May the Dust Not RiseMarch 9, 2018
Wish I could tell you it was an accident.
I can’t. Not this time.
Remo had a t-top Pontiac Firebird, an eighties model with a bald eagle painted on the hood. The dented body all brown as tobacco goop in a chicken shit’s lip. Used to drive past my property every morning—I guess around seven in the ay-m. Had himself a janitorial specialist position at the middle school.
Cleaned the toilets down there.
Remo made that Firebird’s engine go, and he liked to whip the squirrelly back end down the road. Looked to me—from the open door of my trailer—like a big brown fish swimming into the sky. And that engine roared like hot oil pouring over you. Got into your head.
But then came the dust. Big damn clouds of dust.
Ain’t no roads like dirt roads.
With the wind coming from the east, the dust blew in my face.
I got me the asthma.
I’m on my way to a few other things that have to do with my Marlboros and those shit-sticks over at the tobacco company. What’s it and Morris. Point is, my natro-pathic remedist says I need good air and quiet.
Here I am sucking dust and plugging my ears with wads of shit tissue.
Given my productivity for conflict restoration, I walked over to his place one afternoon. Figured I’d have us a chat. The Firebird’s engine was still ticking when I passed it on the gravel driveway. Windshield was thick with dust. Caked over like butter in a cold skillet.
Remo had himself a thirty-five footer with a master suite. Tires were flat, but it was a nice rig. I offered more than once to take it off his hands, but Remo didn’t get many raises for scrubbing shit from kiddie toilets. He held onto the thing, made it his forever home.
I stomped right up and pounded the door.
The trailer rattled and creaked as Remo moved inside. He opened the door, took a long sip from a High Life. He said, “You come down here for a eight ball, Morgan?”
I lit a cigarette. “You mind I come in for a minute?” I blew out smoke and curled my lips around the cancer stick.
“Have a beer with me.”
Inside, I sat on the small sofa near the door. Remo handed me a High Life and sat across from me in the trailer’s dining booth.
We sipped our beers and smoked.
“Well, Morgan…What the hell can I do for you?”
“You can stop kicking up dust with that Firebird of yours.”
“That all what this is?”
“It’s that until it’s worse,” I said. “I got the asthma and more coming down the line. Doctor told me so.”
Remo squinted at my cigarette, put his own to his lips and puffed.
“I’m not trying nothing now, but I need that dust to settle.”
“Hmm,” Remo said. He said it again. He puffed some more. “May the dust not rise,” he said and made the sign of the cross with the cigarette between his fingers. Smoke danced all away from him like morning mist. He laughed after that, tried hard to clear his throat for a long few seconds.
“I know you hear me,” I said. “I want the dust to settle.”
It’s too often people don’t do what you say.
What you want.
It’s too often people think they can kick up dust and drive right through it.
That’s what Remo thought: He did it the next morning.
And that night.
But he sure as shit never did it again. Tell you what, I can still hear his screams in the back of my head. And see the flames. That shit-brown Firebird buried in blue-red fire, a bald eagle on the hood growing blacker by the second. Surprised me how fast the trailer went up—at thirty-five foot it was a tinder box.
And then came the roar.
Like hot oil pouring over you.by
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Matt Phillips is a writer living in San Diego. He grew up in the Mojave Desert and surrounding area. His short novel, Redbone, a murder ballad-noir, is available from Number Thirteen Press.