I stood on my porch for two days while men with gas masks and blue jump suits walked in and out of vans. The vans were white and had large black letters on the sides. The men walked in and out of houses, wrote on the walls, and did not talk to us. I didn’t have a gas mask on and my skin turned red on the second afternoon. I started scratching it. I didn’t have a blue suit and my lungs began to clink when I breathed. My neighbor said that there were fires in southern California and some white woman in her late eighties had lost her dog.
I thought I would write her a letter. I thought I would write a letter to the woman in California. I hope she finds her dog. On the third day, I walked off my porch and stretched on my front lawn. There were televisions on my front lawn. The rest of the people in our neighborhood put their televisions on my lawn. The televisions were blank because there was no power in our neighborhood. One of the men in the blue suits pointed at the televisions. I think he was laughing. But you can’t see him through his mask.
I wondered if the old woman had found her dog. California was in ruins, my neighbor said. A day after the fires the mudslides began. I didn’t know what a mudslide was but it sounded pretty terrible. It sounded like the people should just leave if the mud came down the hill and took their homes. It isn’t smart to build your home so close to a place where the hills move. Poor people, I thought. But I was not sorry for them. Some people don’t really know where to live and they complain when where they live isn’t safe. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Finally, the men in blue suits came with trucks and began to tear down the houses. The houses were half up and half down and made us look like poor people who lived in sprawling urban centers in the developing parts of the world, the third world. I didn’t like the fact that the houses that were all falling down made us look poor. I was happy when the men with the trucks began to take our houses down. Most of my neighbors had left their homes. They did not see the men come with the big trucks and tear the houses down.
It was late when they got to my house. I had gotten tired and I was lying in my front lawn, staring at the televisions that were blank and dirty. I heard the men talking, they were talking about the woman in California, and some man in California. The news that was on the television in the other parts of the city was showing terrible pictures of southern California. I stared at the televisions and wondered what it would be like to look at the people who were crying and screaming. I wondered if they knew where they had built their houses.
When my house fell, I would probably be able to see to the ocean. All the other houses behind it would be flat now and I would be able to see the waves crash and the white light of the moon on the waves that crashed. My house was loud when it fell. I think I heard the bathtub crack. My house fell quickly and it looked like it was made of sticks.
After my house fell, a man with a mask stood over me with a flashlight. He shined a flashlight in my eyes and I tried to cover my eyes but my hands were stuck. The man looked at me and then he looked at another person, another man in a mask. The two men had a conversation. I think they talked about me. The man shined the flashlight on my face again. He looked at me for a while. He looked funny because he had goggles on and a gas mask on and a blue suit on and gloves on. His breathing sounded like swish-swish-swish.
He made a lot of noise when he left. He clapped his hands before he left. I think that he was happy because he was trying to shout and jump up and down. But I couldn’t really understand what he was saying. Later, I heard another house, the house in front of mine, fall flat. I wondered what the ocean looked like now. I wondered why I couldn’t move my hands.