Monday, December 02, 2013


Lydia smelled the dawn–a hint of dew-laden dust sifting through her open window–before she heard the grinding gears whining in the distance.  

         At first she thought it was a garbage truck. Too early.  A hard gust brought the acrid scent of exhaust.  The sound grew louder.  Her mother was not home from work yet.  Outside, the dogs barked.

         Standing on the front porch in her nightgown, Lydia looked to the east.  Dawn backlit the transit of three gargantuan steamrollers.  They mowed down adobe house after adobe house.  Each mechanical giant stood five stories high, their rollers a relentless tsunami cutting a swath through the squat homes of her neighborhood.   A gauzy, virulent haze from the exploding mud bricks surrounded the machines.

         She reeled back into the house, grabbed her infant sister and awakened her young brother. "Get the cat!"  

She ran with them to the hill behind her house.  The bird!  The colossal contraptions were at the Montoya's, two doors down.   

Lydia ran back and lifted the birdcage off its hook.  She tucked the hamster cage under her other arm and took one last look around. 

         The whine of the machines changed pitch right before they tamped down a house.  They were next door, the smell hot and sulfurous. Lydia remembered her mother's tip box, hidden in the lingerie drawer under the fur scarf of glassy-eyed minks biting each other's tails. The money clanged in time to her run up the hill, where her brother and sister waited. They watched the devastation below.  Their mother would return home to a pile of dirt, but they were safe.

         The thumping of her heart and gasping breath awakened her.  Her muscles ached.  In the kitchen, her mother spooned mush into the baby’s mouth.  "I could sure use some help around here."  When Lydia didn’t answer, she focused on her daughter’s dream-confused expression and shook her head.   

“Always dreaming," her mother said, and wiped the baby's mouth.  "Always thinking of yourself." 

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