Saturday, September 30, 2023 Sep 30, 2023
76° F Dallas, TX
Summer Fiction

Dallas Summer Reading Series: At Least Let Me Down Easy

The cacophony of the traffic and activity on and along the High Five Interchange can easily drown out a simple request: let me down easy.
By Joe Milazzo |
Tatjana Junker

Hazards flash. A pedal pumps. Something reminiscent of both an egret and a crustacean—but neither—attends its suspension above curves more commonly felt than beheld. Diamonds (red, yellow, blue) within diamonds (unmarked) merge four and five levels below. Fumes fume. Buttresses hang. Gusts imitate an ocean. Signs cycle through their alphabets and arithmetic. Shadows stories high fork back to reach some gnomon, eclipsing only the most golden stars. The evening stampede on I-635 bottlenecks, gridlock becoming a solar array. Smithereens of assemble-it-yourself baby furniture, shingles, sacks of Quikrete pinball off barricades more refracted than luminescent. Creeper vans draft behind white Silverados and Rams. Inside cabins of Cutlasses and PT Cruisers, beige velour sags away from neoprene sponge that’s lost its spring to controlled climates. Yielding loses patience. Patience evades restlessness. Locks lock. Abrasions—grumbling treads, swirls of dry leaves—imitate an ocean. Maladaptations to a childhood’s hardscrabble roads pan and tilt in an inner ear. Lanes stacked at noon look like staves, conveyances like an automatic transcription of arpeggios. As the Doppler effect rushes northbound on U.S.-75, a hymn is borne toward the anthemic. A lone raindrop, oblate as a penny-press souvenir, unloads a dirty wish on tinted glass. Clay gets intimate with chalk, salt with sand. Pilots buckle in to the rear of engineers. Arguments imitate an ocean.

Creeper vans draft behind white Silverados and Rams. 

Sunny buses keep left, ordering disordered rights. A nail, stray as a tomcat, infixes. Rebar pokes. Eyesores drain. Exits mobilize debits. Rough synonyms cement. The shape of a river assumes the form of a fossil. Cokes and coffees slosh. Claxons ramp up fears. Satnav veers. Axles steepen. Mossy columns recalling gushers flare into precarious tectonics. Roots seek. Blinding and blinded, mercury vapor rings the transcendent crawl of cicada song. An earthmover’s resting place is harrowed by congregations of rescuegrass. A litter of air fresheners overgrows the same plot. Paper plates dissemble. Gas gauges exhilarate. Backward glances mirror advertisements. A radar gun misses a holster. Drop-offs overestimate pickups. Phones purr and warble, concentrating endorphins. Broken lines elongate Venn diagrams of injuries to spinal cords, soft tissues, other parts of persons. Double-wides jackknife. The commutes that don’t rubberneck vulture. Tiny campfires of safety vests fan out. Mourning convoys. The heart imitates an ocean. Somehow not drowned out by that chorus that repeats one time too many, a vocal intones: “As long as you’re going to let me down, at least let me down easy.” It harmonizes with itself, double-tracked. Mowers mow forward. An odometer stops counting. A door, rally red, its panel long gone, its welds and moldings bared, flings wide like a sail. An architecture somehow masses without vaults, without spires, without an oculus. Interrupted by flyovers, the horizon presents as a scissored ribbon. The sky imitates an ocean. Repetitions torque and still no one knows how they’ve arrived where they are now. Yet everybody here, insured or not, is registered. It goes without saying. Its whine winding down to a hum—a drone—a camera cranes. But what’s stuck in its optics lurches too slowly to pull much focus, whether soft or sharp.

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