Craig Childs - House of Rain
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Field Notebook

September 22, 2008
Seeing Ghosts

My father used to live on the north side of Phoenix, back when it was mostly desert, parts of Bell Road still dirt. We would take walks together through junk heaps of old appliances, washing machines rusted and riddled with gunfire. I was a kid, and it was a wilderness. Jackrabbits would sprint off through creosote, black-tipped ears bounding away. We found natural shelters pocked in the side of Lookout Mountain where we sifted our fingers through ashen dust, finding cooked rabbit bones and lithic scatter where people once sharpened stone tools. Sometimes he would stand in his back yard at night, the bud of his cigarette glowing. He would tell me that he saw them dancing out there, Hohokam men pounding staffs at the ground and singing. I looked and did not see them, but just as well could have. Maybe I did. I don't remember outright. I can see them now, luminous, like mirages. The times my father mentioned these ghosts, he would always be looking south into the brightening haze of Phoenix, the coming city. Within ten years it would surround him and pass him by, leaving his house stranded below the paved four-lane of Bell Road and its diamond-bright car dealerships. I wonder sometimes if it was the past he saw, or the future. Either way, the dance is the same.

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