Xantan County

There was a buzz on the air like radio static and the pop of sodium lights. It’s ten o’clock and unlike uptown the south side is quiet. People work for a living here—twelve hour shifts in the factories and shipping plants that border the neighborhood on three sides. There’s six bars in five blocks. Six churches, railroad tracks, and a visage that hasn’t been updated since before the war. On the edge of the map five apartment buildings loom, just there, just above the tree line, grey-brick blocks labeled A through E. the product of 1947 and designed by a man best known for his work on minimum security prisons.

            There’s a light on in the diner.

            There’s a light on at The Inn.

            There’s a light on every porch connected to every cookie cutter house and row home between First Avenue and Fifth and there’s a light at the corner shop at Victory and Third throwing shadows on a hand painted sign that reads White’s Drug and Grocery EST. 1922.

            There’s a girl on Fourth sneaking out with a boy from two towns over. She doesn’t even like him. Doesn’t even like boys. But he’s got a car and some nights, after a hot summer rains, when the street lights flicker over the pulverized glass ground into the road, she can almost see a future with him. 

            They smoke cigarettes and hang around abandoned boxcars.           

            He says, “I love you.”

            And she closes her eyes trying to pretend she didn’t hear him.