"Yes," I answer. My
mouthís tired so I let it hang loosely.
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.
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.
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.
explain this to Madison.
"Donít be melodramatic,"
"Holiday Resort Trailer
Park," I say.
can I help you?" Thereís a man in a tight blue vest.
thanks," Madison says.
I see the brown-corduroy
hat-man at the end of the aisle, holding a faux-leather steering wheel cover.
answer," blue-vest man says.
Madison asks. "I donít need help."
nameís George." George points to the name tag on his blue vest.
move past them.
"I asked you an open-ended
question," George says.
I stand next to the brown-corduroy
hat-man and watch the steering wheel covers.
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."
Brown-corduroy hat-man says. "Whatís your name?"
"We should go on a double
date with George," Brown-corduroy hat-guy says. "Iím Anthony."
"Do you have pornography?"
George is silent.
need Wal-Mart porn for my little brotherís birthday extravaganza, with big tits,
big Wal-Mart tits, but I canít find the aisle."
not a stunt double," Anthony whispers, covering part of his mouth with his
hand. "Donít let my appearance fool you."
at the park. Across the river, I see a jetliner take off.
do you think about closet people?" Madison asks.
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
"Hmm?" says Anthony.
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
Anthony moves Georgeís caterpillar
to a new sand-wrinkle. "I donít know," Anthony says. He blocks the caterpillar.
forget to provide nourishment," George says.
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."
looks at her hand.
"Do you work tomorrow?"
Anthony says to me.
wouldnít forget to feed them. I feed everything," Madison says.
you live in a trailer park?" I ask Anthony. "You know where Iím talking
"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."
gone," I say. "Thereís a bike trail now. And a pile of dirt."
move this way," Anthony says.
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
"Stand next to the dolphin,"
I say. "I dare you."
think I should."
"You could sit on
the dolphin. Iíll take a picture with my phone." We move closer to the dolphin.
a trench between us and the dolphin. Itís dangerous."
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."
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.
is my fucking dolphin," Anthony says. "Iím taking it home."
me your penis," I say. Madisonís asleep in Madisonís room. Iím in the kitchen
with Anthony. "Is it circumcised?"
do that." Anthony laughs nervously.
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?"
donít have a penis."
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."
Iím genetically a hermaphrodite and my penis is inside my vagina."
it out. Just for a second. Put it in the refrigerator."
wait quietly. Anthonyís handís near his jean zipper.
walks into the kitchen. Her eyes are closed. "Go to bed," she says.
Anthony sits at the kitchen
table, his hands on his lap. Madison pours a glass of milk.
should take a picture of your milk, then destroy your milk so only the picture
remains," I say. "I want to remember something."
and I sit at the kitchen table.
is it?" Madison asks.
"I donít know."
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."
wonder where they went," I say.
"You know, the people," I
say. "I wonder where the people went when the dirt pile was made. They had
to go somewhere, right?"
midnight. Weíre at Wal-Mart, near the toys.
may I help you?" George asks.
I show George
"Whatís this?" George
Anthony plays with the transformers.
I stand next to Madison and think about fluorescent lights.
her," Anthony says. "Sheís trying to be sad."
asks, "Are you off work soon?"
possible that circumstances could align in the next fifteen minute whereby I could
end my daily term of Wal-Mart employment."
show the picture again. "Itís the trailer park," I say.
George says. "Is it new construction? City culture in the suburbs where upwardly
mobile college graduates live in luxury condos near cooling lakes?"
been there once or twice, in Arizona." George laughs quietly. "Let me
grab my coat."
are we going? I have to know, Iím driving," Anthony says.
tell you when we get there. For now, north."
chuckling in back. George whispers in Madisonís ear. I hear the word, "mullet"
and then "corporate ideology handshake." I donít know what it means.
right right there," I say. The strip malls become larger. Thereís a plant
nursery, a mattress store. "Turn right again. Weíre here. Park."
the chain link fence. The pile of dirt. The bike path.
climb the fence. I stand next to the largest dirt pile. Madison stands next to
"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."
look at the structural engineering," George says. "Dynamically sound.
You could build a geodesic hut on top, bamboo, and live the energy-efficient lifestyle."
arenít any trailers," Anthony says.
wish there were trailers so I could burn them."
burn them and the people in the trailers, probably." I sit cross-legged in
the dirt. "We should burn the dirt pile."
donít think dirtís combustible," George says. "We could try, of course,
but my theory is that weíll find it a yeomanís task."
the hell does that mean?" Anthony asks.
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."
he saying?" Madison says.
know." Anthony sits next to me. "What next?"
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."
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."
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.