Academic journal article Hecate

Credits Repair

Academic journal article Hecate

Credits Repair

Article excerpt

The sirens start dropping out of the pines like a mess of crows, but Tirana has already smelled smoke.

'Fire!' she cries, jumping up. When she opens my living room window and leans out, something hot sucks at us and a stack of filing papers rises to meet it. The screen fell out months ago and the pages flutter over the parking lot, their little 'sign here' flags a whir of color.

'Now look what you've done,' Carol says sadly. That's two weeks' work.'

'Something's burning,' Tirana says.

'It's nothing. It's just fire trucks up on the Interstate,' Solana tells Carol.

'There's black smoke.'

'Any diversion.' Solana folds her arms and narrows her eyes. She could be measuring Tirana: for coveralls, for prison garb, for a coffin. 'With clients like her....'

'But that's the whole point, isn't it?'

In the lee of the Interstate, all points are blurred by the eighteen-- wheelers. We can't see them. Thirty years ago, when our world was called forth from industrial waste and red Georgia clay, the developer had a low mountain range ordered in. Earth-movers planted it. It is forty feet high, and curves as naturally as though God himself put it there. Then truckloads of pines and sycamores arrived. All this was before my time, but I've figured it out. In theory, the steep strip of forest buffers us from levels of noise considered harmful. We are below the expressway. We live in its hip pocket. We rent its basement apartments. We can't see it, its roar is muffled, but eight lanes of tractor-trailers, ambulances, police sirens, blowouts and collisions are a syncopated bass thump in our bones and underneath our feet.

From my window you can see a slash of blacktop below (fifty parking spaces), then Block H opposite, then the hillslope of pines between us and the Interstate. People often stand at their windows and stare into the pines. Sometimes they gaze and inhale assorted substances. Sometimes they just gaze.

Tirana is reading the tips of the sycamores. She is watching the pine tufts for blips of red. 'I see them,' she calls. 'They're on the exit now.' 'Tirana knows a bleeding heart sucker when she sees one, Carol, she's a pro. She's got you wrapped around her little finger.' Carol just looks at Solana.

'It's her funeral,' Solana says, exasperated. 'Her mess. She's got the attention span of a ten-year-old. Why do we bother?'

'You're so harsh, Solana.'

'Yes, ma'am,' Solana says. Throw Tirana's folder out,' she orders me. 'She's disqualified herself.'

I look at Carol and she gives me a little smile, puts her finger to her lips, and shakes her head. I like Carol, I like working with her, but she feels guilty for being white. Not me. I'll call a bitch a bitch whatever color it is, and Solana is a bitch: Miss African-American princess, Yale Law School, the Ivy League Queen. When she looks at Tirana, her eyes say: Don't you dare confuse me with one of those.

'They're turning in here,' Tirana calls.

Solana dismisses this with a wave of her hand because ninety-eight percent of the time, here in Eden Gardens, it's a false alarm. But then we hear a sound like fatback spitting on a grill as big as Texas, and even Solana gets up and puts her weight against the sliding doors and goes out onto my screen porch. It is not a real screen porch, but a second-floor balcony big enough for two K-Mart chairs and a plastic table. About three years ago, to qualify for FHA improvement grants, the landlord had nylon mesh stapled to the uprights, but the mesh sags and bellies out like a sail. A four-lane thruway for mosquitoes and flies, Solana says, which is true. Also, it faces south, and the heat punches you as you open the sliding doors, so the porches are reserved exclusively for doggy doo-doo and Hibachi grills. Carol and Tirana join Solana out there, and I close the living-room window that Tirana left open, and then I go out on the screen porch and push the sliding door shut. …

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