Grand River

Every state of this Union us migrants have been

We come with the dust and we’re gone with the wind

It’s always we ramble that river and I

 

~ Woody Guthrie, “Pastures of Plenty”

 

It don’t take no nerve to do somepin,

When there ain’t nothin’ else you can do.

 

~ Tom Joad, The Grapes of Wrath

 


THE RIVERS

 

One                     Detroit

Two                    Maumee

Three                 Scioto

Four                    Huron

Five                     Rouge

Six                       Saline

Seven                  Detroit

Eight                    Ford

Nine                     Au Sable

Ten                        Grand

Postscript          Detroit

 

 

ONE

DETROIT

 

She stares at the ceiling of her loft apartment, waiting for inspiration to come. It usually does. The irregular shapes there make her feel things that she later spills out onto a canvas, or through a camera’s lens. Her eyes. Taken where inspiration leads them. Now as she studies the concrete ceiling 18 feet above her head, with the coldness of the old hardwood floor against the bare skin of her back, she wonders. Why does the white paint stop, where the living area begins? What used to hang from the twisted wires that are still there, clinging to crooked screw hooks?

She sighs, turning over on her side, head resting on outstretched arm. She doesn’t want to be alone like this, to live inside her head so much. She feels it’s expected of her though. She’s an artist, one who will, for long stretches, forget the life of the world outside to create another one within. But she knows it’s that energetic, perplexing, sometimes ugly life outside that’s so inspiring. Beats the hell out of this half-painted concrete ceiling.

It’s why she’d moved to Detroit in the first place. The beauty, the squalor. Sometimes contained within a single city block. The incomparable contrast between promise and excitement, danger and decay. She sees those contradictions more here than in any other place she’s ever known.

And it’s home. A place where her grandfathers and great-grandfathers won their hard-earned calluses through the 1920s and eventually moved west, out of the city, for a better life for their families. They worked long hours and endured hard demands on their minds and bodies, to earn the right to leave the big, beautiful, ugly city forever.

She remembers stories her parents and grandparents told her, and hazy flashes of moments from her childhood. In the 1980s when Detroit’s auto recession pushed conditions to a new low, it was America’s murder capital. News bulletin to white suburbanites and small-town visitors: take Michigan Avenue through the scary, strip-club and street-corner-drug-dealing parts on the west side of town, duck in quickly with your car doors locked. Park-n-Lock at Michigan and Trumbull, go to the Detroit Tigers baseball game, run back out to your car. Run – quickly if you can – and get thee back to the suburbs and small towns before the bullets hit you in the ass.

And that was Detroit to her. And here she is, more than 20 years later. Living in a converted factory building, a grinder, one very much like her grandfathers worked in nearly a century ago. Within sight from her single-pane windows of the “Golden Top of the Fisher Building,” a radio studio so glamorously described to her younger self, on the predawn AM broadcast from her father’s transistor radio. At times, she gazes at that Golden Top, also green or other festive colors at appropriate times, and catches a whiff of her father’s bacon and coffee. Those wonderful scents always had a way of floating into her bedroom from the kitchen, as she buried her head and tried to go back to sleep in her tiny twin bed.

 

“Hillbilly.”

Surprise registered on the interviewer’s face. He repeated, or rather rephrased the question.

“What I meant was, is there any national heritage, any ethnic or other group you like to call your own? Where do you come from? It’s not a requirement that you answer these questions, but it just helps our co-workers and readers get to know you a little better.”

Hillbilly must not have a checkbox.

She scanned her thoughts and feelings for another label. Irish. Scottish. Woman. Bisexual. Smart. Irritable. Lazy. Hard-working. Silly. Stupid. Some of these had a box, for sure. She didn’t want to go climbing into any of them.

“Well, hillbilly,” she finally said. “That’s the best I can do on that. I guess my background is 31 Flavors in so many ways, no label sticks quite as hard as that one. Blue collar. If you like that one better, sure. I like it.”

The wrapped candies on Tom Byer’s desk caught her attention as she spoke. She grabbed one, and it made a crinkling noise in its clear cellophane. The cut-glass bowl looked like her grandmother’s old dishes. Cheap and common in one sense, but comforting and classic too. The caramel flavor began to melt on her tongue. She crumpled the wrapper and crammed it into her pocket.

“Well, that’s it then,” Tom replied. He snapped shut the cover of his old leather-bound notebook. “Hillbilly. I like it too. So tell me, how does that drive what you do? How is your work ‘hillbilly,’ if it is at all?”

 

Green and red stoplights alternate down Woodward Avenue, the view from her office window. The industrial forefathers planned it well. A gorgeous view downtown of the gritty, battered city of Detroit. The skyline is iconic now, a jagged collection of rectangles. Dark shapes order the sky over the Detroit River, touching the border of Windsor, Ontario. That free country to the north, so close and yet so far away.

Funny that from where she sits it’s actually to the south – the only strange little plot of Michigan land that does this around here. Her city sits on a formerly free and wild tract of land, now a patchwork of concrete and accidental green spaces.

Detroit looks peaceful, inviting, exciting from this height. And that it is, on the ground as well. Scary, unwelcoming, and threatening too. This tunnel of concrete land below her is an area of deceptive civilization, in a vast jungle of neglected streets and new construction of the city’s outlying neighborhoods, and the suburbs.

The place once was the grand hope of a new generation of dreamers. Henry Ford’s first plant, on Piquette Avenue, still stands in decent shape just a mile north. The wealthy logger David Whitney has the fanciest restaurant in town, just a block from her perch on the 10th floor of the Maccabee’s Building.

Beautiful relics, these places. Visual reminders of a time when wealth was all and the self-made man was everyone’s hero. The American Dream. She rubs her eyes and goes back to cleaning her Olympus single-lens-reflex camera, and thinks about how it feels like no one really much believes in anything here, anymore.

And so, she shoots images and collects words that organize her city as a symbol. A harbinger of things to come for the rest of the country. But they are coming. The American Dream redux. A Brave New World. A new world order about which the elders are afraid, and the younger generations have yet begun to understand.

It Can’t Happen Here.

Oh, but it has. Change has been doing its thing all along, whether we wanted to acknowledge it, notice it, or not.

The sharp tweet of her cell phone awakens her from the warm comfort of her imagination. She rolls her desk chair over to one side of her office, then the other. Restless but not wanting to leave. Lazy but not wanting to stay.

Plastic. Cool and smooth in her hand. The screen reads: “They need you in Grosse Ile. Body found. Male. Bad. Take your Pepto.”

She winces and fights of spontaneously generated images of the scene in her head. Leave it to her photo editor Austin. He enjoyed making every assignment seem as dangerous or otherwise as abhorrent as possible. Grosse Ile, indeed. “Big Island” in French. Another little burg stolen from the non-English-reading natives via paperwork and sleight of hand. She remembers hearing a movie line once: “You know how us Indians feel about signing papers.” Too much wisdom, too late. Grosse Ile, renamed from the Potawatomi Kitcheminshen, was long gone from Indian hands into those of Detroit merchants the Macomb Brothers centuries before that insight.

What little knowledge she has of the place – not much more than how to get there – remains from her five years of living “Downriver,” as it’s called from the big city around here. Any journeys further south stopped at a place called Wyandotte, also an appropriated Indian name.

The riverfront aspect of that area often is relayed with a dash of skepticism, by locals and visitors alike. The waters flowing aside and separating those banks from Canada are usually too dirty, murky and dangerous for leisure and pleasure. No fishing, no swimming. Watch out for the freighters if you want to go boating. Too much runoff from over 100 years of industrial overgrowth and production flowing swiftly down toward Lake Erie. This cocktail festers and bubbles into a thick foam, like the kind you’d enjoy atop an A&W root beer float.

Grosse Ile juts out from this small, not-so-freshwater sea like a beacon of beleaguered society. One of those old, clean, wealthy communities that like to keep its secrets. A fisherman found her body at 6 a.m. HER body that is, not his. A woman. Travelled downriver from who knows where, bobbing down a very different course than southbound I-75. The first responders estimate since December. Six months. Did the winter slow her up? she wondered. Macabre thought. You can see the city from here, not so far.

 

Cigarettes.

She took a long drag from a cheap one. Let it out slowly.

Why do they taste so goddamned good when you’re broke?

When you’ve spent your last five or six bucks on a pack, and one by one suck every last whiff of smoke out of them? Until you’re burning the tips of your fingers at the filters?

She thinks about how they’re bad for her, and lights another one anyway. Another slow drag rolls over her tongue, into her lungs, and then swims back out through her nose. White whorls billow into the night air.

The wooden dock stabbing out into the lower Detroit River creaks with her every move. At first she was afraid it would break apart and tumble her down into the dark water. After a few shakes and tentative prods with her foot, the boards seemed sturdy enough. She could safely sit and ruminate, at least for a little while.

The drive down south out of Detroit to Grosse Ile had been short and uneventful. In a way she’d been dreading her arrival there, but in truth there was nothing to fear. Nothing more than the occasional stray animal in the night. The wandering teenage kid looking for a place to have sex or smoke weed. She wasn’t really even sure why she’d driven there. The body had been found two days earlier, and as of yet there was no evidence of foul play. A straight-cut suicide case, they said. Nothing to see here, lookie-loos, move along.

But she couldn’t rest. Just couldn’t sleep. The images she’d seen in that river two days before were haunting her waking dreams. It was enough to make her question her job choice, future career path. The weird assignment she been sent on first thing just wouldn’t leave her mind.

Another cheap cigarette, another series of slow drags. One puff. Another. And another. She watched out over the water for something, anything. The distant sound of a train awakened her from this trance. Metal wheels on steel rails screeched as the engine passed through a road crossing. She recognized the sound from the tracks just down the old dirt road from her aunt’s house. After her dad left and then divorced her mom, she spent many nights there, sometimes for days or weeks at a time. She wasn’t old enough to question where her mother was then. She just been told that she’d be coming back, after a while. So through the long nights at the scary old house of her father’s sister, she listened to the trains scream, and prayed for morning.

 

On Assignment: Highland Park

Where the Ghost of Henry Ford
Hangs Out With the Ghost of Tom Joad

(or as revised – where the Ghost of Tom Joad

would’ve beat the crap out of the Ghost of Henry Ford)

 

Scene: a man falls over outside a convenience store on Woodward Avenue at the Davison Freeway. It’s Halloween night. Tan trench coat and old man’s dress hat. Paper bag of food lies on its side, just like his still body. Policeman prods the man with his foot to see if he’s alive, waiting for the emergency vehicles to come. Plays with his smart phone.

She’s doing her weekly sweep of the city, looking for stories. Photo opportunities. Listening to creepy music on the local NPR/indie music radio station. Old Hollywood horror film soundtracks. Hellraiser, Wolf Man, Dracula. Her grandparents are gone. Died on Saturday, October the 25th. 90 and 94 years old. Buried on Thursday the 30th, Devil’s Night, in a small town about 45 minutes southwest of Detroit. It’s Friday the 31st. All Saint’s, All Soul’s Days to follow soon. Not soon enough, as tiny ghouls and goblins in store-purchased plastic suits roam the streets of this city. Teenagers way too old to be trick-or-treating without costumes, trudging their way down the Avenue.

 

FIRST DRAFT: ARTIST’S STATEMENT. PHOTOGRAPHY. DETROIT.

 

To outsiders looking in, seeing Detroit must seem like seeing the beginning of the end of the world. A new ground zero – or rather, and old ground zero, one that existed largely unchanged, since before 9/11. It was the place where Henry Ford ushered in the beginnings of the New World Order, Fordism, the Year of Our Ford. It rode in on the backs of countless faceless workers, masses on the earliest assembly lines.

So it only makes sense that this is the place where some things will come to an inevitable crumbling end, and others will find a new beginning. Some things will spring forth and be born anew.

Out of the ashes of a former New World Order.

To some, it must look like the beginning of an end.

But to them, it’s just a beginning.

 

 

My back wedged into the corner of the fire escape. The wide concrete and metal stairs we’d climbed to get there were covered with trash and paint, both old and new. Someone had left a charcoal barbecue half open on one of the landings. Broken pieces of black rocks and ash spilled out onto the concrete.

The air above the roof, outside the fire escape as we stuck out our heads, was cool and clear. I lit a smoke and then pulled a drag from it. As I exhaled curls of smoke rolled up along the side of my face.

“That’s not sexy, you know.” Duderman said this while scratching his nose with the back of his hand,  looking down the stairs we’d just climbed.

“Screw you,” I replied, thinking that I probably should quit. But climbing up to this roof to sneak a smoke was a pleasure I didn’t want to give up.

“No, seriously. I know you think you’re all bad-ass and stuff. But smoking is stupid.”

“Whatever. You come up here with me, so deal with it.”

“God, you can be such a bitch sometimes. Sorry to get in your business.”

Our bodies were in as close of proximity as we ever were. The roof hole was only about three feet by three feet square. Enough room for two people, but small enough to crowd our personal space. I liked it, but I wouldn’t tell him that.

So, we faced each other and stood in silence, leaning our backs into the corners and propping our arms up on the cold gray metal supports that lined the fire escape. We were just inches apart, but mentally staying further apart, for propriety. At these times I could almost feel my mind willing us further apart, but drawing closer at the same time. It was confusing, and made me smoke with greater enthusiasm.

I had a feeling he liked it too. He avoided making eye contact with me up there, in a way that he didn’t when we were just hanging out, without a three foot metal box keeping us corralled together. Despite our unwilling fascination, I understood his hesitation and my own, as my girlfriend, his friend, his ex-wife’s ex-girlfriend, sat in our loft apartment watching rerun TV, just half a floor and down the hall, below. She never liked to go up there with me. It wasn’t the smoking, or the somewhat dangerous and ill-advised trip up that bothered her. I never did really figure out quite why.

Duderman stared off into the Detroit sky, scanning this way and that at the tops of buildings at varied heights and styles. Downtown was just a mile or so from that neighborhood, but from this height it seemed more distant, less gritty. You really could see and smell the rich history of the area from up there, and that’s why one the reasons I liked being up there so much.

I also liked the sidelong glances at my body that he tended to take, while he thought maybe I wouldn’t notice, in the middle of a smoke drag. Sometimes I’d purposely stare off as if I were deep in thought and didn’t notice him, but actually I was wanting and thinking about how he would look at me in that way. That small space was separate, somehow different than any other space we ever shared.

But god. He really did like to bitch about my smoking. I turned my head every time I exhaled, trying to get the offending waves to blow downwind.

The screeching wheels on the passing trains momentarily interrupted our mutual fronting. It was a long train, one that stretched back into the city, disappeared between tall brick buildings until you couldn’t see where it ended. Double-engine, rusty boxcars covered with bright graffiti and gang tags.

The art always made the cars seem so squat. It looked as if the offenders had skimped on ladders, or were in a big hurry. Usually the graffiti only covered the bottom half or so of the train.

I loved watching the trains go by. All day, all night. Screeching and metal clanging, waking me in the middle of the night. No warning horns sounding in the city, no lazy crossings where gates would fall. No long lines of cars shining their headlights into the night, lined up and waiting. Here instead, just the crumbling bridge overpasses of the Grand Trunk Railroad, under which derelicts and junkies found shelter from the weather, cyclists got a quick thrill from graffiti sightings and the occasional falling chunk of concrete. The Grand Trunk, the Grand Funk as borrowed and adapted by that scruffy, unwashed 70s band. This city, a perfect place for that railroad and that band to be born.

Jarred back to the present, in the past, the sounds of sliding slamming jerking metal-upon-metal as the cars sped or ambled past the old brick factory loft. It was a sound that at first frightened me, but I had grown to love hearing.

“Hey, do the trains ever stop? I mean, like, stop so someone could get on?”

I shrugged and thought about it for a moment. The idea never had occurred to me. Sometimes they stopped. Either for the Amtrak station just around the corner, if they were passenger trains, but for the heavily vandalized cargo trains, god knows what else.

Duderman grabbed my cigarette, the last stumpy bit, put it between his lips, and took a long drag.

 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

So, I’ve been thinking about these nasty bastards all day.

These rich, nasty bastards.

They can make their own utopia. Build a planned, gated community and stay there. Create their own utopia. Take their money and get the hell out. They’d leave all the rest of us here in peace, in our own utopia we’ve been building since the 1960s.

Some people I know are some of these rich, nasty fuckers. I also love some of them more than I can even describe, and think the world of them. This incongruence is confusing. Distressing. But it just is, nonetheless. These people are the business owning folks. Those that have family businesses handed down to them, and now their smug entitlement would make any humanitarian cry. You feel like you own a small piece of the world, so now you can run it. And determine the personal lives and choices of all those riding on it.

The blue-collar half of me feels differently. The working class half from an electrician father and his Ford-worker girlfriend. Those folks know exactly what it feels like to be screwed, and hard against the wall by someone or something you don’t want screwing you. So, although they have money now – thanks to the UAW and IBEW – they really remember that working-class hunger. And they’re ready at a moment’s notice to say “fuck off” to any rich bastard who tells lies and tries to get the American public to do his bidding.

So this is where we are, as Americans, today. Election Day 2012.

Caught between these rich sons-a-bitches and all else besides. Off to vote. All for now.

 

 

TWO

Maumee

 

This is a story of many rivers.

The wind tells the histories of the rivers. Does the wind not watch those many flowing rivers in the darkness, as they do not stop with the setting of the sun? All night long the silence surrounds them but they muffle their voices for nothing, no one. They carry leaves, twigs, small animals, passengers both willing and not so, floating many miles. The rivers stop for nothing, no one.

What does this river hear? Flowing north or south, east or west, acting only according to the dictates of gravity, the river listens. Strange sounds fill the thick darkness between the tracks of the Norfolk & Western line and the banks of the Maumee. The current grinds its erosive path through the land that was once called the Great Black Swamp. The Iron Horse runs faster than the quick and steady current. It stops for nothing, no one.

An insolent psst psst is carried in humid waves through the air by steam power, bellowing from within the deep soul of the man-made monster. Water is carried many miles, thousands, pressed into such a state of high agitation by the filthy black coals dug from the bowels of a Georgia mountaintop. It feeds the hunger of an angry machine.

For so many cars back, human passengers smile and chat, oblivious to the continual combustive drama in the engine of their trusted Iron Horse. Every second, every minute is filled with one red-orange flame after another while the psst psst continues its sinuous dance.

Fine coal particles darken the window as Herbert Kelsey gazes out from his passenger car. His elder brother Delmar sits quietly in the seat beside him, flipping through a copy of Detective Story. The magazine’s cover, resting in Delmar’s palm and withering from its clamminess, says “May 1931.” Psssst psst goes the steam engine, and Herb cocks his head to listen.

“Delmar,” he says softly. Delmar does not respond, but turns past a full-page advertisement for Chesterfield cigarettes. “Delmar,” he says again, a little more loudly. The older brother closes the magazine and places it on his lap, keeping a finger in his page.

“Yeah?”

“You sure he’s got it all set?” Herb says, scratching his chin through two days’ whiskers.

“Yeah, I’m sure. Got the letter, just Tuesday. And he ain’t no liar, that I’m sure about too.”

“But we ain’t never been up here before. We ain’t never even been away from Chillicothe. Why the hell you think we should go now?”

Delmar stretches his arms overhead and yawns. “That’s just the way it’s set to be, that’s all. They wouldn’t be sending us these train tickets iffin’ there wasn’t no work to be had. You know Jack Carter ain’t no liar. Ain’t no big thing, and don’t you worry nothin’ about it.” He opens the magazine and continues with his flipping.

A small child across the aisle from Herb cries out in anticipation of his supper. Herb realizes he is hungry too, and reaches in his pocket for a crumpled wad of wax paper. Opening it, he finds a crust of day-old bread on which he begins to gnaw happily. We can take stock of Herb Kelsey then unnoticed, as he is eating. He’s a young lad, an inexperienced 17 years old on his last birthday. He has good teeth, white and all intact, which make him a bit of a novelty amongst his home crowd in Chillicothe, Ohio. Herb’s ancestors come from good hillbilly stock that has slowly migrated over the miles north from Georgia for decades now.

Back in Chillicothe, most of the neighbors on Cooks Hill Road consider Herb not bad to look at, with a stronger jaw and prettier eyes than his father or grandfather. Amongst his four brothers and one sister, Herb Kelsey is silently acknowledged as the handsomest, if not the brightest, in the bunch. His blue-grey eyes catch the attention of the young ladies, even those sitting with their beaus in the train car, and his military-issue haircut gives him the air of an all-American hero. It’s the same hairstyle his mother Jeanne has had a fondness for since during the Great War.

Herb, unaware of this impersonal physical inspection, chews deliberately on the last bit of crust and then swallows. The train’s whistle shrieks and he peers out the window past Delmar, who has put his magazine away. He rests, eyes closed. Through the moonlight, Herb can see reflections off the current of the Maumee as the train barrels off into the darkness. Images there and not there, barely visible for a fraction of a second, and then gone. The chug-a-chug of the engine forms a backdrop for an impromptu symphony as he listens.

He screws up his brow and tries not to think of what lies ahead – long working hours, the search for a new place to live, and a whole new life. He rubs his dry, cracked hands together and looks down into his lap at them. Hands of a 40-year-old man. He’s been working 10-hour days in Chillicothe’s meatpacking plant since he was 15. They were two years of hard manual labor that seem to him like 10. He puts his left thumb into his mouth and then rubs it across an angry gash on his right hand, a two-inch-long cut from his last working day. The young scab blends into his skin with the pressure and the blood surges to heal the new wound.

“Next stop, Toledo,” the conductor announces as he walks down through the aisle way. “Next stop, Toledo. 10 minutes.” Herb checks his pocket watch and settles in for a short nap. 10 minutes until another stop and then another, to their final destination. Thoughts of Ypsilanti, Michigan – that strange, industrialized land to the north – thwart his attempt to drift off.

He consciously moves those vague images aside for more pleasing ones. Margaret Farmer at his birthday party. Her floral dress flapping in the evening breeze, shaping for his eyes the outlines of her boyish legs. Her black Mary Janes digging their heels into the soft mud of his family’s backyard. He feels a stirring deep inside as he remembers her hair, curled into a modest, loose bun at the nape of her neck. He hears the strains of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Southern Cannonball” as she allows him to push her awkwardly around their makeshift dance floor, made of thin boards lined up one after another and nailed together over the spring mud. Her shoes make scuffling noises as she presses her cheek into the side of his neck, lost in the music and the smell of his aftershave cologne.

Herb breathes deeply and relaxes into the bliss of this memory. He can almost smell the fruity sweetness of Margaret’s hair.

“Next stop, Toledo,” he hears one last time as he falls into a numb state of half-consciousness.

 

THREE

Scioto

 

The rivers grow angry.

When angered, they always rise. They rise as if with the tides and spill over their banks, joining their waters with the soil of many generations, and the creations of those living and those yet to come.

The Scioto snakes its way through Chillicothe, bringing nourishment to crops and washing industrial runoff downstream. The river’s name comes from a Shawnee word, “Scionto,” meaning deer. Once a Shawnee chief stood overlooking these banks, thinking of maize and settlement and skirmishes with the white man to come. He prayed to his gods and knelt beside the great Scitonto, scooped a fistful of the rich soil into his hand. When small boys and girls play “Cowboys and Indians” in the Ohio River Valley, alongside the banks of the Scioto, they dream of this great Indian chief and his legendary prowess in battle.

The name Chillicothe has native heritage as well. The label aptly describes the locale, meaning “gathering place” in the native tongue. It was once the gathering place for many tribes, from many miles around, looking to barter and trade with the white man as he migrated across the continent.

Remainder of the chapter: Herb dreams of his childhood in Chillicothe. He remembers ghost stories that his childhood friends told of the Shawnee chief and of floods from the Scioto in 1907 and 1913. He envisions the 1913 flood from his mother’s womb. He imagines that even as a fetus, he can hear the cries of people losing life and property in the disaster, and watch as flood waters engulf Yoctangee Park. He imagines he can witness a train’s demise in the 1907 disaster, as it plunges into flood waters when a water-damaged gives way. The chapter ends with the image of children playing with their toy trains on the banks of the Scioto.

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

My granddad never should’ve been a factory worker. He was a farmer. Hands in the dirt. Farmer by trade, vocation, heart and soul. When he was little he’d make a mess with his five siblings out in the field, rolling around in the fresh mud from the early spring rains.

“It was danged cold and we were for sure, a dirty lot. But man, if we didn’t have ourselves some fun.”

My mom used to say she had racing fuel in her blood. Or, it was her blood. I can’t totally remember. I know that feeling too. The smell of nitro at a drag strip makes my pulse race as much as the scent of my lover’s skin, or the anticipation of a good drink. Like a drug. Well, for my granddad George, dirt was the same way. If a person could live with rich, fertile soil in their veins, he would’ve been the man.

 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

They built the machines, the cars – we raced them.

They conserved every cent, every drop of fuel – we used it.

Again and again, penny and dollar and gallon after gallon. We wasted it all, frivolously pissing it all away.

Henry Ford’s men gave away the old lumber. My grandfather built his house. Then, the imported powder-post beetles threatened to take it all away.

What does it all mean? Everything, or nothing?

I’m just not sure.

 

FOUR

Huron

 

The rivers have ghosts.

 

All along the banks at night you can feel them, leaving chilled pockets of air as they float along with the currents. Even the mighty Huron, its wide watery body cutting a swath through southeastern Lower Michigan, is not safe from the passing of the ghosts. Wails and shrieks of natives long gone, long dead, echo through the pitch-black skies of a mid-spring night.

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