My current project. A novel. It has nothing to do with Foucault, though Simeon Wade has a doppleganger in the story.

the desert (first draft)

I ducked under an overhang where there was a tiny carpet of shade and twisted out from the straps of my pack. Opening it, I found one, two empty liter bottles of water and two more, full. I lined these up carefully in the shade. I pulled out my phone and turned it on – no signal; I thought not. Switched it off again. Returned it to its plastic bag. Lined it up next to the water. My topographic map. Sun screen. Energy bars, six of them. Headlamp. Fleece (ha, as if). My knife, the smaller one. All lined up on the dirt, looking efficient, except for the empty water bottles, which still had me spooked. Finally, my grandmother’s teeth, her last set, in an Altoids container. I planned to leave these at the cabin once I got there. Maybe then she would stop haunting me, and I could rest.

It looked okay, my kit. I could get to the cabin in an hour, according to the topo map, and after resting should be able to get back out to my car by dark. As long as I kept moving. As long as my ankles didn’t swell to grapefruit size. As long as I didn’t trip over my clumsy feet, break something and die of thirst. At least the way back to the car was downhill. Maybe I could roll down. Ha ha.

I leaned back against the rough face of the butte and closed my eyes. It was a still day, and with my eyes shut, the silence pressed on me. I found this comforting of course, as it reminded me of home, where all noise is muffled and you are always surrounded by heaviness. And then I heard the high, squealing voices of children. The voices swept over me, incomprehensible and swarming, reminding me of a school of panicked fish. Tones, twisting.

Mimi’s teeth rattled in the Altoids box as I pushed everything into my pack and snapped the plastic clasps shut. I stood up warily, scanning the road ahead and behind, the scrub along the road, and then the horizon along the butte. I saw no one. But even as a youngster in the Florida swamp I’d heard about Charlie Manson and his hideout in Barker Ranch. I don’t believe in karma, necessarily, but I do believe that the unhinged and murderous are called to the desert. So I was not going to risk being overtaken by some squealing children’s desert cult unaware. I knelt in the road and put my hands over my eyes and imagined that I was underwater. I clicked once, twice, and listened with my inner ear, as the sound rolled up the butte and across the dusty valley.

so so so rough