Like Wolves

Well, I’m just boiling. Boiling. My breath fires off in hiccupping staccatos that flush my face to the colors of fire. I ball my fists and bite my tongue and prowl around my apartment like a caged wolf. Grrrr. Snarl at the mirror. Grrrr. Slam dishes into the sink. Grrrr, take it to the nighttime streets with a smoldering cigarette while I rub my forehead against the brick wall of the apartment building until my skin scrapes.

The moon is all amber and grim, like the meat of a poisonous peach. It drips honeyed sweat through space to the earth and I lick it up. I gargle it. I paint stripes of it under my eyes. My, oh my, the moon says to me, your fury is shaking the whole planet. And you ain’t seen nothing yet. This ought to be good. Yeah, it will.

Storm the streets, sparks flashing from my teeth. Grrr. It seems like a good idea to kick a streetlight, so I put my foot through the base of one and it caves under my apocalyptic strength. Feels good, do it again. Kick. Crack. Creak. Timber! I kick the streetlight over and it falls through a big grey building and the glass rains down around me in a million tinkling shards. And inside the building people in pajamas look through their broken walls at each other and then out at me. “Who is that wild man?” they ask in awe. Show them just who you are. (more…)

Death on a Large and Lovely Scale

I admire trees.

The average age of the world’s trees is about 200 years old. These numbers are skewed by rainforests, so I figure that the average age of a Nebraska tree is 100 years younger. Back before she became a state, Nebraska had no trees. Pioneers who settled the Nebraska Territory – most on promises of free land from the government – found the territory to be nearly bereft of vegetation of all kinds. It was considered part of the Great American Desert. Homesteaders didn’t so much build their houses as pack them together from sod.

I try to imagine this. Me, bumping along in a covered wagon, pots clanging in the rear. A wife, bouncing a boy on her lap. Flies. Outlaws. Tornadoes. Every day is a hunt for lumber to build a cabin. A roof. The baby gets wet every time it rains. The wife is coughing thick, black gunk. Boiling, predatory clouds form in the east and, out of options, I start packing mud together with my hands, making my home. It is 1860. I am twenty years old, with a patchy beard. The average American is not living past 45. But if I can’t get my mud fort put together soon, my whole family and I will die today.

And people died in droves, in their sod homes and sod coffins. The Nebraska legislature, seeing that their new territory was leaking settlers faster than it was filling with them, decided to do something about it. This is what they did.

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