Sherry Lost a Knee and a Hip and a Hand to a Horse
Uncle Michael’s got Agent Orange, and Cousin Murray’s in a coma, and grandma got leukemia out of the blue, and Ray’s wife watches soaps from her death bed all day, and Luke would rather get shipped off to war than drive a semi like his dad, and Ben’s son is waiting for him to die so he can pull that Big Electric Chair right out from under him, and Heather has two girls and a glove box of oxys, and Constance swiped a loaf of bread from the store while she was still mayor, and Sherry lost a knee and a hip and a hand to a horse, and Peter’s got a new set of teeth on loan from the dentist till the new ones come in, and Amy’s moving in next to the penitentiary, and Lyle’s dad carries a bible into court to show the judge they are God-fearing taxpayers capable of change, and there’s a good laugh about a suitcase of stamps during Ken’s eulogy, and Steve saw a man hug a speeding train, and Jim tuned his graffiti yellow Strat one last time before leaving for good, and Ryan found bones and receipts in the walls of the bungalow, and Matt’s visited at night in dreams by a sound that rips him to shreds, and Morgan wants to pull the moon out of the sky to gift to his mom, and Nancy’s brakes went out as soon as she made her way home, and Tammy’s over the intercom asking for help in lingerie, and the man without a name knows to ride his bike from the trees to the bank at nine every morning to fill up on that free coffee, and Claudia swears she’s from anywhere but Earth, and Dante used to dance up the sidewalks till someone threw him in a home to shrink smaller and smaller – so small that nobody can follow his steps anymore, and, really, it’s a lot of us mistaking yesterday for a dream, and today for a nightmare.
I’ve always walked to the top of the landfill for the view – to see how the people are living on the other side of the river. When the sun sets, their windows facing west seem to burst into flame. I almost get crazy and wave my arms like, hey, save your souls. There are bats here at night that fly so low they could give haircuts. A bunch of us used to sleep on the landfill and melt our brains guessing theories of relativity and multiverse. Couldn’t a bonfire be the birth of a star? This place used to feel like the last quiet hideout in town – a stopgap of time. That’s before they built the tower up here that makes the landfill hum. A low, one-note droning that sings from the grass and never leaves the ear. I always thought it was to boost cell phone signal. But I still don’t have any service around here. Thinking he might know, I made some remark about the tower to my dad. His new teeth were here and he was finally sounding like himself again. That’s not a cell tower, he says. That’s a microwave transmitter. Beams of information in the event of an emergency. For survivors or whatever outlives us. Now I see that there is a line of transmitters along the spine of mountains up and down both sides of the river. Steady red pulses. Danger is relative. What’s the end of one world, if not the start of another? Should something happen, I’ll stay here as long as I can, ear to the tower, rooting for signs of life.
Shane Cashman’s stories have appeared in The Atlantic, BBC Travel, Penthouse, VICE, Atlas Obscura, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Catapult. He teaches narrative studies at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY.
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Art Kristoffer Trolle/Yayoi Kusama CC2.0