In addition to its other powers, the Arizona heat compels decay. My forty-year-old apartment building with its Class C construction and Title Eight clientele didn’t stand a chance. The stench had overtaken my bedroom months ago, the epicenter of my carefully assembled physics experiment. Even with a bandana tied around my face, the room stank like clam bellies festering in the desert sun.
I tossed another stack of torn and stained newspapers, Gila Bend Suns and Arizona Republics, onto the edges of the enormous trash heap and then angled my metal grabber, dropping Tuttle’s typed letter on top of the pile. At this point, my self-constructed stellar nursery was taller than me, taller even than my twin brother, Agustin, or any other full-sized man.
I’d done my best to get things right. Under all the carefully selected trash was a mattress, a small side table, and two of our most precious family heirlooms: the Pointer Sisters’ album Energy and a polished circle of pyrite. Mama’s favorite song, “Fire,” was on that album.
Didn’t matter. I still had only ten days left.
My hand wobbled and the grabber dipped into a syrupy pool of sludge about one-third of the way down the room’s molding heap. “Christ,” I muttered. Bok globules might be the smallest sites of star formation, but building one in your bedroom was filthy work.
I needed that plastic claw for more than nursery care. Being a little man, a little person, in a hick town like Gila Bend meant everyone noticed when I couldn’t reach the bread shelf at Sunrider’s Grocery. It also meant no one lifted a finger to help. I was just that “little Jack Rodriquez with the asshole chip on his shoulder.”
The full story may be read in Isthmus issue no 4.
Julie C. Day’s fiction has appeared in Resurrection House’s anthology XIII; Electric Velocipede; and A cappella Zoo’s best-of anthology, Bestiary. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from USM’s Stonecoast program and an MS in Microbiology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. You can find Julie on Twitter @thisjulieday or through her website: www.stillwingingit.com.