An excerpt from 'Forty Days of Fire, Forty Days of Rain,' a living novel by Douglas McDaniel:
I rush over to her condo. This is a moment that must be shared. The Senator John Kerry is prepared to concede. He will give no fight for Ohio, though in time we will learn there is something clearly wrong with the count. It seems fishy. The ballot machines have had their dials turned toward counting giving peace a chance as zero, pure evil as one. I rush over, in tears by the time I get to her door. The emotion of the fulminating moment pouring through me, just as it must be pouring through exactly half of the voting nation. She answers the door and we embrace, weeping madly: The whole world is done.
Within the hour we are charging up a shale rock mountain in central Phoenix and she is screaming at the creosote, the sky, the wide sky that never answers back. She runs ahead up the trail. Pissed off at everything. Including me. We had messed up on the previous night in terms of getting to the polls on time, and when she’d found they were closed, tried to start a personal insurrection with the poor tired blue haired women running the voting station in a community meeting room at a church in the Arcadia District, a predominantly Red voter part of town, maybe a mile, maybe two, from one of the homes owned by Senator John McCain in Paradise Valley, a town with a statue and unapproachable (in terms of, hah, pedestrian access) cactus and stone inlaid monument to the late icon of conservatism, Barry Goldwater. I’m afraid the blue-haired ladies are getting ready to call the cops, so I pull out of there as she fumes.
The mountain we are climbing now is just a mile away, too, and as we rise along the trail, which is now a sidetrack from the main thoroughfare as she apparently doesn’t want to be around any human being, we can see the rooftops of the fabulous rich down below us. They are reddish-roofed haciendas on sprawling properties, lush with swimming pools with small waterfall amenities, global greenery. They have the entire Phoenix Mountain Preserve for backyards. They are in excellent defensive positioning to insulate themselves from the rest of humanity. But now they are under assault from the rear. She is at the top of the peak now, overlooking the glory and security and shallowness of the rich and she’s throwing stones at these houses. The stones disappear in the sky. I join in. But the homes are still too far away. The stones, like our uncounted votes, disappear into the blue sky. We cannot hear the sound as the well-thrown stones land, harmlessly in the vertical desert below. So then she starts yelling at the city itself, at the state that never wants anything to change because it’s immune to war: Things are just too good. I join in.
Fuck youhoooooooooo! Fuck youhooooos! You fucking vampires! Fuck you all!
Arizona, I don't recognize you anymore
Your creosote roots lie beneath
the perfect piles of McDonalds parking lots
Arizona, an unequal symmetry
of rubble piles collect
Ten thousand miles from here
Arizona, you are responsible ...
The middle-aged businessman
with expendable income
sweats for pleasure
Arizona, when can I stop sweating?
I swear in the heat like a pizza oven
Arizona, you are a car part store
but you got no glass to see through
and the beige collection
of air conditioned caves
is conditioned to respond
in all the right ways
The forests are in ashes
as the governor gapes
from a helicopter high
Arizona, I can find no fluid,
no friend, nor car phone to lean on
By GPS, you can find me in the living room,
darkly lit, with rayolight flashing
bible black blurbs
Arizona, not even Ginsberg
would gripe about your tripe,
so blurred with anonymity
hell hardly matters anymore
Arizona, my life's belongings
are melting in a storage facility
and there are more things that beep
here than I can count
Arizona, you haven't hassled me for a while
The world is flooding
as you dry up and blow away
Arizona, a kid almost got crushed in your parking lot
and I went to one of your social service buildings
and was amazed about how many homeless lurks
were sleeping in the lobby
Arizona, I can't get assistance at the cash register
and the mountains are closed, cats run free
and all the lizards are gone
Arizona, you are sucking in souls
I think you should battalion
the borders with snow
The apocalyptic dread is all over me. Inside my head. Surely now, we will be attacked again. Though Phoenix is a long way from the East Coast, where all of the terrorist mayhem took place four years before, my paranoia is running unchecked. We devise escape plans in case of attack. When the lights go out, are if the sky turns to fire and we somehow survive, the best plan is to walk north to the mountains since the automobiles and highways supporting them will be of no use. We will move to the mountains north of Cave Creek and Carefree. I know where there are springs and water and game to be had as we worry ourselves into a survivalist mentality since, after all, we are sure to be attacked again and if, say, the Palo Verde Nuclear Power station were attacked the winds would head generally northeasterly and if we went southeasterly … oh hell, a few days later, weeks, then a month past, and nothing happens, my swirling brain gets calm enough to get toward a more practical plan. Because, you see, we felt the real problem was our inability to mix with people in such a hotbed of conservatism where no change is necessary, where the stores are chockfull of goods, most people are fully employed, where hundreds and hundreds of SUVs continue, shamelessly from their daily grinds to their convenience stores and big box meatlockered retail hubs and back to their TVs at night to feed on channelized fear and gory, glorified entertainments.
To escape the city to seek like-minded souls in the presumably more stable confines of small resort becomes … a kind of solution we can both get behind … so off to the small towns we go …
The Bull Run Fire came to about my doorstep. Five miles east, wind in my face and the fire plume, a violet volcano was close enough to see the white washed coat of burned juniper to force the Saturn in the nostrils. It was burning as a series of full plumes on Hackberry Mountain, south of the Verde River Valley in Central Arizona. But the mountain and the nearby mesas appeared to fizzle out and dampen around a many shouldered beast of fire and smoke.
We had been living in the Verde Valley for six months, on the edge of BLM lands holding a good portion of the General Crook Trail as it wound its way up to the Plateau. Then a major fire, started in Carefree maybe 60 to 80 miles south as the crow flies from the easterly banks of the Verde River, as it flowed to the desert canyons north of Phoenix. Big suckerfish Phoenix. We had escaped, but not for long. The fire started at some high-end hacianda had come all this way up and over and across the mountains, burning great fields of sage and juniper and sajuaro; the mountains of central Arizona blackened, from highway to shining highway,, burning more than 100,000 acres. As the smoke climbed onto the ridge, we went home and made a list of what we would need when the call for evacuation came, feeling a strange craving disaster to bring the memories awake, the dreaming down as great thin-legged clouds spiderwalk across the purple ridge, purple with weather, as our precious things shake in their cupboard, and nostalgia elucidates the decision making process.
Lightning pounds the mesas and the wind pushes down in atomic bundles and white orange flares of violence; A curtain on the sun is a dirty window of light, as we blow out compressed desires, pressing the sky, re-animating us.