Thursday, August 20, 2009


The modular unit is suspended on cinder blocks to keep it raised above the dusty earth. Jagged shards of glass remain in the shattered windows like vicious loose teeth. Pieces of shredded black plastic hang from the underside, fluttering spastically in the softly whispering wind like tattered flags in the murk beneath the mobile. The door frame stands unobstructed, the door having been removed from the hinges and lost long ago. Inside, the floor is littered with chipped plaster and dirt. Menacing black holes have been burned into the carpet and streaks of red and black graffiti shout from the barren walls. The doorway opens into an empty living area, one side of which is open to the world. Instead of a wall, some of the clear plastic that sealed it when it was being moved down highways in some far flung past is still intact. It is yellowed and brittle with an age exacerbated by rare but biting rains, ferocious wind and relentless sun . In some places, it is shredded and dangles like ribbons. Clear packing tape has been applied here and there to close some holes and connect severed fragments. The view through its filmy lens is of a dusty lot that slopes downhill and meets bare boulders and a pair of thirsty pepper trees.
Beyond the open living room, a hall connects three bedrooms and a bathroom. The doors are missing from two of the bedrooms and the bathroom. One room still has a door and it is closed. A soiled mattress rests on the floor of one of the back rooms. It almost fills the room. A woman is sleeping under a coarse and dirty blanket. Her brown hair is matted, her fingers and face are blackened with soot or grease. The other open room is empty. A few flannel shirts are scattered on the floor. The murmur of voices locked in discussion rises from behind the closed door. Behind the mobile, the bald hill peaks and looks over the wasteland. There is a gutted car with a roll cage set up on more cinder blocks. Rusting car parts are spread all over the ground. A burnt out oil drum stands in the center of a ring of broken down arm chairs, couch cushions, tires, egg crates, and busted lawn chairs.
Another lonely pepper tree waves its thirsty fern-like fingers in the hot breeze from its post at the crest of the hill. The steep and pebbly drop off below is littered with white boulders and debris. Ancient rusted tin cans, bits of plastic that might once have been potato chip bags, thread worn rags hide among the dry weeds and boulders marred with graffiti. The drop melts into many minor rolls of earth that reach into the distance. Nestled in their far away bosom, a dirt road lays like a long twitching tongue of earth.
A greasy man with a stripe of gray hair hanging from an otherwise bare skull stands on the edge chewing a tiny twig from the pepper tree. His face and hands are smudged with the black grease so that his pink skin only emerges as patches like land masses adrift in an oily sea. A pair of shaded goggles are strapped over his eyes and his faded purple tee shirt is cut off high above his navel. Jean shorts, once black, are almost gray and cut off just above his knees. He watches the road below, chewing the twig and cleaning his teeth with slow thoughtful relish. The hand that presses the twig to his yellow teeth is clad in a black bike glove, the sort that leaves the fingers exposed, covers the palm and is fastened with Velcro at the back of the hand. His boots are cracked and worn so that creases of brown leather are visible amid the splintering black finish like little veins. The socks sticking out of the top are discolored by sweat and grease. Nothing disturbs the distant road. Farther out, there are patches of green and distant purple mountains.

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