Like the Forest of Ardennes

barbed townHe made it to the sidewalk and was running downhill, toward the heart of town. His breaths were large and forced and his arms were off-rhythm from his legs.

He came to an intersection but there were no cars. He ran through and the road leveled off. He was at the big fence meant to keep eyes off the huge industrial abscess, or to keep it in. The fence was woven with green plastic but had been there for 30 years or more and chunks had fallen out. Inside he could see the dark empty ground.

fence peakHe came to the gate, two halves of a chain-link fence chained together. In front of it a wooden guard house that had lost its paint and was leaning. The chain between the halves was too long and he slipped between.

He ducked through and, when he looked up, considered slipping back out. It looked bombed out. It looked like the forest of Ardennes in the winter of 1944. It looked like fallout.

Outside the fence, there was snow. Inside there was none. What grass there was, was stubble – brown and thick and sharp. Winter had killed most grass, but this grass looked poisoned. The ground looked warm but he didn’t want to touch it. There were puddles but none had ice.

There were broken buckets and piles of rocks; arms missing from machines and odd stains in the soil; concrete columns down to stumps, like someone had taken an axe to the Acropolis.

He walked onto a long slab of concrete. It was cracked and crumbling at the edges from where its building was torn.

The only thing like a structure left was a series of beams and trusses sticking out of the ground. It looked like whale bones. Like a brontosaurus skeleton. Like it had wandered in, grazed and died from it. The ribs were huge, and opaque plastic flapped from them like ancient flags.

Farther ahead was a largesmall torn fence stone. He stood on it, and thought, this is the center of town. He had walked almost 200 yards and there were 200 more to go. He looked that way. He could see the glow of the gas station over the fence. He had driven through there. Across from there, there was a small park. There was a headstone shop and another local business. There was the Salvation Army.

If he kept walking, he’d hit the gas station, but he changed his course. He snuck out the side where a section of the fence had been pulled up. He walked over beer cans, cigarette packs, empty books of rolling papers.

He crawled through and was back in someone’s yard. All the houses were dark. He wondered if anyone lived there.

He was running again, behind and parallel to Main Street. He could see the Bessemer Building. Its curved top lumbered above the rest.

He felt like he was chasing the moon.

 

— We are an Old Town

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