep in Madisonís room. Iím in the kitchen with Anthony. "Is it circumcised?"

"Canít do that." Anthony laughs nervously.

"I just want to see it a little and look at it. I wonít take a picture or anything. I wonít touch it. Is it hairy or something?"

"I donít have a penis."

"Itís probably gigantic, right? And youíre a porn star or something and youíre afraid you wonít be able to control your penis, that itíll enter the fresh air and detach, hide behind the refrigerator, probably."

"No, Iím genetically a hermaphrodite and my penis is inside my vagina."

"Pull it out. Just for a second. Put it in the refrigerator."

"Okay."

I wait quietly. Anthonyís handís near his jean zipper.

Madison walks into the kitchen. Her eyes are closed. "Go to bed," she says. "Iím sleeping."

"Anthonyís my closet person."

Anthony sits at the kitchen table, his hands on his lap. Madison pours a glass of milk.

"I should take a picture of your milk, then destroy your milk so only the picture remains," I say. "I want to remember something."

Madison and I sit at the kitchen table.

"What is it?" Madison asks.

"I donít know."

I pull my cell phone from my pocket and scroll through the pictures. "Dolphin," I say. I show the picture.

"I sat on the dolphin," Anthony says. Anthonyís faceís wide and proud. "Iíve sat on dolphin statues before, and cowboy statues. Iíve made a career of statue-sitting, but this is my triumph."

I scroll through the pictures. Thereís the trailer park, mostly a dirt pile behind a chain link fence. I show it.

"We went there," Madison says. "We took pictures."

"I wonder where they went," I say.

Nobody talks.

"You know, the people," I say. "I wonder where the people went when the dirt pile was made. They had to go somewhere, right?"

 

Itís midnight. Weíre at Wal-Mart, near the toys.

"How may I help you?" George asks.

I show George the picture.

"Whatís this?" George says.

Anthony plays with the transformers. I stand next to Madison and think about fluorescent lights.

"Ignore her," Anthony says. "Sheís trying to be sad."

Madison asks, "Are you off work soon?"

"Itís possible that circumstances could align in the next fifteen minute whereby I could end my daily term of Wal-Mart employment."

I show the picture again. "Itís the trailer park," I say.

"Oh," George says. "Is it new construction? City culture in the suburbs where upwardly mobile college graduates live in luxury condos near cooling lakes?"

"Maybe?"

"Iíve been there once or twice, in Arizona." George laughs quietly. "Let me grab my coat."

 

"Where are we going? I have to know, Iím driving," Anthony says.

"Iíll tell you when we get there. For now, north."

Madisonís chuckling in back. George whispers in Madisonís ear. I hear the word, "mullet" and then "corporate ideology handshake." I donít know what it means.

"Turn right right there," I say. The strip malls become larger. Thereís a plant nursery, a mattress store. "Turn right again. Weíre here. Park."

Thereís the chain link fence. The pile of dirt. The bike path.

We climb the fence. I stand next to the largest dirt pile. Madison stands next to me.

"Itís sure a nice pile," Madison says. "You can really tell that thought went into it. You donít just dump out a pile, you know. It takes planning."

"Just look at the structural engineering," George says. "Dynamically sound. You could build a geodesic hut on top, bamboo, and live the energy-efficient lifestyle."

"There arenít any trailers," Anthony says.

"I wish there were trailers so I could burn them."

"What?"

"Iíd burn them and the people in the trailers, probably." I sit cross-legged in the dirt. "We should burn the dirt pile."

"I donít think dirtís combustible," George says. "We could try, of course, but my theory is that weíll find it a yeomanís task."

"What the hell does that mean?" Anthony asks.

"Well. MaybeÖWait, I think, with the proper application of accelerants, we might be in business, as they say." Georgeís pacing slowly. "Perhaps with gasoline we could heat the dirt to the temperature at which it would slowly combust, or seem to anyway, which is the point, I suppose."

"Whatís he saying?" Madison says.

"I donít know." Anthony sits next to me. "What next?"

"I donít know. I donít know. I donít know." I hold some of the dirt in my hand. "This is dirt," I say. But what does dirt mean? And why am I holding the dirt? I want the dirt to be something elseóa thing, perfect and solid, glittery, a thing I could hold in my hand, photograph, maybe, then steal the thing, place it on my mantel, one final triumph, grow old, sixty years later point at the mantel and say to the small kidnapped boys, "That thing is something."

Thereís a spotlight, bright in our eyes, broken by the fence. From a speaker we hear, "Please stand with your hands up. Youíre trespassing on private property."

We stand. The spotlightís light is divided by the chain link fence but somehow, clumps back together again, into one solid light and I think about this as I stand between Anthony and Madison. Georgeís laughing. "Trespassing," he says. I know, finally, that I wonít have to move again, that I can remain here, hands up, in the clumped light. I wonít have to go because nothing can move me.

Ofelia Hunt