Night has swallowed the city and in the laundromat, dryer 42 decries her loose drive belt. The young girl turns, “can you see it the Virgin Mary, in the glass porthole”. No, I think, only white cotton panties and several pair of jeans in endless rotation. “She speaks to me, asking for my forgiveness for the burden she has delivered to us and though I try to give her absolution she will not listen. Talk to her, maybe it is a male voice she needs to ease her mourning.” I stare fixedly at the washer as the light for final rinse snaps on, “she knows you, she is waiting, so talk into the camera, that one with the red light, and tell her that you forgive, as your forgave the other Mary, who you redeemed.” The dryer slowly grinds to a halt and the young girl grimaces, “she is gone, so perhaps she heard what I could not, and I thank you”. She wanders out onto the street and fades into the shadow outside the penumbra of the streetlight.
First published in Prairie Winds (1999)
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Coyote no longer inhabits the hill south of our city. Yet we know he is there, staring down at the lake, watching the grape clusters fatten on the vines. We cannot see the orange-red orbs of his eyes on a still winter night. We know he sees us. Coyote cannot be found, no carcasses attest to his presence. Coyote is everywhere, walking among us, living in parks, living in plain sight, knowing he is invisible. We see his tricks, know we were once again outsmarted, know we can outsmart him. Coyote no longer inhabits the hills here, for he has morphed, and we are coyote.
In the center of every city there ought to be a park, an expanse of green, trees older than the first European to arrive, so old they need not feign indifference to the humans who have invaded and refused to leave despite the mother (nature)’s request that they do so immediately. Some cities comply, but only partially for they place the parks on the periphery and save their core for the tall buildings, stacked cubes chock-full of small cubes, little boxes and to which people go each day before returning to their own boxes, large enough and sometimes ghastly large that surround the city. This is where the city knows the Park should be, and if people don’t like it, the city doesn’t really care.
You are driving through the Florida that once was, that is off the coast, and out of Orlando, the Florida of jalousie windows, run down once gas stations and the more than occasional double wide. Suddenly, you are in a Disney version of a semi-tropical New England, gated villages where cars have been supplanted by an endless stream of golf carts, where the Disney smile is a permanent fixture of most every face. In the community, as you walk into the town center, a town square imagined by Rodeo Drive, each night at five a wave of golf carts arrive , to plastic lawn chairs laid out in neat array soon to fill with those who so well remember when the songs to be played, and they, were young.
Once, not long ago, a river meandered through our town. Actually, there was never a river here, and our town is really a small and shrinking city. But the wistful look on your face when I mentioned the river is reason enough to have one. So now I have to move somewhere in Connecticut or Massachusetts, or start digging a large channel through downtown. Hand me a shovel, I hate New England.
“You have to go all the way to Washington,” he said, “to find decent statuary.” “Oh, you can find one or two in almost every city. Its founder, some general or admiral, some animal that oddly represents a metropolis that has cast out its animals, or penned them up in zoos, put them on leashes. New York has quite a few, Boston as well, and Chicago, well it likes sculpture, but spend half an hour in Vienna and you are overwhelmed with statuary. Maybe they have lower standards there, or far more history, but I suspect it is that they don’t rush about on the winds of whim, despite our endless example to them.