Balaam, UT

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

Balaam lies nestled in a bowl between the Colorado and San Juan Rivers. The desert stretches up and out, the edges of a dish or Saturn’s rings, sandstone mesas and pinnacles left standing on the horizon for eons. It is an ancient place, onetime beachfront property on the shores of Lake Bonneville.

Mordecai Young stands in front of his home. Its a massive structure comprised of several metal shipping containers; a brash design, almost at home amongst the squared-off monuments of earth. Across a dusty courtyard sits one of eight smaller homes, also constructed of shipping containers. This…

“asphalt road beside trees” by Wild & Away on Unsplash

Kalihiwai Valley, HI

The upper terrace of Manoa Chang’s farm clings to the edge of a verdant mountainside. Rice paddies are etched into the land — a scene that wouldn’t be out of place in the highlands of the Philippines. Mr. Chang has worked these western uplands since he arrived in the valley. He migrated to the inland valley after the death of his wife at the age of 61. His children live in Wahiawa and Honolulu.

Outside, chickens roam in the yard, scraping the dirt in search of a stray grain of rice. On clear mornings he can see…

“silhouette of man illustration” by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

I told the truth when I said I intended to come clean to Liza regarding my dependencies. I didn’t harbor any desire to wound her. I loved her. Still love her. Of course, that’s a little strained given my situation and the unavoidable physical separation. I can only hope things go well for her since I’m not sure how there can be any reconciliation now. She still wears her wedding ring, though I wonder how much of it is out of habit or out of the desire to remember what was good about our marriage.

That first year of marriage…

Mextler, CA

“green field under golden sky” by Casey Horner on Unsplash

Mextler, CA is the geographical center of the San Joaquin Valley. Grapevines stretch in checkerboard squares across the flat trough of land that separates the Coastal Range from the Sierra Nevada. It’s hot in Mextler, and still. When the air moves it comes as a surprise.

Tracy Debnaum is the founder of EPAC, an environmental watchdog organization that monitors air quality. At the height of the drought in 2015, Mextler and the surrounding area measured an air quality of 10+ for 72 consecutive days, exceeding any other area — metropolitan or rural — in the nation. Ms. Debnaum…

Coals Mill, WY

“brown and black train on rail near the brown and black mountain during daytime” by Rafael Zamora on Unsplash

Esther Hunsaker lays prone in the dirt. The Coals Mill railyard stretches below her, washed gold by the blend of dusk and dust. Esther inches forward and lowers a squinted eye to the sight of her Daisy air rifle. She does a sweep of the railyard with the rifle’s barrel. Posted fifty yards to her east on the crest of a windswept bluff is her cousin, Ramon. Esther cocks her head sideways and catches a glimpse of the boy, also laid out on his belly, binoculars held to his face. She goes back to the sight of…

I Ran Another Marathon, or, My Most Disappointing Success

Best part of the race. Not having to race anymore.

The Monte Cristo region of Utah has succumbed to autumn’s first advance. As the highway climbs, yellows and oranges appear on the canyon’s margins, from tree line down to the banks of the south fork of the Ogden river, a shoestring of water in mid-September. The roadway winds along, following the river’s course over the mountains toward Wyoming.

I’m crammed into the window seat of a school bus next to my brother, who, like me, is built more like an NBA player than a distance runner. It’s 6:50 am, and the…

Magammon, CO.

Photo by Sam Dawson on Unsplash

Zeb Lemieux hangs up the phone. He sits in the long cast of late afternoon sunlight. He hollers at his son from the three-legged stool on which he's perched. He delivers good news: the Magammon Zielschuss Organizing Committe had verified the vote tally and confirmed Ephraim the sole winner. A joyful whoop is returned from the front room where Zeb’s son, Ephraim lays prone on the sofa, holding an ice pack to a fracture beneath his left orbital.

Magammon is a small farming town in a dead-flat hanging valley on the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains. Further…

Vol. 1

“Delicate gold wedding rings sit on a minimalist white surface” by Mel on Unsplash

They say that disagreements over money are at the root of most divorces. In my case, it was the ninety-third disagreement over money. That was the first little shoot that found purchase in the soil of my fledgling marriage. It grew, nurtured by little prods and needles and small offences kept buried inward until the small green sprig of a thing took on a thickened callousness that would bedevil a pick-axe.

My husband and I come from different backgrounds. He, from a military family made and aged in El Paso, and I, tempered in the coastal shadow of…

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

The loss of property isn’t what keeps me from acknowledging myself as the point of origin. I could have dealt with that. The loss of life, though, that’s something different. My brain resists the compulsion to synthesize what I’m hearing and seeing with what I know I did, albeit in some other plane, some former life. It won’t reconcile. Being here now hasn’t made it any more real beyond what I academically know.

My apartment isn’t old, but it’s not new either. It’s indistinguishable from any other unit in any other multi-family building. I’ve lived here for five months. The…

Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

My Husband died today. It’s nothing dramatic. We were prepared. Well, as prepared as one can be for the death of a spouse, or father or grandfather. We’d been married fifty-two years, and then, dust. I’ve been going through our slides. Warren kept them in a series of shoeboxes which lived in the coat closet. They’re in chronological order and I can drop 140 at a time into the carousel. The people in the images are both foreign and intimately familiar. They’re me and they’re Warren. Los Angeles 1961, Dakar 1965, and the circuitous route home via Paris and London…

Mark Wilkes

Dad, Endurance Sports Enthusiast, Aspiring Cellist CA/USA

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