Thursday, December 12, 2013

License plates

Jamison was the last person to debate God's existence with me and now he's dead. Each night before he slept he would kneel and mumble a series of words I didn't understand while fingering a string of beads. He would talk while we watched the fire and ate whatever we could find.

He said God was watching and this was punishment for lifetimes of indiscretions. I laughed at his big statements and threw stones at the fire. He chastised me in a gentle way like a father would scold a child, looking at me down his face and that massive beard like a white, puffy cloud.

Nietzsche said God is dead. So is Jamison. This isn't a question I care to debate. God being dead or alive is irrelevant. I'm still here regardless of empty words screamed at the sky in the hopes of absolution.

The sun is pale yellow and cold as it rises. Our relationship is hopeless in winter. I can't stare at it for more than a few seconds and it doesn't heat the world around me more than an inconsequential amount. Even when I do stare, its outline lingers behind my eyelids.

The fire always goes out in the night. I must rise and add sticks to ensure I don't freeze. No matter what I do, no matter how much fuel I add, I still rise with ice crystals gluing my sleeping bag to the ground. Dew settles in while I sleep despite my best efforts.

I rise and roll my bag and continue along broken highways rich with history in the form of abandoned cars. I find one or two every couple of miles, like they were part of a long, steady caravan that petered out. Each is rusted and long since picked over by scavengers looking for metal or drops of gasoline or padding.

The best cars still have their license plates. I collect unique ones that I find by punching holes in either end of the plate with my knife and stringing them together before putting them in my pack. I only keep the truly exceptional ones.

I have one from Oregon with a tree on it, because that's where I lived before most of everyone died and I hit the road. Then there's the California plate that's deep blue with sunflower yellow letters. It's seemingly unremarkable, but reminds me of my dad's old Honda Civic. He lived in Redding and I visited him in the summer. He left that car parked on his lawn until it killed all the grass under it.

The last plate is one given to me by Jamison before he died. It's from Hawaii, which surprised both of us because it's so far away. He said he found it on the remains of a fancy car, a Mercedes carefully brought over the Pacific but ultimately ruined like all the rest. It was nice of him to think of me, despite all of our differences.

I like the Hawaii plate specifically because of its rainbow. I imagine it still on the car, a little slice of joy amid a sea of ruin and rust. When I think of it like that, no matter where I am it makes me smile.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The guestbook

Hazuki showed me to my room after we finished dinner. We walked along the onsen's carpeted hallways, past closed screen doors, and up a flight of stairs that led to a wooden door.

"This used to be our suite," Hazuki said. "I hope you like it. Sorry we don't have electricity."

The floor was a polished bamboo and so were the walls. My shoes squeaked as I walked. She pointed to a small futon mattress folded against the far wall. I nodded, set my pack down, and bowed my head to her. She waved off my thanks with a wry smile and the wave of a hand.

"I rise with the sun. I'd be happy to offer you breakfast if you're awake," she said.

"Food, shelter, all these favors," I said.

"I'm just happy to have someone back under my roof." She moved to the door. "Sleep well."

Unfurling the mattress, I sat with my sleeping bag wrapped around my shoulders. The room was dark so I lit one of my candles and used melting wax to secure it to the floor. My breath was a steaming fog that caused the tiny flame to momentarily flicker and bend before it righted and continued to project its weak aura across the bamboo floor.

I was tired but restless and didn't want to sleep, so I got off the mattress, picked up the candle, and walked circles around the room. The room was spare, with no wall decorations save a single framed picture of Mt. Fuji in winter covered with layers of snow. Under the picture was a small desk with no chair. I opened each drawer but found nothing.

I sighed. There was no guestbook, no clues as to what life used to be like here. I wanted a story of a married couple here on honeymoon preparing to do a midnight trek to the top of Mt. Fuji so they could watch the sunrise in awe. Or perhaps a group of three or four trekkers working their way through Japan, top-to-bottom, splurging for a couple of nights to soak in the sulfur pools and drink too much. These were the stories I missed, unremarkable on their face but exceptional in the light of how they didn't happen anymore.

Closing the last drawer, I retreated back to the mattress and blew out the candle. I closed my eyes, but sleep didn't come.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


We sat cross-legged at a low table and ate tinned pork and beans by candlelight. The walls of the onsen creaked like a massive bellows and the building sighed with each push of wind. The old woman clucked critically.

"Repairs are impossible in the winter. It's too cold and I'm too tired," she said. "Did you enjoy your bath?"

"River runoff got cold early this year." I flashed a thumbs-up. "First good soak in as long as I can remember."

"That pleases me greatly."

The building was one of three that sat in a valley between two of the smaller hills adjacent to Mt. Fuji in Sengokuhara. They were at the edge of town, after the graveyards, abandoned busses and cars, and the slim commercial district with its broken windows and walls covered with moss.

Hazuki was the woman's name. She inherited the onsen from her parents, who inherited her from their parents, and so on for enough generations until memory and time blurred together. Her family had always owned this onsen, she insisted.

"It's nice to see some things haven't changed all that much," I said. "I remember places like this. My father took me to one before he died. Down in Kyoto I think. The waters tasted savory."

"I wished for my son to take over for me." She left the thought unfinished because the rest was obvious. He was one of the unlucky ones, one of many.

"What was his name?" I asked.


"Tell me about him?"

Hazuki smiled, set her can down on the table, and then placed the spoon next to it. She rubbed her hands together.

"He was a sweet boy and so gentle. I raised him here as my parents raised me. He left here for Tokyo some years before this all began. He wanted to study Rosanjin and become a chef."

"Rosanjin?" I laughed. "What would the old master think of us now? Here we are, huddled here in the dark eating from tin cans."

"There's beauty here that doesn't require fine plates and exquisite preparation." Hazuki picked up the spoon and pointed it at me. "We share food together in spite of everything that has happened. And we stay true to ourselves and our old ways. That's beauty enough for me."

I shoveled a spoonful of beans into my mouth. It was cold and tasted like metal. Everything tasted like metal these days because we ate so much food out of cans.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The lion's head

The ceramic lion's head with the big ceramic mane stared forward while its mouth dumped a steady trickle of steaming water into the bright blue tile tub below it. In the past, an electric pump siphoned the excess water away so the tub wouldn't overflow. Now a crude drain was improvised where the tub met the far wall, and a sloping path no wider than my thumb drew away the water so the spring could flow without complication as it always had.

I lowered myself into the water and inadvertently yelped as the searing heat surprised me. The old woman heard my cry and slid open the screen door to check on me.

"Too hot?" she asked. She had removed her wool winter coat and boots and now wore a violet sweater that matched her sandals.

"Just perfect." She didn't move. "Yes, it is quite hot," I admitted.

"Good for skin and bones. And breathe." She pantomimed a deep breath, directing her hands up from her stomach to her neck. "Good for lungs."

I made a show of inhaling while nodding at her. The wet air was salty and sulfurous, like old eggs. I must have made a face because she suppressed a giggle.

"I'll get food together. You rest," she said.

"If you wait a few minutes I can help."

"You're my guest. First one in a long time. Try to relax."

She slid the screen door shut and listened until I couldn't hear her footsteps anymore. Then I set my head back against the cold stone tiles and watched the lion's head, which I decided was staring at me.

The look reminded me of nature documentaries I'd seen as a child. In the videos animals approached the water with shifting eyes and springy joints springy, ready to flee at a moment's notice at the sight of a predator. When they finally drank from the water they did so cautiously, much like the lion's head that faced me, with their mouths angled down but keeping their eyes locked on the horizon.

These scenarios were about prey, not predators. Lions didn't need to keep as close of a watch, did they? Yet this lion refused to take his eyes off of me. Those glassy eyes didn't move but when I shifted in the tub they were still watching.

National Geographic said lions were predators. They hunted and moved in prides, protecting each other and sunning in the savannah, fearing no creature. Maybe the roles were correct in this case. Was I the predator, and the lion the prey?

This was not my intent. I apologized to the lion, closed my eyes, and submerged myself in the murky water. As I went down I could feel my hair floating up above me, free from gravity. My scalp tingled. The woman said the waters were restorative; maybe this is what she meant.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Shouta's skeleton

Imagine me as a skeleton. My skull is pearly off-white, hard and hollow except for maybe a spongy fragment lingering in the back. Smile at me I'll smile at you because I don't have a choice. Look closely and you'll see every last little flaw over a lifetime of poor dental hygiene. Use my head as a bowling ball if you want; see if I stop you.

The same is true for the rest of my bones, bleached white, perhaps with slight brown-red stains that you can't see because they're on my back or under my legs. Even if those stains are not visible I want you to know that they're there.

Everything else in here still has a place, too. The jeans and magenta nylon jacket keep out the cold, as does the new yellow sleeping bag. The tent is ragged but effective enough. I'm not picky when it comes to camping supplies. I just want something that almost works.

I laugh. Shouta, I say, why does a skeleton need clothes, or a backpack, or a tent to keep itself dry in a forest of endless damp? They're good for picking me out in the dark, which you might need since I can't tell you I'm in here. They're also symbols, but when did a skeleton need symbols. Those aren't for me. They're for you.

I sit cross-legged on my sleeping bag and take my leather Billabong wallet into my hands. It's smooth and worn out. My parents insist I replace it soon, but I ignore them because an old wallet is like an old friend. I accept it as it is.

The contents of my wallet is ordinary and spare. 5,000 yen in five notes is enough for a quick cab ride to the nearest village, perhaps 15 kilometers to the north and then east along a twisting road that borders the Jukai. There's also the receipt from my trip out here, for 110,000 yen, from a bit farther. The tent is dark because the forest is dark and I strain to see as the tent is opaque and blocks any light that percolates down through the trees and finds its way to me.

I dump the contents in my lap and set the money aside. The only other items remaining in my wallet are a bank card and my school ID. Both say my name. Shouta Doi. That's me.

I am my parents son even if they don't wish it anymore. I am here because of them and because of myself.

The forest is close and squeezes around me as branches press against the tent. Zipping the front flap doesn't help, as wind squeezes through microscopic gaps and find every millimeter of exposed skin. I shiver and my arms prickle with bumps as I slip into the sleeping bag.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I buried what was left of Jamison naked under a pile of rocks while Bennett stood guard. The mound rose up to about my knees and was mostly porous red volcanic rock mixed with chunks of obsidian.

"Got any words?" I asked as I placed a final few stones around the mound's edges.

"Nothing to say that ain't already been said before," Bennett replied.

Bravery was the currency of the damned. Jamison and others I met on the road traded in risk. People like him put lives on the line for a reward that will keep them moving or that will keep others from encroaching. Fires dotted the horizon, and around them were men who stared at their cracked hands and weighed how much they had left against what it would take to lift them a little bit higher out of the dirt.

Bennett rolled a cigarette around in his mouth and spat. He wore Jamison's olive canvas duster jacket, blood stains and all, even though it ran nearly up to his fingers and fit loosely around his shoulders. I took the brown wool scarf and his old leather hiking boots which, although torn around the edges, were still strong in the soles and sturdy over the Modoc's rocky, rolling terrain.

I regretted the decision at first while stripping down our friend, but felt better as my toes and neck warmed in the biting, near-freezing wind. The rest of the clothing was ratty and covered in blood and dirt, but we took it anyway, dividing the load between our packs. The only piece we left behind were the remnants of Jamison's glasses, which were ruined beyond use by the force of the shotgun blast which he had taken fully in the face.

The man who killed Jamison smelled our fire and came looking for us. We heard his stumbling approach through the brush. Bennett doused the fire and we slid down into the wash downhill from camp. Jamison joined us at first, but then we saw the man. He was desperate and dirty, wearing a big back that bulged with mysteries and potential rewards. But he also caressed and drummed his hands on a humongous shotgun which shook as he held it out before him.

The man was dirty, stained a dark brown like he had been rolling in mud. His face was a wild whorl of black hair. The hair on his head curved down over his forehead and covered his eyes, and his beard curled up to the point where it almost covered his mouth. At the center was a bulbous nose that jutted out like a mountain out of the clouds. The rest of him was like the rest of us, thin and angular like a skeleton that wore skin.

Jamison urged Bennett to kill the man square away, but Bennett refused. He gave us a sour look and then worked his way back up the slope. I guess he wanted to try to catch the man flat-footed, but it didn't work. The man swung about as Jamison charged and loosed a blast. It sheared off the entire right side of Jamison's face. Everything below his neck kept moving forward, while what was left of his head rocked backward. The result was that he crumpled down on his knees and his arms splayed wide. his blood followed the slope of the slight decline and was thick enough to collect and begin to trickle downhill.

Bennett drove off the man us with a single shot from his Sig which hit true in the man's shoulder. The round was one of only 12 we had left, but given how big his shotgun seemed after it carved Jamison in half, it was worth the expensive and the extra noise.

"We need to get moving," Bennett said. "I didn't but wing him. He may be back." He dropped the cigarette and stomped it out. "Did you see the look in his eyes? Man was desperate."

"Which one?" I asked. "Give me just one more minute."

I didn't deal in bravery because it's finite. I never met a person who pulls it out of nothing like a renewable resource or the product of some alchemy. The unfortunate problem was that I met many who thought that the veins ran deep and could be mined endlessly with little or no cost. As we sat around the fire and ate scrounged food and meager meat from equally-weak animals, I asked Jamison how he felt. He assured me of his strength mostly. Through his toothless half-grin I got stories of raids before he hitched up with me and Bennett, and who he'd killed, and how he did it, gesturing wildly with frenzied hands, punching the air like he was locked in an endless battle. But his bodies betrayed him. His hands shook when still and eyes darted suspiciously, looking for any desperate advantage.

That's why Bennett and I ran and why Jamison died. Cowardice was safety on the plains.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Down in the wash no
Rain and no tears flowed over
Hot black rocks. I hid
Under young juniper, not
Watching as you slid on by.

Monday, November 25, 2013

White noise

I was on the plain. The land was mostly flat, with some bumps and rises between the few, bare juniper trees and pimply groupings of rocks. My camp was up against a larger boulder, a larger piece of dense, red lava rock. I used my pick to carve a depression in the rock against the ground in which I built a fire so the heat would reflect better.

The night was dark because the moon was gone. I ate half a can of sticky kidney beans and half a can of syrupy peaches and stretched out close enough to the fire to sleep on top of my sleeping bag and not freeze. When the wind kicked up later and the fire became a loose pile of embers then I'd slide under the the bag and huddle closer. But, for now, the breeze on the back of my neck was welcome with the flame pushing out at me.

When everything went away I missed the big things first. Hot showers, or hot water I didn't have to boil, came first. The world was dirty and I was too. Dirt stuck to me like my ragged clothes stuck to me like everything stuck to me and it was miserable. I missed my cell phone. The world was still at my fingertips, I suppose, but it was a whole lot smaller and more visceral and I depended utterly on it. Email and social media and inane-but-beautiful videos were reduced to figments of memory, and when I wanted to remember individual pieces they all ended up blurring together into an amorphous unit of what life constantly was.

Mostly I missed white noise. The sound of a dryer loosely spinning hot socks on a rainy day. The low hum of my refrigerator in the night as it kept perishable food cold enough to enjoy days or weeks later. The gentle in-out of someone you trust enough to let them sleep at your side. Now everything was soundless like always except for the wood popping and hissing in the fire. And I liked it that was because it meant I was alone and safe and nothing would be complicated or dangerous.

I slept on the ground and dreamed of a big bed, and breakfast cereal, and the morning news with inane anchors desperate for ratings to justify their opulent contracts and fancy suits, and washing machines and dryers, and the sound a can of shaving cream makes when you shake it up and press the button on the top and white lather explodes into your hand, and the whirr of an idling engine as you wait for something, anything, and you can't stand the sound so you switch on the radio and all you can find is commercial after commercial but you listen anyway because it's better than endless white noise.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Sticks and stones

"This is where my brothers and sisters rest," the woman said. I strained to hear her whisper of a voice above the steady wind. "And my parents, and theirs before, going back five generations, as long as we've lived on the feet of Fuji."

In my travel I've learned that cemeteries match their adjacent cities. Back home, I recall buildings and stones on wide lawns stretching out on the horizon in a blur of rock and fresh sod. Families lived apart, died apart, and were buried in plots connected only by endless highways and fading memory.

"What about your children?" I asked.

She didn't answer as she walked ahead of me. In Japan I found density and emptiness. This cemetery on the outskirts of Sengokuhara was more a cluster of miniature skyscrapers on a hillside surrounded by angled trees and choking vines. Each plot was a mix of black and grey stone of varying heights, and each ran up so close to adjacent ones that the dead couldn't help be neighborly and rub elbows. The yard was connected to the town by a leaf-covered path through the forest and next to a Buddhist temple and miles of pristine countryside.

I hurried after her. We stopped at a ground well water pump where she filled a mossy wooden bucket with frigid water. Then we walked down the cemetery's narrow lanes. When we reached the end of a row and hit the trees, we'd turn around and walk back and start over in the next one.

"Honda. Fukui. Akiyama," she said. "There are only so many families here. Some came once upon a time and lived until they were all gone. Others would come after and care for the stones. And then suddenly it was only me."

"You take care of this all by yourself?" I asked.

We stopped at a set of stones in almost the exact middle of the cemetery. In the center of the cluster was a massive rectangular stone that rose above my head and was carved with characters I vaguely recognized. Secured to this larger stone were five brown wooden stakes bundled together with string and marked with red, painted characters. Running out in front of it were two lines of smaller, egg-shaped stones that only came up to my knees. Each was marked with a single character painted white into the carved rock face. The ground beneath them was a mix of black and white pebbles of every imaginable shape. A white wooden fence bordered the entire plot.

She began by washing the headstone using the water in the bucket and a small ceramic cup that was placed at the headstone's base. The water looked to vanish immediately as it hit the stone, turning to minuscule droplets that reflected the sunlight, making them shine like stars. She did this for each stone, moving from large to small. Once each was wet, she took a rag out of her jacket pocket and wiped the stones, moving from the largest to the smallest but not ignoring any of them. She then removed a bundle of incense from another pocket.

"Got a light?" she asked.

I pulled out my copper zippo and flicked it to life. She briefly held the incense sticks in the flame until they caught and began emitting a pungent rose smoke that stuck in the back of my throat.

"My honored parents and grandparents always go first," she said as she traced a pattern with the smoking sticks before setting them into a holder at the headstone's base. "And the rest of my family. Then I can move on to others."

I stood on my toes, looked over her head, and swiveled around. There must have been over 50 plots in the entire cemetery, some more ornate than others, featuring statues of Buddhas taller than me that towered over the diminutive woman.

"All of them?" I asked.

"Each and every one." She smiled. "Their memories and spirits deserve nothing less."

Friday, November 15, 2013


I buried Jane in the later winter when the ground was still firm and radiated trapped cold like an ice chest. My hands ached as I chipped away at the ground with the shovel and scattered clay-rich earth in small pellets. Bennett offered to help but I refused, and he gave me a skeptical look that made me want to turn the shovel end-over-end and bash in his face until it was his blood that stained the ground and his life that snuck away into the hard-packed earth. But that wouldn't bring back my wife so I kept digging and my hands kept hurting.

She was covered in the near-transparent brown shawl that she wore under her two sweaters and black bomber jacket. It was a gift from her mother almost two decades ago and provided little extra protection against the elements, but she looped it around her neck every day all the same. She said it reminded her of how life once was, that different time I was convinced was utterly gone but she insisted would return if we held onto hope and held onto each other through the dusty days and bitter nights.

"You're going to bust your stitches if you don't let me help you," Bennett said.

"Get fucked," I said.

Bennett snorted and dropped his shovel at my feet. "Be that way," he said. "I'll take care of the basics while you deal with this. Don't come crying to me when you rip yourself apart and are leaking like a stuck pig and I have to put you back together all over again."

Our camp was pressed up against a copse of gnarled, bare juniper tree, shielded from the wind that usually came from the west. At its center was a circle of small, chipped granite stones that surrounded steaming coals and red embers from our dying fire. Bennett sprinkled fresh straw on the coals and blew air until it caught, then added sticks and small logs until the fire was going again full-bore.

He walked to the creek that bordered the camp and was little more than a few trenches of shallow water running down the old wash. He filled a metal cylinder that used to be a short garbage pail with water and returned it to the fire, setting it within the circle's perimeter to boil. He then walked back over to me.

"It'll be ready in about ten minutes," he said.

I didn't respond and kept digging. After every few cuts of the earth I glanced over at Jane's body. The shawl was thin enough that I saw everything except her eyes, which I knew were closed but were still somewhat obscured by the cloth. She was pale and drained, strength spent fighting an infection that swept quickly and that we were without the strength to cure. So goes existence outside of life and time.

I swung my hands up and struck the ground once more and felt a splitting pain in my side, like I was about to open up and dump everything left inside of me into the hole I'd been digging. I doubled over, one hand still on the shovel, the other clutching dirt.

"Jesus Christ take it easy," Bennett said. He threaded his arms under my armpits and lifted me up. I dropped the shovel and let him walk me back to camp. He pushed me down onto the ground facing the fire. "Old fucking fool." He spat, fished a bent cigarette out of his pocket, and lit it with his silver zippo lighter that reflected the fire and made it flash in my eyes. "I'm going to finish this and you're going to sit right there. Then we'll have a look at your stupid stitches."

Each time Bennett struck the ground with the shovel he made a whooping, grunting sound which reminded me of long rally in a tennis match, only with one participant missing. I didn't watch him finish digging the hole, and instead focused on the fire, holding my hands out in front of me and waiting for the inevitable pops and sizzles as the wood caught, cracked, and oozed beads of sap. My side burned and throbbed, and I reached for the bottle of Jim we scrounged at the old grocery down the road. We drank half of it the night before, and the remnants sloshed around as I chugged several generous gulps.

"It's finished," Bennett called over to me. I pulled the bottle back from my lips and bourbon dribbled down my chin and onto my shirt. I struggled to rise but moving made me feel like I'd split in two. By the fire, the water in the metal cylinder began to boil and shoot up steam. "Don't get up you idiot. I'll come fetch you."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The laughing men

I followed the woman until the road beneath our feet split into grooves wide enough to have your feet slip into them and touch the sandy dirt between the chunks, and then farther still until the cracked pavement gave way to a path of small pebbles, each roughly the same size, each polished and shining like a star. Clouds held back the moon, and the only light came from a wind-up electric lantern the woman wore about her neck that swung like a pendulum as she moved.

We approached a series of gates that marked the entryway to Sengokuhara Shrine on the town's western border. Painted various strengths of riotous candy apple red that refused to dull through weather and time, the wooden gates reflected the lantern's light like mirrors. Each time we went under a new one, I'd look up and and feel like an ant sneaking under a loose staple. They were remnants from a different time, placed by the spirits of our ancestors to remind us not to forget that faith held the world together long before us and would continue to do so long after our deaths.

The woman stopped at a small fountain at the edge of the shrine where she used a metal ladle to wash her hands and then mine with near-freezing water. Once clean, I tucked my hands into my coat pockets and followed onward along a dirt path lined with mossy rock and covered by a slick carpet of leaves of every conceivable color. Despite her age, she moved at speed because, even with only a weak yellow light as her guide, the trail's bends, divots, and steps were burned into her mind through years of repeated travel. I tried to follow her close, but fell behind as she sprung along the path and dipped beneath a distant rise. Blinking, I found myself in darkness and came to a standstill.

I took out my flashlight and switched it on only to lurch backward as the beam fell on a laughing man down on the ground. I spun around and there was another, eyes closed in hilarity, mouth and teeth wide in an irrevocable grin. They were statutes of course, buddhas paid for by the town's erstwhile residents over as many generations as the town used to exist. That didn't alleviate my surprise or the feeling that the men were somehow amused with my situation. I arced the flashlight across the hill that rose out of the path and saw dozens more ascending to the tree line hundreds of feet away, all waiting for me to notice them so they could laugh at a lost little man far from home, all wearing the faces of dead men and women who had not lived to see how the world changed.

Hearing movement up the train, I turned the flashlight and found the woman standing next to me. The lantern in her hands made a whirring sound as she wound it up until it flickered back to life.

"You must come now," she said. "The cemetery is this way."

Friday, November 1, 2013

Entering the black sea of trees

I struggled over porous volcanic boulders as I lit out from the trail. Sharp edges and shooting sticks tore my clothes, and the wet rocks rubbed my hands raw as I tried to steady myself over the mossy patches that hid in shadows and found their way under my boots. My hands stung as I wiped them on my shirt, and I noticed the dots of bloody mud they left behind.

It was the early afternoon when I entered the forest. Under the dense canopy with the shadows it cast down, it might as well have been twilight. The seemingly permanent cloud cover made it even darker, and I found myself squinting and trying to make out the way forward. The trees also failed to hold back the drizzle that continued to fall. Instead of hitting me directly, water wormed its way along, sliding down wood and vine, clinging to everything it touched until it hit the forest floor, transforming the patches between volcanic rock into muddy bogs that made a sucking noise under my boots as I stepped in them.

The tent was hidden under a stately tree surrounded by a copse of spindly trunks, pitched at the bottom where roots bigger than I am pushed out of the ground and formed a small hollow. Despite its bright tangerine color with blue accents, I would have missed it if I walked ten feet farther left or right. I lowered myself down a slick slide of wood and vine until I faced the tent and the higher ground was level with my head.

Debris littered the crater under the roots. A tattered, overturned backpack covered in dirt and half-eaten by mold sat before the tent; its pulped contents of papers and clothing emptied on the ground were still visible, but long-decayed from their original shapes. I pushed at a brown mass next to the bag with my foot, which caused it to spread open and revealed that it used to be a leather wallet.

I picked up the wallet and cringed because it was sticky between my fingers. Inside was more of the same rotted paper, old green and blue Yen notes mashed together so they would never matter again. Only one object within was intact, a white plastic Mizuho Bank card from 1999 in the name of Shouta Doi. I pocketed the card and dropped the wallet.

"Shouta?" I asked of the tent. "Anyone home?

The tent's front flaps were only partially zipped. I crept closer and took out my flashlight, pushing it awkwardly ahead like a weapon. I grabbed the zipper and held my breath as I slowly threaded it down. Condensation gathered on the nylon fabric jumped to my hand and wet my sweater sleeve as they passed. I parted the flap and stuck my flashlight and head inside.

A sunflower-colored sleeping bag dominated the tent's interior. Around it was a collection of half-full water bottles, foil food wrappers that reflected my flashlight's beam back at me, opaque and empty medicine bottles, and more musty clothing stained brown with dirt and green with mold. A folded piece of paper was placed on the middle of the sleeping bag. I snapped it up and shook it open; inside were a few scrawled characters written lightly in ink.

The note read: "Times are done. This is the only option. If you have found me, I am sorry."

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Stolen sunbursts in
Tiny gloved hands explode and
Scatter in the wind.
The child squeals as leaves fly for
Others to gather them next.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Ain't no one here

Smoke plumed up from the eastern horizon as we drove north along Goose Lake's western shores. Josiah fretted upon seeing it, sticking his head clean out the window and screaming back at me over the roaring wind as we clipped along, yelling whether the town had gone up. I told him to tuck his damn fool head back in the car and stop his worrying. From the angle, the smoke originated from somewhere deep over the hills and into the brush flats that rolled out into far eastern Oregon.

"Are you sure?" he asked.

"Damn sure I'm sure. Now get back in here and sit tight," I said.

The dirt roads up from the lake wound through the countryside. Not once did we see another living soul, neither driving along nor toiling in the fields along farms that were either abandoned or whose owners cowered out of sight. I had never seen anything like it before and neither had Josiah, because when I glanced over his head was back out of the window, whipping front to back, staring as long as he could at the driveways and small tracks between fields to prove to himself that things had truly gone quiet.

When we left the farmland and hit Highway 140 it only got worse. Road was never exceptionally busy, but you could expect a steady trickle since it was the main line through the woods between Lakeview and Klamath Falls. But empty? I flipped on the radio and turned through, but was met by silence across the dial. I cranked the volume until the car's stereo hummed and popped with static, but there was still nothing so I switched it off.

"Ain't no one here," Josiah muttered.

"I'm starting to see that," I said.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The family shrine

I rode my bicycle up the hill in a low gear, hauling my life in the attached carrier behind me. The journey was all the more arduous through the carpet of leaves, a crimson and bright yellow blur that obscured the road's cracking concrete and lined the entire way into Sengokuhara. Rain began to fall as I hit a small flat, and I stripped off my shirt and pushed on, enjoying the cool drops on my back and the slight autumn breeze that shook the trees and brought even more leaves to the ground.

By the time I crested the final rise and came into town my lungs burned and head swam. I walked my bike the first few blocks past rusted tour buses and cars abandoned this same season ten years before, when the leaves fell, people came to watch, and the world ended. Abandoned storefronts lined with shattered windows were long picked-over, and I didn't even bother stopping to wade through overturned shelves in the rotting carcass of what once was.

About a mile into town I crossed a bride over a small creek, only to stop short when I reached the other side. Behind me, leaves spread wildly and swirled in the wind. Ahead, they formed orderly piles along the road's edge. Not far ahead, a frail, hunched woman holding a long push-broom beckoned to me.

"Did you do all this?" I asked.

"It wasn't so hard," she said in slow, halting English. "Little bit every day. Keeps up the strength."

She held out her and I took it. Her skin was thin like paper, but the strength of her grip startled me as she squeezed my hand. I squeezed back.

"Come with me," she said, letting go of my hand. "You must be tired."

I pulled my shirt back on and we walked along the road. Decaying houses collapsing under trees and seasons of neglect rose high into the hills to our left. Opposite, streets still covered with leaves led the way to massive temples of stone that gave way to rolling hills that led to the base of Mt. Fuji.

"Stopped at the bridge, but I still have a ways to go to get to the cemetery and my family's shrine," she said.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wishing wood

Brittle wood between
Tears and laughter, hung on thin
String. Tiny hands clutch
Physical dreams, all that's
Left of fading memory.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Out by Goose Lake

We loaded up our gear and cut out from the Big Sage in the Taurus, driving north from the reservoir on the rocky dirt roads in the pre-dawn light until we couldn't go no more and then east over till we came down off the plateau and hit old Goose Lake. Pushing on, we soon were upon the green sign signaling the California border.

"Think they're really gonna be there?" Josiah asked.

"One way or another," I said.

"What's you meaning by that?"

I looked at Josiah and shook my head. Out the window to his right low scrub trees passed in a blur and the sun climbed up over Goose Lake and reflected off the exposed white rock where the water receded in the summertime. Josiah grunted and turned away from me.

"Oh come on now don't be that way," I said.

"I ain't being any way," he said in a pout.

I pulled off the road just short of a driveway leading up to a farmhouse and barn.

"Get out," I said.

"What you gonna leave me now after all this?" There was genuine concern in his voice. I laughed.

"Of course not you damned fool." I hopped out and banged on the roof. "Come on now."

He followed me along the road and up the driveway. The farmhouse looked abandoned, with the front door open wide and a small pile of discarded clothes and broken-looking camping supplies next to the ruts in the road where a car used to sit. We went around the house and walked between two dried-up and browning alfalfa fields, where I stopped and swung my arms wide.

"Where are all the people," I said.

"I dunno," Josiah said. "Aren't you worried about the car?"

"Nope. Think about it. No one came to the Big Sage. Empty roads coming down. No one here tending crops."

Josiah kicked dirt and looked back at the farm. He scrunched his face together and bit his lip like was fighting tears.

"Hey, that ain't important man. We're going into Lakeview looking for the girls like I promised, but you need to keep it together. We could find them holed up just fine," I said.

He nodded and I clapped him on the shoulder and squeezed. "Then again we might not, and you need to be ready for that."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

White lightning

Down the red rock road at the Big Sage the huge and hot sun cooked our skin and pulled the spit out of our mouths until we were dry and desperate for the soupy, swampy water down in the reservoir. We built a fire and drank boiled, still-hot water and white lightning and watched the sun set through big dust kicked up on the distant road by the cattle that passed on the reservoir's other side.

We kept the fire low and huddled close for warmth against the beating wind that ripped across the plateau and watched for the headlights of any approaching cars in case we needed to douse things with a bucket full of sand. Although the last signs of life passed us by nearly a week ago.

I added another juniper branch and a handful of twigs and needles to the fire and it roared back from coals.

"Careful now," Josiah said.

"Careful nothing," I said and drank a big pull of the clear whiskey from my metal cup and felt a powerful tingling shoot from my throat to my stomach and out to my fingertips. "I'm fucking freezing."

"Ain't no one coming tonight, are they?" Josiah pondered the whiskey that sloshed around in his cup.


The old Taurus struggled and wheezed mightily out of Alturas, up the steep grades from the valley floor to the Big Sage when we first came. But we made it, and we set up on the sloping banks near the reservoir, tents and fishing gear and a little steel picnic table where we played cards and drank.

"What about Kristy and the girls?" Josiah asked. We'd waited just as said in the note we left for them on the doors of each of our trailers, hoping they'd return from Kristy's folks' place in Lakeview on time and join us at the Big Sage.

I didn't respond, instead drinking my cup dry and refilling it from the bottle that sat between us. Josiah wore a sour and uncertain frown.


"I don't know man. I wish I did. Just don't."

Thursday, September 26, 2013


I can't overcome
Wind and wine and small airplanes
Grasping for the sun
With sick and sweet words, thick sap
Bubbling slowly off my tongue.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Old Jules

The room was sealed from all light by blackout curtains covering sloppily-welded metal bars. I opened the door and terror did pour out like a dropped and cracked water jug.

Shit boy you smell that foul, Daggett said.

Poor bastard, I said, barely suppressing a gag.

Pungence oozed, kind of thickness that sticks to your tongue and won't break through spit or dirt or fire-hot scalding water. I arced the lantern's light across the room to the back corner, where a big pile like a nest was pushed up against a wardrobe with no doors. Daggett grinned large through gapped teeth just as rotted as the room.

After you sweetness, he said.

I told him to eat a dick and shoved him hard in the chest. Daggett just laughed with a sputter and lit a cigarette. Holding the lantern ahead of me, I clapped a rag to my face and moved into the room. Daggett followed, with that sawed-off shotgun scanning the room for signs of life.

Lucky bastard rightly, Daggett said. Imagine what I'd to do him with my big boy here. He stroked the gun like a small animal.

Shut the fuck up and keep your eyes open, I said.

Rot was pervasive. Moldy and maggoty-pocked meat littered the floor, but mostly concentrated near a makeshift hearth and piping chimney carved into a the far wall opposite the wardrobe. Tattered remnants of clothing were equally strewn and in a similar state of deterioration. Even the standing water in big pots on a table in the middle of the room was covered in a thin layer of muck.

The pile in the corner loomed and seemed to grow larger as I approached it. My lantern was my shield, and I stretched it out until my arm reached its maximum distance from my body and my shoulder strained and ached. It was an amalgam of everything else in the room, food, clothing, animal pelts, and even straw, seemingly glued together into a thickly-packed hive.

I prodded the pile and turned over pieces with my booted foot, uncovering bit by bit until I found Old Jules toward the bottom.

Over here Dags, I said.

There wasn't much left of Old Jules. His skin was bloated and brown in the lantern's amber light, split open where my boot nicked it. Half-eaten, glossy eyes had maggots for pupils, and they moved as he did and gave him sort of a sad look, like he couldn't focus or was lost in bad thoughts. A big line was raggedly drawn across his throat where they did him in, cut ear-to-ear with a ripping knife in a big, brick-colored smile.

Well shit who did this little piece of work, Daggett said as he moved to my side, crooked the shotgun under his arm, and blew smoke.

I have no idea, I said, and kicked the top of the pile to cover up Old Jules' face.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Cerulean wisps
By the shore. Acid drops kiss
Bleeding lips. Salt burns
My eyes, floods fresh in my mouth:
Memories I can't forget.

The lake

The bottom of the flat used to be a lake. After a long winter when the snows pack hard and the spring sun melts, the water rushes strong down the carve-outs and creeks and refills part of the basin. The nearbys peek out to gather water alongside all the rest, deer, elk, little red foxes, even some bears.

Still is, I suppose, if you define things by what they are. I like to think that it's not about all that, but about what things do. In the days before, the lake was a lake. Snow melted, and it began. People and animals took fish like before. Water gave life indiscriminately. Oppressive heat faded away as people forgot their cares for brief moments.

But then people disappeared. Survivors camped by the lake, pitching hopeful tents while casting fearful eyes toward the horizon, watching and wondering if they'd also be seized by the fever. Yet hints of the past remained. Everyone had these wry smiles plastered up and the men clapped each other hard on the back. Maybe we made it, they said. Here we are. Children laughed and ran along the shore, wondering what the big fuss was all about and why did we have to leave and when can we go back home.

Eventually survivors dwindled, either moving on or passing on. And the lake was abandoned. That's when it stopped being a lake and became just another unseen puddle that ebbed and flooded with the seasons.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The wrong place

Boy hell the fire was in his eyes when he stood over me and said son you ain't got a prayer left under god or heaven or all the stars in the sky so mark your time. Withering, that glare; rattled me to the core and left me wanting to jump up and run from that house and back down through the briar and out the gate into the open fields, away.

It wasn't just Old Jules, either. That rifle in his hands, it was the worse. Rusty and brutal, just to grip it risks too much. Half of you thinks it'll tear someone's face off, or it's just as likely to pop in your hands and send you back down where you came from. The rust on the barrel was an odd semi-circle, like the gun was smiling right down at me, both like it knew its fate and could all-too-well guess mine.

Who are you to come around here, he asked. I said my name. Came up through the briar looking for Old Jules.

Ain't ever seen you before, he said. But well you found him by sight, and you'd better get to explaining yourself all skulking and cowering or else this conversation's going to be awful quick.

There was a moment just clear of the path, in the yard between the bombed-out Ford and the empty dirt pitch where a dog used to be, where I hesitated. Took down my bag and opened it up, double-checking my supplies and surveying the house. It was corrugated metal, simple and sharp, drafty and cold, but it at least kept out the rain. Then out from behind the car springs the man. Cagey bastard and fast, but wouldn't guess it to look at him. Hit me on the head with the butt of his gun and down I went, black and flat.

Awoke to him over me, near pressing steel to my cheek.

Here for trade, I blurted.

Trade? He laughed, guttural and rolling, but that smiling rifle didn't flinch none. Son you come to the wrong place.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The next one

Ever see a someone just rot away?

Things puff up a little at first, and there's these little white specks everywhere, maggoty shits that slippy slide all through the softest of soft. Then the body colors something foul awful, brown and black and soupy. Smells too, boy ever, worse than you think too. You think dead horse along the road and that deep and sweet rot wafting up from the landfill's bad? Ain't the same. Judged it salty, and stingy-eyed, like some damn fool's gone and mixed bleach and ammonia.

Worst are the eyes. They turn all cloudy and just recede, leaving the body to gape at you like it knows its fate and ain't nothing to be done but just endure the horror. Course no way for the body to know. It's gone. And you're left to watch the sinking, stinking holes and think, damn, that used to be my brother or sister or best fucking friend in the whole world but now they're just a falling away bag of meat.

And you scratch your arms and check for marks, and you dig a hole like all the others before because that's what civilized folk do for each other. In they go, all easy. But the arms don't land quite right and the head cricks oddly when you push it in with your boot. Doesn't look a thing like Grandpa, rest him, in the pine box with gentle clumps of dirt tossed by weepy well-wishers. No it's just a mess in the ground and you shovel and shovel and shovel so fast because damn you need it to be done.

And then it is, and you move on to the next one.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Old ways

Day 7,650 (?)

I cannot guarantee whether the above date is accurate. While some try to maintain meticulous records, the first days after the fall were fraught with confusion. Survival trumped accurate record-keeping.

Salvaged documents are scarce and often damaged, but the universally agreed-upon time is December 24th, 2001. That date is also what my parents used to consider my birthday. But those sort of things doesn't carry a whole lot of weight anymore.

Snow coats the forests and plains. Animals go to ground. The corrugated steel walls of my shelter seep cold from early winter.

Seasons are one way to keep track of things. They allow for a discrete, concrete order. I lament for those living thousands of miles south, where warm days blur together and it's too easy to ignore if the sun's out a few minutes longer each day when more pressing concerns are at-hand. I suspect they don't begrudge me the deep freeze, however, and how we must scavenge for warmth wherever it exists.

This journal is an experiment. Despite all evidence to the contrary, I think the old ways aren't completely dead -- just forgotten, or perhaps dormant. Let's see if that's true.

Friday, September 6, 2013


Thousands of thin wounds
Pull apart like weak stitches.
Hot dust burns my lungs.
I throw rough stones down yawning
Canyons and hope for the best.


Derrick died in my arms.

Derrick died by my hand.

I first witnessed death before the end of days. My father was a drinker and a lout. We loved him desperately, but feared his rages and steeled hand. The heart attack made him seem so weak. Clutching his chest, he dropped to his knees and keeled over. The fear in his eyes was the fear in ours all those times before, and I remember the only thing I could think at that time was that it seemed utterly fair, and that there must be greater powers at play in the world than how individuals interact. He terrorized us, but something even greater laid him low.

Derrick died much in the same way.

He's always been greater than I am.

I smelled liquor and animal fat on his breath. His movements were sluggish, exaggerated. Warmth from his fire spread across the clearing, so much so that my icy touch nearly sizzled. Our shadows struggled against the Douglas Fir canopy above and aside.

Surprise was my friend. Surprise was my ally. Derrick was alone. I squeezed as hard as I could. Annoyance became terror. Airless lips begged.

The job was done.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Late summer tomatoes were candy, sweet and red. I bit down, and juice splattered out onto Linsell's face.

"Fuck man," he said with a bubbling laugh. "Watch that shit."

"No regrets," I said and grinned wide, teeth covered in pulp and seeds.

We found the settlement torched, bodies in the road smoldering, stinking thickly of oil and burnt hair. The calvary went through just hours ahead of us, like they always did. Heat from fading fires radiated off of ravaged fir huts and patches of brush, making the muggy summer afternoon more uncomfortable than it already was.

I tied a rag over my nose and mouth and started digging. Kevlar work gloves protected our hands from lingering heat. Obsidian dagger? Makes a good weapon. In the bag. Lightly-scorched metal medbox? Could save a few lives. Doc will be thrilled. Unmarked square bottles of brown liquor that nips as it goes down? One for me and Linsell; five for the boss.

Then I saw it, a secret kept by fire and then ash, a basket of five ripe tomatoes somehow not boiled or withered by the raid. I seized one instantly, ripped the rag from my face, and bit down. I closed my eyes. Summer in my parents' backyard, before everything. Glory off the vine, tangy and hot.

I devoured the first tomato, wiped my mouth, and flagged Linsell frenetically. He trudged over with one of those what the fuck now looks on his face. Then he saw the four tomatoes. We each grabbed one, and tired disgust became dripping euphoria.

"Our secret?" he asked.

"Fringe benefit," I said.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The ships

"Do you think they're looking back and wondering how we're doing?" Jane Jane asked.

"Doubt it," I said. It was just like making off with some trinket prize. You grasp it tightly in your hand and run as fast as you can, never looking back. "Bet they're pushing Jupiter by now."

The fire was nearly dead, but it was so hot for a late summer night that we didn't want to heap additional wood on it, let alone move. Fast winds brought sweet relief, like gentle hands from above parting the clouds so stars could smile down and give us kisses goodnight. Jane Jane traced constellations with her fingers. I watched her watch the world above as the breeze tossed my hair.

"Will they ever return?"

"Doubt that too."

Why would Bobby come all the way back to say hello if he couldn't be bothered to say goodbye? The ships launched in a hurry when the skyfire came. I went down into the bunkers with everyone else. Bobby never showed. Afterward, I was told that we waited down there for nearly a month, but I honestly couldn't tell you how long it was because I spent half the time in a daze of fevered worry. When I came out of it, they were all gone and we were all that remained.

"Once you light out, you don't come back," I said. "Why the fuck would you come back here, anyway?"

Jane Jane grunted languidly, neither in agreement or dissent. Her family was entirely Earth-bound, so I didn't expect her to exactly empathize.

"Jupiter," she said, pointing a finger to a flickering white dot in the Northern horizon. "Gorgeous."

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Derrick camped at the bottom of the narrow wash, up against a slope that wasn't quite steep enough to prevent someone from scrambling up it if necessary. He lit a fire of dry moss and twigs and kept it small. I hid behind an old fir about 50 yards downwind, breathing the thin wafting smoke that floated over and watching him spoon some vegetable out of an unmarked tin can. His face was a half-moon, only partially lit by the fire.

I shadowed Derrick from out near Astoria. He and a small group of people I didn't recognize tried their hand at fishing off long-abandoned concrete docks. I could have told them it's still a dead zone, and they unsurprisingly came away empty-handed. Can't even scrape meager shellfish from the hulls of rusted, half-sunk ships. Pity, really. Even if you know the outcome and hopelessness squeezes your stomach more than hunger, just threading line into the Pacific makes your mouth water.

When he dumped his line and cut loose heading east, I followed. He meandered at first, trying to supplement the contents of his sack, scavenging burned or collapsing houses, failing at hunting, and eventually turning to foraging. After the second cold and rainy night, he gave up and cut a straight line, shadowing the Columbia for two more days before turning inland. The whole time he didn't come across another person, and he didn't discover my presence.

I knew my orders. But each time I saw him, dirty and helpless scouring the countryside for any handhold, thin and desperate staring blankly into a pathetic fire, I balked. Instead, I slept the cold and eventually misty night behind that fir, woke before sunrise, and continued to follow.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

His teeth

"Why the hell are you wearing teeth like that?" I asked.

The small yellowish necklace was draped around Linsell's neck and down across his bare chest. I counted 20 strung teeth on a first look and decided not to count again.

"Don't I look menacing?" he asked.

"You look like an idiot," I said. His jaunty smile became a pouty scowl.

"You're just jealous. Look mean with this."

"We needed supplies more," I said. "And where the hell did you find so many of them, anyway."

"Dentist's office. Couple of miles from here. Pretty well picked over, for the most part. Don't worry, Benji, I snagged a few tools and other odds and ends, too."

The necklace swung gently, back-and-forth across his chest as he spoke. Whenever his wavy hair moved to cover the necklace, he flicked it aside and with a whip of his head.

"How'd you string 'em up?" I asked.

"Needle and some thin wire. Bore a hole with one, run the other," he said with a grin. "Easy."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The small key

"Got what I need?" Daggett flashed a sour face. "Cause if you don't."

"It's right here." I flipped him the small key.


"Go down to Ash and hang a left. Go all the way until the cul de sac. It's that blue and purple house. The basement's unlocked. In the back corner, under a pile of rags and junk there's a hole in the floor that unlocks the mechanism. Just push it down and to the left once you turn the key."

Daggett was missing both of his front teeth and his breath was rotten like the maggots he picked out of his food. When he smiled, the remaining yellowed nobs framed the hole like a window onto a dark, awful world.

"What about Jamison?" he asked.

"He's dead," I said.

I took the key from Jamison's corpse after Daggett's men were finished with him. The problem was they made me listen to their destructive work. Running wasn't an option; I'd just end up on the wrong end of their business later, and they couldn't let me go because they needed me to tell them where Jamison kept his stash. But they weren't forcing my eyes open, so I shut them against the hiss of fire on flesh, the scream and then faint chatter of a tooth dropped on concrete, of a man struggling to breathe and wheezing until the last gasps of life slipped from his lungs like stale air from a bellows.

"Too bad, so sad," Daggett said, and then belted out a wheezing laugh that degenerated into a hacking cough. He spat. "Get over it kid. We've got a lot of fun left for you."

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


The laundry hung undisturbed. Neither wind nor gravity nor the hands of man had dislodged it in these last three months. I left the alley and wandered over to the clothesline.

"What the fuck are you doing?" Linsell asked.

"Leave me alone," I responded.

A voluminous off-white sheet was the first of it, suspended by more than a dozen wooden pins. Faded circular coffee stains and patches of blood were the evidence of both life as it once was, and life as it was just before things changed. I ran a hand along the soft cotton and noticed how dark my skin looked in comparison.

"We can't stop here," Linsell said. "It's going to be dark soon."

He was right, but I didn't care. These breaks became more frequent when we moved through neighborhoods. Out in the wilds, it was easy enough to put one foot in front of the other, to trudge over grass and wood and stone, to keep going and forget. But among the remnants and ruins I often lost my way or lingered, staring into windows and standing in gardens like a mystified museum guest.

"I'm cold," I said. "Hold on."

I set down my pack, grabbed a brown wool sweater from farther down the line, and pulled it over my head. It was scratchy against my face and arms and clung close around my chest. The cool autumn breeze used to be benign, a relief after dire summers. Now it cut like a razor, gently but repeatedly, and with shocking ferocity.

"Fine, whatever," Linsell said. "Happy now? Can we fucking go already?"

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Salt and pepper

The man twitched and scratched his week-old salt and pepper beard. His eyes ricocheted around the bus, shooting to the driver, out the window to passing cars, and back to me, sitting to his left across the aisle.

"Maybe it's something I have to do myself," he said, voice soft and nervous, like he needed to tell just one person and didn't want anyone else to hear him.

He wore pajama bottoms and a green shirt. Both were torn and stained brown with dirt. His fingers also wouldn't keep still, and he alternated between tapping them in his legs and touching his face.

"Know what I mean?"

At the next stop, he shifted behind me in the confusion of people moving on and off the bus. Suddenly, I was faced with his big grey eyes, wide and pleading, and hands that crept up the back of my seat, closer to me.

"They told me not to come back," he said. "But maybe you can help me."

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Leaves, too

Yellow leaves float on
Cold, clear water and stick to my
Skin. The stream passes,
River to ocean, taking
Time and my memory too.


We huddled together on the wooden bridge, so close our arms and legs nearly locked, angling for the briefest of glances of something pure. A man in a white uniform directed traffic. His arms were wide and he became like a stone post, face a mask of grim determination, body merely an obstacle in the road. People flowed like water from a dam. They bottled up behind him, full of an intense pressure. And then suddenly they shot loose, the way open.

The color attracted us desperately. We leaned over the railings. Below, a creek that ran through a narrow valley under the bridge. A riotous rainbow of leaves dotting the trees that lined its way down. I smelled sweet sugar from the nearby vendors preparing their food. Even though it was not yet sunrise, a heat rose from the thick crowd and the man next to me removed his glasses and mopped his forehead with a handkerchief.

I felt dizzy, and I grabbed onto his jacket to keep myself upright. He wrapped a thick arm around me and drew me close, speaking a few words in a language I didn't understand. I understood the concern in his tone, and could only nod. Somewhere in the crowd a child cried out.

We waited for that glint of light to ascend, to crest the mountain and illuminate us.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Wind and wood. My hands
Bleed, worn raw. Are we alone?
I can't feel that way.
Let me hold you and touch each
Person you've ever held dear.

Sunday, August 11, 2013


Flash: Water from a
Big sky. Dust mixed with roadside
Lavender. Rain soaks
My clothes, washes memories
To rivers, away, away.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Shifting darkness

I tasted salty sweat and it stung my eyes. I ran my hand down my face and wiped it on my leg. Air rushed down the narrow hallway, cooling my bare chest.

"Who's there?" the man said.

He was afraid. I could always tell. There was a tinge in the voice. It broke slightly, forced too hard to be strong. Steps are slow and uneven at first, then quick in panic. What was that echo? Do the creeping shadows hide something sinister? Am I okay?

"I've called the police."

He hadn't. He was all alone down here. No flashlight. No backup. Only an imagination and a weak lightbulb for the entire hallway to protect his soft body wrapped delicately into a useless uniform. The service elevator could have been safe, but he walked away from it. He let me get behind him. I know he heard me.

"They'll be here in five minutes."

A shadow, a whisper was all he had against the shifting darkness, against me. We feared it as children, but were taught to ignore instinct and believe in simpler truths. No such things as ghosts. Everything's okay. Daddy's here to protect you.


Then I came for him.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


Kindling in a hot
Rush, fire sweeping the forest
Floor. You do nothing
Except watch from afar and
Hope winds don't blow it your way.

Monday, August 5, 2013


The night was moonless and dark. Under the shadow of office buildings and apartments, the street was even darker. I circled for long minutes, passing young women smoking and taxi drivers idling and reading magazines. I repeatedly unfolded a crumpled map, glanced at it, and stuffed it back away in my coat pocket.

Then I saw a warming yellow glow behind an opaque screen that called to me. Hadn't I passed this way before? I slid open the door and faced a long, narrow hallway. A lone violin's music hauntingly wafted along. The air was rich with fruit.

I crossed over a pool of small stones and sat on one of nine stools along a rough-grained wooden bar. The man behind the counter had lily-white hair but looked youthful. He more flowed than moved, like he was walking on air.

"My portal opens to those who want to find it," he said. "What can I get for you?"

The wall behind the man was lined with sake bottles of all shapes and sizes in a riot of color like the leaves of an autumn forest. My mouth was agape, head as far back as it would go, staring up to the top bottles that were coated in dust.

"Take me on a journey," I said airily.

He poured out three small glasses from three different bottles. The first was cloudy, but with a warming sweetness like afternoons in a sun-drenched orchard. The second was as cold and clear as pure water, but it tasted like dark, sweet earth. The last was hot and it weighed me down like a deep sleep, making my eyes fog over.

"Who are you?" I asked, mouth tingling, dripping.

"Just a man," he said as he refilled each of my glasses. "If I make my door narrow enough, I can do what I love for those who want to enjoy it."

Friday, August 2, 2013

A secret

Little tomato
Under stifling sun. Sweet red
Juice drips down my chin,
A secret stolen quickly.
I won't tell them if you don't.


A hallmark of passage through Japan is stamp collection. On side tables at entrances to museums, cultural centers, and even malls, chains loop between multicolor ink pads and rubber stamps. Children gather expectantly, grasping pieces of paper and grinning wide, awaiting their reward. Parents huddle nearby, breathing smoke and stale air.

The entrance to the Studio Ghibli museum in Mitaka presents a diminutive stamp to passers-by, three mushrooms pressed in brown ink. One smiles shyly. On the slopes of Lake Ashi near Mt. Fuji, travelers disembark from a ropeway car and board a ship colored in flamboyant reds and blues. Many stop first for the red ink stamp commemorating the journey.

Train stations have the best stamps. Underground, they paint a prideful picture of life just outside and above. Sometimes it's modern, with skyscrapers drawn in ink lines. Tokyo's stations were often this way. At other times they pay homage to history, and you press down rubber to see palaces, pavilions, and grass fields long withered by time, covered by concrete. Kyoto offered many such stamps.

I have a small black book filled with many of these colorful scenes. I waited in line behind children half my size to get them. Attendants and parents flashed concerned or annoyed glances at first, but then shrugged and moved on when their kids returned, faces and fresh ink shining under fluorescent light.

Thursday, August 1, 2013


My umbrella beads
With dew in midnight mist. The
Station's empty. I
Grip the handle and await
The train that will take me home.

The blue umbrella

I found a plastic umbrella under a bench at the train station. It was blue and perfectly acceptable, with a scratched handle being its only fault. The top opened smoothly. Its spokes were intact. And it kept the rain off my glasses and hair, ensured my clothes were dry.

We met just outside of Kyoto, on the empty platform where no one but us waited to return to the city. The opposite platform was inundated. New trains arrived every seven minutes, and a fresh flood of faces waded out to begin the mile-long walk up to the temple where the leaves were turning unimaginable, cartoonish colors.

"Another umbrella?" my wife asked. We already had a plastic umbrella, clear and a little small, a child's umbrella. It found us in Osaka, at the city aquarium, where one of an army of children let it slip from tiny fingers, only to end up in mine.

"This one's busted," I said. It was. Our clear umbrella stuck a little when we tried to open it. "Plus it's bigger. And blue."

"Fine. Whatever."

I propped our clear umbrella against the bench and picked up the blue one. It was heavy in my hands, and I hooked its end on my forearm as the train arrived to take us back into town.

"See you around," I said to our old umbrella as we boarded the train.

The train moved quickly, pulling away from the station. I looked out the window and watched the clear umbrella grow distant and then vanish, out of our life, but perhaps into someone else's.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Long ago

Lone leaves cling, red as
Bleeding sky. They tremble and
Fall, lining the path
To the graves of forgotten
Children who died long ago.

The rope

There were so many faces. The sad sloughing man on the wall fresco frowning unknowable concern hundreds of years gone by. A metal statue worn nearly black, one eye shut, the other scuffed and wide, staring accusations at anyone who passed. Older men whispering and stern, watching children pass joyous handfuls of coins to people who hand them back sweet fried dough in the shape of fish.

I approached the temple's ceremonial rope cord and looked up. It reminded me of those times in school when they wanted you to climb the rope ladder for gym class. You saw everyone go before you. You knew how. But, finally first in line, you doubted yourself. One of my hands was open. The other clung to the 50 yen coin like a vice.

The woman behind me noticed my hesitation and laughed. She gestured to the rope, and then lightly clapped her hands.

"Arigato," I said sheepishly.

"Do not worry," she said, words heavily accented and slow, dripping with patience. "Just think of your family."

I nodded and tossed the coin into the slotted wooden box before me. The payment would help the temple fund repairs and sustain itself. I grasped the coarse rope, closed my eyes, and tried to focus on my grandfather, dead for nearly 23 years. A flash of his smile crossed my mind, from what at the time seemed like long walks for little legs through our West Los Angeles neighborhood.

I pulled the rope. The metal bell at its top rang out. I clapped my hands.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Worn markings

Stone warmed by the sun,
Wrapped in fallen leaves that break
Apart in the wind.
She wets the cloth and washes
Worn markings, her father's grave.


The mist was pungent, but not unpleasant. Other Americans who came before suggested it smelled faintly of rotting eggs. He couldn't disagree, but even across the room the pool's warmth pried open his sleep-filled eyes and cut through the morning mountain air.

He stripped naked, sat before a spigot on an overturned plastic bucket, and washed himself with soap and lukewarm water. When he finished, he stood over the pool and watched the steam that hovered in the room. The sun wasn't quite up yet, and the only sounds were the onsen's hosts preparing for breakfast by moving plates in the adjacent kitchen, and the water that trickled in through a stone lion's head on the opposite wall.

A shock of heat ran up his leg and into his hips as he settled into the water. Gradually he lowered himself deeper in until it came up to his neck. He closed his eyes and tried to let his mind go blank.

"What will I do," he muttered softly.

Pure meditation escaped him, and instead he saw flashes from previous days in his mind's eye: A beer can clipping steel as it dispensed from a vending machine; a sudden gust of wind across a grassy field that he wished would lift him off his feet; drops of rain collecting on a single red leaf until the rolled off and down onto his cheek; the gentle strokes of a woman washing the worn characters on a single headstone.

He propped up his arms on the tile floor and leaned his head back as he exhaled a rush of air.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Summer winds

Your warm kiss wakes me.
Summer winds split clouds, breathing
Life into tired bones.
Sunlight flickers off wet leaves
Lighting the way through the woods.

The naked woman

I glanced up and saw a statue of a naked woman. Her hands were clasped behind her head, sultry and cold. Empty eyes stared ahead without pupils. Old bronze skin was sallow except for on her left breast and cheek, where dim orange light from an adjacent lamp vainly tried to bring her to life.

The stairs were narrow and twisted to the right. When I reached the bottom a hot spotlight shined in my eyes.

"Hello!" the barman shouted in a thick accent that split the word in two. "Can I get you beer?"

The man held court over a low wooden bar that barely came up to his hips. Eight stools were backed up against the left wall, awaiting customers to pull them forward. Half-full bottles of bourbon, Japanese Scotch, and shochu lined the wall behind the man.

"Kirin, please," I said.

He smiled wide, teeth nearly as yellow as his bleached blonde hair, which was spiked so high that it nearly touched the short ceiling. I sat at the last seat up against the wall, under a giant poster of a woman holding a machine gun and making a face that the bronze statuette wished she could make. I was the only person in the bar, but with the man and the liquor and posters of scantily-clad women towering over the stools, it felt it could barely fit another.

The man filled a glass from the tap and set it down quickly, causing a little foam to spill onto the bar.

"Ah, thank you," I said. "Arigato."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pale gold

The dirt and stone path used to be a road that cut upward, between the two hills overlooking the town. Now it was unused except by those bouldering over cobble and geometric rock for a better look at the volcanic forests that dotted the base of every mountain in this region.

"Where are you?" I shouted.

Just off the road grass grew wild, up to my eyes and so strong it grabbed you for a moment as you tried to push through it. My wife was ahead of me, somewhere beyond a narrow trail of matted stalks that jutted from the road and was littered with coffee and soda cans from the vending machine a half-mile back the way we had come.

I pushed along. Sharp reeds snagged in my hair and caught on my arms. Then the way opened, and I found her standing in a circular pocket no more than six feet across, facing away from me.

"Found you," I said.

She turned and smiled back, but said nothing, instead pointing a finger forward. The grass at our backs was tall, but ahead it dropped off significantly, like a flowing river of pale gold, nearly white, running down to the backs of houses at the edge of town. The sun had already set, and the sky over the distant hills was shot through with crimson lines that splashed down onto the field. The wind picked up and tasted like wheat and freshly cut flowers.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The folded piece of paper

The old man struck a match and breathed in the sulfur and smoke. Then he dropped it to the ground, onto the stack of gasoline-soaked rags at his feet.

"Off you go," he whispered.

He backed off and struggled to bend over and pick up his cane. Flames flickered and followed the trail of rags which lead along the soft sand and dirt path up to the wooden cabin. He gripped the cane with white knuckles and dug its black rubber base into the ground. Soon the fire had jumped onto the door and wooden panels alongside, both also liberally sprinkled with gasoline.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a folded piece of paper, which he rubbed in-between his thumb and forefinger before letting it flutter to the ground.


He turned and walked to the road. Behind him, the house sizzled and cracked in the inferno.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The basement

The hallway was dim. A single lightbulb hung loosely from wires on the ceiling. Jimmy Cobb grasped for his flashlight, but it wasn't there, left behind at his kiosk. He squinted ahead.

"Who's there?"

The sensor went off five minutes earlier. Flickering blue lights on his display board roused him. He sloppily tucked in his tan uniform in as he lumbered through the lobby and into the service elevator that led to the basement.

"I've called the police," he lied.

Quick footfalls echoed from behind. He spun around to see an empty hallway. Hundreds of feet of stone floor twisted out from the elevator, through shadows and around corners to storage rooms and the building's generators. He was the only guard on duty tonight.

"They'll be here in five minutes," he whispered.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Coast Starlight, 6 a.m.

"I've been everywhere man," the young man with ratty blond hair said. "North and south, side to side, across America on these rails more times than I've got fingers."

"Not missing any, right?" I asked.

"Any what?"

"Never mind."

The Coast Starlight's observation car was half-full. Mostly it was people like me, people who don't sleep on trains, who don't change their clothes overnight.

"Want a beer?" the man asked.

"Concession's closed," I said. "Have to wait a few hours."

"Thought of that." He tapped his nose and grinned. "Got a few extra last night."


He pulled out a couple Heinekens from his backpack and handed one to me. I popped the top and took a sip. It was warm and tasted sweet, almost rotten.

"Thanks," I said.

"Man, it's a pleasure."

We drank and watched the sun rise over the eastern hills. Everything was red. The sky was red, bleeding up from the ground. The bark on stripped trees was red. The dirt was red, rich with iron. Dried shrubs were red, stained by the dirt.

"This is the life, huh?" He pushed his bare feet up against the window.

"Yup." I leaned forward and pressed my forehead against the glass. "Sure is."

Monday, July 8, 2013


I pushed the spindly bramble aside. Thorns stung my hands. The air smelled sweet and earthy, rotting berries mixed with dirt and green leaves.

"We going the right way?" I asked.

"Sure," Linsell said. He flashed a thumbs up and grinned. "No worries, boss."

Linsell only had about half his teeth. He lost them as a teenager, and his parents couldn't afford to get them replaced. He wore the gaps as a badge of pride, each wide smile a tacit challenge for someone, anyone to make something of it. I first met him when we were freshmen, and he had just beaten up some kid for giving him shit about his face, as he called it.

"Whatever," I said. The early summer humidity jumped off of the vines like it wanted to choke us. Beads of sweat streaked down my forehead and down my glasses.

"Trust me man. It'll be worth it."

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


I held a burning candle. Hot wax pooled at the wick, and then spilled over the side and stuck to my hands. A stiff night wind suddenly kicked, snuffing out my light. Wisps of smoke floated up my nose, into my eyes, and then were gone.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

room 206

I rang the small metal bell on the counter three times in quick succession, but no one came. I picked up the receiver, but the line was dead.

On the back wall behind the counter, the small brass keys for each motel room hung on short, rusted nails, except for room 206. I grabbed the key for room 205 and hurried up the unlit stairs, clutching the wooden handrail, and then down the dark, second floor hallway.

Brass numbers on the doors had been removed years ago, but their faded outlines remained. I unlocked room 205 and went inside. The smell of pungent decay were pervasive and stung my nose.

I sat on the bed, which was still made but spotted with green and black mold. Then I heard it: A soft, rhythmic knocking coming from the walls, from room 206. I rose, leaned over a splintered and worn dresser, and put my ear against the wall.

I knocked back.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Desi Arnaz

A woman stepped slowly out of a room, eyes locked somewhere far ahead, on a place she'd never reach. I could have been a decoration, unseen and dismissed. Her hair was done up in a bun, but the pins that held it in place had come loose, and long, silken strands ran down her leathery and pale face and neck. Her floral print nightgown was stained brown on the chest from old coffee.

The door behind had locked when it closed, to prevent people leaving. I banged on it, but no one came. A golden plaque with silver letters to my right read "Memory Lane." White and baby blue walls had been painted recently, and the acrid smell lingered.

I walked deeper into the facility looking for an escape. I found a social room, bare except for the small plastic trees and ferns that dotted the room's perimeter. Five men and women on plush couches and chairs watched a flickering TV playing I Love Lucy. Each wore a faded and stained nightgown like the first woman, and each was stone silent as a black-and-white Desi Arnaz crooned through.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mount Shasta

He ran a ways through the tall grass, which clung to his wet skin as he slid past. Above, the sky ran until the far away hills, where it grabbed hold of Mount Shasta as it shot up, a few high clouds wrapping around the peak and bleeding gray into pale blue.

The field ended abruptly at a road. It was more rock than hard-pack dirt, and he sat and grabbed handfulls of red rock. Whenever a truck rumbled by, pebbles shot out and landed at his feet. They were hot to the touch, and he pocketed them.

Later he would go down to the reservoir and throw the rocks after the fish as they jumped, watching the sun dip behind Shasta and waiting for his girl, and they would build a fire and drink and count as many stars as they could.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

red rock

The sun was gone, lost behind high clouds. Rain came quickly, and he sighed relief. Wispy and dry shrubs stretched away from the road, aching for release, either fire or rain. As he drove, small pebbles chipped up onto his truck's windshield.

He camped that night at the reservoir, laying out on the red rocks and dirt that stained his clothes, smoking from a wooden pipe that belonged to his pop.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


The alley was a canyon, cut between stout buildings in the shadows of casinos and tall tenements. Humanity swirled like a churning water; people flowed down the narrow path, drunk and swaying, lingering before street-side grills and signs promising cheap beer.

Muttering half-apologies in broken Japanese, he pushed his way past salarymen, who chatted quickly and moved slowly. The alley wasn't big, only three blocks long by two blocks wide, but given the thick crowd and how the buildings squeezed in and the tarps above blocked the sky and kept out the rain, it could have stretched on forever in his mind.

The air was thick with a sweet smoke. He closed his eyes and smelled the fatty meat, sweat, and cheap, acrid cigarettes, and which stuck to his clothes and hair would linger for days. He cut through the alley on the way to Shinkuku Station because he liked to walk alongside salarymen in thin suits, pretty young women, hair streaked with pink and purple, cooing at him to come into their family bars, and the older couples sitting on stools, holding hands, drinking and laughing together, and feel at home.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


The shrine was carved into the hill, a hollowed boulder containing an open, wooden box with faded black characters written on the back, and small bits of paper hanging from the top that made it look like a diorama.

He stood silently at the entrance. A light rain fell, and he leaned his head forward so the drops wouldn't hit his glasses. The graveyard behind him was small, off a winding dirt path that lead away from the village. The plots were old, headstones askew and worn out by time and water and wind, their names and pictures fading away.

An older woman stood alongside him, wearing a white bandana around her forehead and thick red jacket. He couldn't remember her being there before. She glanced over at him, and then walked under a faded, splintered red arch and up three stone stairs to the shrine.

She pulled out a small coin and dropped it into a rusted metal box that sat on a rock at the shrine's side. She bowed deeply in a slow, jerking motion, and then stood upright and clapped her hands three times. The sound surprised him with its strength, as it hit the rocks and echoed backwards over the cemetery.

And then all was silent, except for the growing patter of the rain on the leaves of the trees. The woman hardly made a sound and didn't look up as she descended the stairs, walked past him, picked her way through the plots, and disappeared down the trail.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

cotton candy

Her hair was a pink wisp, a cotton candy streak toward the sky, bundled behind her head and slipping just a bit onto her bare shoulders. She wore a watermelon-colored dress flecked with faded pink dots the color of her hair, which ran short, just above her knees.

The late summer heat sat heavy, even at night. I set my pack down and felt my shirt sticking to my back, and the sweat dripping down my neck. I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Hands clasped at her back, swaying to the music playing over the loudspeakers, she floated, both one with the crowd and completely apart.

As the song ended, she leaned toward me. "I like their music," she said.

"Me too."

"I can fly." She pushed her hands in the air and inched closer. "I close my eyes and go."

Her perfume tasted like flowers, and she watched me with eyes shining and gray. "It's like an ocean," I said. "Just drop me in the middle."

"I'm Miranda."

"Jake." I flashed a toothy smile and flicked my head. "Listen to a couple more, and then let me get you a drink?"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


She struck a match and breathed deeply, tasting long summer afternoons and her father's cigars on the porch in the sulfurous smoke. It was dark. She lit the candle and shook the match out. The flame flickered as it struggled, and then shot upwards.

Her mind drifted to the hospital, to his face and the room's antiseptic smell, how she knocked over the pill bottles as she reached for him, and how he lay, maybe asleep, maybe not, clinging to any moments of lucidity like they may never come again.

Monday, April 8, 2013


He slurped the coffee, taking in air to cool it down. Steam rose from the styrofoam cup and fogged up the windshield. He started the car.

He drove west, ahead of the rising sun, which reached up over the mountains behind him, eagerly, like a small child peering up over a ledge.

Thursday, April 4, 2013


Frosty air stuck to his lips and tongue with each breath, as the walls of the canyon funneled the wind into him with a deafening echo.

He pulled his jacket tight and leaned forward as he walked. A light snow fell; it clumped on his hair and ran down his face as he pressed on.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


I stepped around a downed tree and crested the rise. My hands were on my hips, and I tried to look dignified while gulping for air. Ahead the trail snaked down in switchbacks toward the Pit River, which ran thin in the summer, a series of sky blue lines through the dirt.

I followed the path down to the river and camped there that night, building a small fire in a pit of dirt and rocks and sleeping in the open. The stars in the sky glowed like gems at a museum, as if someone above was shining a light through a private collection just for me to see.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


Jameson wiped the bathroom mirror with the side of his hand, turned, and watched his naked reflection as he inhaled and sucked in his gut.

As the fog crept back, the last things he saw were his own grey eyes and a nearly inappreciable frown. He exhaled, sighing a rush of air.


Miranda pressed against the stone seawall and breathed sharply, closing her eyes and sucking in salt and water as waves crashed.

Monday, April 1, 2013

rest stop

Barty got in his car and drove, not stopping until dark when he pulled into a highway rest stop. He slept there, seat reclined, until sunrise.

When he woke that morning, he stretched in the foggy, exhaust-filled air, washed his face in the chipped tile bathroom, and resumed driving.

Friday, March 29, 2013


As the water grew cold, she sank lower into the tub and fidgeted. The incense had long since burned out, but its oaky aroma lingered.

Eventually she climbed out, wrapped herself in a towel, and went to her bedroom window, where she pretended to watch passing cars while gazing at her reflection.

Thursday, March 28, 2013


He hugged himself in the dark and tried to sleep, his ratcheting heartbeat barely keeping pace with the fleeting images flashing in his mind.


I pulled the shirt from the hamper and nuzzled it against my mouth, breathing in memories of grass, dirt, smoke, sweat, and you.


He traced a figure-eight on her bare leg as her phone's wan light lit her face. A smoldering cigarette hump limply on her lips.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


I sat on the low rock wall, sucking a horehound drop and squinting into the sun. A gust of wind trailed each passing car, mussing my hair.


The boy's tiny hand let go of the cold, wet dirt, which made an echoless thud as it hit the flat face of his grandfather's wooden coffin.

He didn't wash that night when they got home from the funeral, leaving dirt caked under his nails. "Papa and I are holding hands," he said.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


The sticky sweetness of dust and rain as they mix with the lingering rose petal perfume worn by woman who boards the bus ahead of you.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Sometimes the grass smells like watermelon, and you just lie there with your eyes closed and breathe.