Night Life III by Jason Roberts
From the dark arc of the underpass, the whole of Walker County, Alabama seems to rotate hellward into and into the black. Underneath the night sky, you imagine this is a grotesque still life of all the places God has never been. Not in the shadowed corpses of crippled digging machinery sitting rusted and stripped. Not in the once coal-filled hills that sleep like colossi underneath the raw interstate lights. Not finding Him in the backlit truck-stop marquee that reads Be an organ donor, give your heart to Jesus, you drive back to the old man’s place where God is also nowhere to be found. You pray instead to the bloodstained catheter snaking out from under the covers and clipped neatly to the bedrail. You plead with the man's intestines where cancer burns like angels bathing in a river of fire. You beg the black of his lungs to stop the way he will drown, surface, drown, and resurface all night with the faint breath of coal dust and a mute moon. He gags and prays for more time. He gets it. At the other end of the house, you watch a pair of headlights on the interstate drift east through the pines like a child down a dark hallway.
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