Originally uploaded by shermans.
Ciela stands in the middle of the vast urban fabric we created for her cars and trucks: a more simple SimCity. She began with the cars and trucks, but soon grew weary of the punishing grind of play. On her knees, supplicant to the demands of the 1986 Aerostar, hobbling herself so that it might run, she finally gave up and stood upright. She liked to walk the streets after dark, alone with her thoughts. A solitary saxaphone wailed in the night while the misty rain settled around her shoulders, building and building until a single trickle would slip down her arm. At the turnabout near 8th, she met Two Nickles. She told him about the fireman, his failure and then collapse at the Mercantile. Two Nickles was sympathetic, but could do nothing.
"What's done is done, kid. Larry was a good man, but he didn't have it."
"That's bullshit," she said. She knew the swearing wasn't good. It revealed too much of her emotions, and it wasn't allowed in the house. She'd tried to cut back, but like the gin and the cigarettes, it was a part of her. "That's bullshit and you know it. He didn't lose it because of some weakness, some crack in his mortar. He was set up. The Chinese girl. The young one. She sunk him like a leaky boat."
Two Nickles wasn't buying it. "Look, kid. I know you liked the fireman. We all did. Like I said, he as a good man, but he was burning up, inside and out. If it wasn't the Chinese girl, it would have been the cop or the train conductor or the token black kid. He was going down."
They walked over to the plastic tree. The monkey was loud tonight, screeching of love and loss and the hidden terrors of some ancient jungle lost long ago. Ciela pushed the swing hanging from the branch. It was light, almost without substance.
"I loved the fireman," she said, "but he was too good for me."
Maybe so, thought Two Nickles, but he didn't say it. "He was too good for all of us," he said, and she offered up a rueful smile.
He looked at her, pushing the red plastic swing, her bare shoulders white in the moonlight. She was so small, even though she towered over these streets. Beyond her, he could see the turnabout, the dead end at the piano, and past that the fields and the golf course and finally the 101 stretching out into the desert. This world would burn her alive if she let it. Not as fast as the fireman, but slowly and inevitably, she would succumb to the heat. The fireman was gone, and that meant no one and nothing else could stop the heat.
The rain had stopped some time ago, and despite the darkness, they both could feel the temperature building.
"Let's go, kid," Two Nickles said.
"Yeah. Let's get out of here," she said. They headed toward the kitchen where there were milk and crackers and maybe, just maybe, some quiet and a nap under the circling fans.