Sirenna Blas is really good at getting lost in places she’s been before, missing the alarm, and drinking beer. (However, she’s pretty bad at knowing what number that one-beer-too-many is.) When she was younger, she wanted to be a park ranger, and she often wonders when that dream derailed because riding around on a horse with one of those cool ranger hats often sounds more appealing than pulling all-nighters to study and write papers.
On TV, we saw the Great Lakes congeal like oil. Michigan City’s coal-fired plant was a white tower amidst black clouds. John laughed, calling it our last beacon of hope. But when he’d go to work at the taco joint on Route 30, he’d never notice the sulfur in the air. Or the dust that settled on his jersey shirt. When he’d come home, he’d complain about flakes of meat in his hair and the degreaser on his hands, which smelled sweet, like corn syrup.
He came home one day and said, “I just saw this chick shot on 30. Businesses are all closing down, so I think I’m gonna be out of a job soon.”
We stay now in my cousin’s house in the mountains. She fled North and told us where the keys were hidden. All she left behind were dishes in the cupboards, sheets in the dresser, brown rice in a porcelain canister. The bed is made, but John and I sleep on the couch like children, holding each other so we won’t roll off the edge. When we arrived, I reinforced every window and door, a hammer in my hand, nails in my teeth.
John laughed again here. “We made it in time to get screwed on both ends. This war from the East. Fucking wildfires coming in from the West.”
It’s been a month. And John’s playing video games, wearing socks, a pair of boxers. I’m standing on the wooden porch that overlooks Ute Pass where a giant white cloud is growing. Its mushroom shape fits perfectly in the edges of the mountains. The sky is brown. Radio says it’s only a hailstorm, no alarm, might extinguish the fires that have spread from Montana. I’ve left the screen door open so he’ll maybe smell the sulfur, finally taste the dust in his teeth.
The radio says the hail is as big as a man’s fist.
I yell for John because black smoke is rising above the trees. I can’t tell which noises come from the ice pellets hitting roofs, which come from tanks and troops that have followed. But there’s a wall, a kitchen, a television set between us, so I know John can’t hear me over the zombies he’s fighting, the fictionalized 1940s freedom he’s fighting for. I am alone with the brown sky undulating with white cumulonimbi. The rattling floorboards and handrail. Pines folding in like used umbrellas. He doesn’t smell it. He doesn’t realize just how close the edge of the porch is to the hail that bounces off the ground in plumes of smoke, or the women who have bullets in their breasts.
I go into the kitchen, alone, and break a dish to see how it feels against the rest of the vibrations.