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I blame you personally, I really do, and if not you exactly then I certainly blame your parents. And I’m not saying we have equal share in this, I’m not saying I’m exactly as bad for the planet as you are, but if blaming myself will get me closer to blaming you, then I’ll happily do it—I blame myself.
Where were you when the construction began? What did you have to demolish? Yes, alright, I have to hand it to you—give it to you personally—you put your heart in its place! There’s something on the horizon that wasn’t there before, and I have to admit even I find it beautiful, like spilled blood. Who invited all these people here anyway? How many last breaths do you think we should take? How much better could these cheeseburgers possibly taste? Not much, am I right? I mean this is a good burger.
…this is how u write…
…when the world is ending…
…this is how regular ppl read…
…when the water sucks to drink…
…and the air is annoying to breathe…
I know a capitalist who still believes in seawalls. He devoted his life to the accumulation of capital, which really jazzed his socks. (I, like most people, like my socks, and I put on a clean pair every morning, beginning with my right foot and ending with my left; sometimes, if the mood strikes, I actually begin with my left foot and end with my right.) He retired to a millionaire’s estate on the Florida coast overlooking the beautiful, bloated, hot-red-tide ocean already lapping at their door.
A smart and kind man, he knew full well that his new estate was vulnerable to rising water levels when he bought it, so he joined his wealthy neighbours in their petition for a seawall. A well-built seawall might protect their property for another generation, long after the point at which he plans to sell it anyway; he’s planning on timing the climate as smartly as he’s timed the market. If you like capitalism, you have to like this guy. The absolute best and the brightest, he makes everyone jealous. He dispenses sound advice. He has little interest in most material goods. He saves his straw from the trash and brings it home to reuse and then put it into the recycling—which, ever since China stopped buying, the capitalist is keenly aware no longer exists.
“That was awful what happened with the fires, wouldn’t you agree?” Yes, said the individual person. Other individual people agreed. Consensus opinion: gas costs $3.48/gallon in the middle of the Mojave but can be had for a dollar cheaper about twelve miles down the highway. “Oh yeah, I remember that place actually. It feels like a dream.” Other individual people agreed.
It’s hard to believe that they can’t design a smarter parking lot, but they can’t.
The train companies—now this is just what I’ve heard you understand—were pretty corrupt back in the day, so the city progressives advocated for the autonomous movement of people in cars. They cast a net of asphalt across the country and sent individual automobiles spewing carbon in every direction.
Imagine the smorgasbord! Enterprising human beings in generally well-crafted cotton blend—I mean to say, comfy—clothes paved over like 60 million square miles—and these are just numbers you know, I don’t mean to imply they’re necessarily accurate—of virgin American earth, virgin American landscape, in order to give every blessed American a parking space. The math is not in our favour, either. Something about 3D-up, 2D-out, I don’t know.
“Yes, it’s all very exciting.”
You’re not listening! I’m saying the land is destroyed. Gone, cashed-out, removed from the natural world for all futurity. Oil seeps down from sloppy, drooling cars and earthworms burn up in the heat. It’s unadulterated death in every direction. All the easy stuff was drank up and paved over and now it is gone and there’s no giving it back. You will never farm that ground again.
“Unbelievable,” she says. She’s sick of the lecture. The whole thing was a mistake and they both know it. She’s never liked being hit on. But if she got mad at every man who hit on her, she’d probably never make any friends. “I guess I hadn’t thought of it like that.”
What were you chewing when the food supply crashed? How many winks did you get the night that the ocean finally went belly-up? Only the jellies survived. I love—love—LOVE! jelly sandwiches.
Burger King makes an okay burger, but I have to say that Backyard Burgers—maybe you’ve heard of it—makes a better burger. I’ve heard good things about In-n-Out but I don’t like their fries, which have a lot to admire but a lot that falls short. In the 90s, a time of collective ease that looks positively stupid in retrospect, Burger King radically reinvented their French fries, and everyone had to make a decision: did they prefer Burger King’s fries, or McDonalds?
Doesn’t matter, of course. I mean obviously Wendy’s makes the better fries. And the important thing isn’t which oil or which salts or how thick the potatoes are—the important thing is that shiny bright light that stays on all night, and the shiny bright lights that are drawn to it.
This other guy’s building a boring machine. You heard that right. And yeah, I think you can call him a capitalist. You get a lot of them out here. They’re bizarre little creatures. Pale, timid, small, a little sclerotic. What in the world would they do without capital? Make them eat meat? Force them underground? Is that distasteful? Do I sound mediocre to you? I’ve spent my time in the system, it’s true. I like to be comforted like anyone else. But you can’t have boring machines without violence. Someone does a hundred dollars’ worth of work and takes home ten, can’t explain that.
No wait—I misspoke. I’ve been less than accurate. He bought a boring machine and he’s building a boring tunnel. At least that was the story originally. This was back when I got that Simon Garfunkel haircut, when I still lived in Long Beach. I was experimenting with the missionary position at the time, and in my bedside journal I tracked nearly every new skin imperfection with precision. Sometimes I think about hacking into the boring machine and turning it on its master, but that would be criminal. I’m not a criminal, I respect certain rules. But a little money, and—those who did this—those who built—all this, just for some—for what God only knows…
I feel bad for you, I really do. They say we’ve seen 60% collapse of our vertebrates since the 70s. Those ugly, old boomtimers grew up in a different world, and all they have to show for it is the same drugs and TV shows we all get to enjoy. Old people are ugly outside and in and deserve to be personally shamed for this one, especially since they’re already off the hook. I mean we deserve to be shamed, too, but at least we have to live with our consequences—which feels like it might be enough.
You know what? No. I had nothing to do with this. I’m just a crested grebe, a duckling on the side of a busy highway. What could I have possibly done? What did you possibly do?
- Works go up.
- Energy is used.
- Consequences endure.
- Chances crack.
- Must come down.
As for me, I make do with my own little landfill. Well I wouldn’t exactly call it little, if I’m being honest. They say it’s about 700 acres, however big that is. They say that’s just about as big as big gets. I’d be lost in this world without it. I really can’t imagine what I would do.
Let me be completely honest now, because what use are secrets in an age of extinction: I have some funds still available for discretionary spending. I have a few gallons of water in the tank of my toilet, tasty enough to drink. Sometimes my dog just dunks his head right in and laps it up, and I let him. I like to think he’d let me, too.
I never go without a snack. I love my midnight snack more than anything. I pump myself full of carbohydrates at night and just pass the fuck out. I’m like a landfill—hot and gassy, poorly ventilated, growing at unusual rates. I sleep better when I’m stuffed. I wake up whenever I want. I dream about the horizon, about something barely visible to the naked eye. I am edging towards an overfill, overthrow, floating lower.
I don’t know. Makes sense to me.
My name is Daniel Uncapher and I'm a Sparks Fellow at Notre Dame, where I received my MFA, and an incoming PhD in Creative Writing student at the University of Utah. A disabled bisexual from North Mississippi, my work has appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Tin House Online, The Carolina Quarterly, Penn Review, and many others.