My editor called me into his office and when I got there I could hardly see him behind the great stacks of paper on his desk. I want you to go to Las Vegas to cover the race riots, he said. What race riots, I said.
“Don’t you read the papers?”
There’s nothing in our paper about any race riots or anything in Las Vegas, I said. Not our newspaper, he said, a real newspaper, our paper is shit, and I nodded and drove to the airport in the dizzying heat wondering why he sent me to cover race riots when my beat was local government. I stopped at the airport newsstand and bought copies of all the major dailies across the country and then I started to think about how hot Las Vegas was going to be, sweating, the shimmering heat vapor, and the thought made me very tired. I got on the airplane and once we took off I began leafing through the various newspapers looking for the story about the riots in Vegas and I didn’t see anything. Hate crimes in Georgia, a school shooting in Des Moines. Death in Denver. An airplane crash in Beijing, all eight hundred aboard dead, and I thought it was impossible to fit that many people on a plane, but then again you learn something new every day. Broadsheets and tabloids crinkled and folded, my hands stained black from the ink. Nothing about Las Vegas, nothing about race riots.
When we landed I called my editor and told him that I checked all the papers and there was nothing about Vegas or any riots. Well you’re there, he said, start asking around. What races are rioting, anyway, I said, but he had already hung up. And what are they rioting about, I said to the dead line.
I checked into a cheap motel and showered and turned on the local television to see if I could land any mention of my assignment, but there was nothing about any races or riots in the Vegas area, and I lied down and told myself I could afford a few minutes of rest before making calls and before I knew it I was dreaming of time and madness and I couldn’t convince myself they were two distinct things, I dreamed of open sores and boils on the skin and that my brain was baking slowly inside my skull and I dreamed of bruises and lost loves and poetry written on walls with giant brushes made from the hair of dead babies, and then I dreamed of race riots in Cleveland, race riots in Vancouver, race riots in Buenos Aires, race riots everywhere except Las Vegas, and in the dream I was running, I was always running, a guerilla journalist looking for racial strife and other violence but also the hidden meaning behind news terms like nut graph and lede and kicker. Then I dreamed I was coughing and I didn’t know why until I put on my glasses and noticed the air was hazy with pink and red and I realized I was breathing vaporized blood, choking me, and there was a terrible taste in my mouth that wouldn’t go away. I tried to wake myself up but I just fell deeper into the dream and there was a dancing woman, a woman trained in classical ballet and she was twirling and spinning and contorting her body in myriad ways and it was fascinating, mesmerizing, hypnotic, and then I noticed her hair was on fire, her head leaving a smoky trail wherever it dipped or glided and swung, and then the woman stopped dancing and stared at me with her hair on fire and her eyes mad and she said she could see death everywhere, she could see death on television and in the malls, she could see it emerging from the crowds in the street, she could see it in the jumbled letters of newsprint, she could see it in elevators and on the subway and she could see that death knew she saw it and it didn’t care, it didn’t try to hide the fact that it was death and not just some strange or ominous thing, and she said that death was neither a male nor a female presence but completely androgynous, and I told her that made sense and she got angry with me and said I could never understand something as beautifully complex as death and then she walked away, muttering under hear breath as her head melted. I imagined that death probably looked like a man or a fish or even a church, and somehow I knew that I was not afraid of death regardless of its appearance. Then I dreamed of Haitian kids creating rainbows out of feet fungus and I dreamed of people machine gunning their own in the streets of some strange country, I dreamed of closing doors and baritone saxophone players with their eyes closed and their bodies writhing with their improvised emotive forces, and then I dreamed of race riots in Pamplona, race riots in Seattle, race riots in Las Cruces, I dreamed of worms, I dreamed of giant brown worms with legs like humans who stood upright like humans, wormus erectus, and I dreamed the worms were bred to commit suicide at a particular age and I thought it tragically out of their control, the suicide gene written into their slimy genetic code, I dreamed of all the pain in the world condensed and concentrated into one small room, and then I dreamed of time travel.
To read the story in its entirety, you’re gonna have to buy the book when it comes out.
One thought on “The skeptic”
I’m only two stories deep, and I’m def. moved and impressed by your use of language. Your images are palpable, the story line enticing, and I’ve already experienced moments of laughter, contemplation, and intensity. Not to mention, the fact that I’m already excited to read more of your work. A writer indeed.