Creative Non-Fiction

From the Heights

Here is a house with a 20 foot oval of grass out front. The lawn is surrounded by lava rocks. The rough stones have been smashed to bits, are colored like the dark velvet walls of an old fashioned steak house. Banging them against the sidewalk makes small white sparks.

The family next door gets up every morning at four. The lights come on and trucks zoom away. Then the lot of them spend the last minutes of night wrapping up 350 copies of the daily paper. The old man wears a rotten Australian slouch hat. He smokes Camel squares and will give you one if you tell him your father said it was okay.

Across the street is an airline pilot with a small foreign car. He has a swimming pool. A woman with brown hair in a bathing suit and a long white beach towel wanders back and forth between the front door and his Triumph. She is singing songs from Rumours by Fleetwood Mac as she carries in some groceries and a couple of bottles of good booze.

In the white house with grey trim, Chen practices the viola . His parents own a restaurant filled with heavy wooden chairs and diners who dig the Burque style chop suey. The recording artist on the corner drives a Cadillac El Dorado and is never home. He has painted the automobile the color of rosy-fingered dawn and refers to it as the luckiest car in the universe.

There are more plants in the back yard; the sprinklers come on at midnight. A small garden with oleanders, roses and lavender has been cleaved out of clay in one corner. At the far end, beyond the peach trees and pear trees, there is a datura bush that draws emperor moths and small bats to its trumpet-like flowers.

Summertime comes around. The swamp cooler shakes and buzzes. When evening advances all of the neighbors walk out to the street without their shoes. Everyone wants to talk about food, how long the days have become or why the surrounding desert should be avoided at night due to coyotes, rattle snakes and the seeming proximity of the stars out there in the arroyo.