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Saint James, Missouri

Two in the morning and running late. Always running late. Destination: A charcoal factory in the middle of nowhere. Charcoal factories are always in the middle of nowhere. Winding down narrow county roads. You’re lucky you get any charcoal at all. For your Fourth of July barbecue.

Black mist covers cracked concrete, kicks into the air every step I take. I have to use the bathroom, but I’ll wait. Sick yellow light, men like coal miners eating sandwiches on a loading dock. They won’t load until the morning. I sleep fretfully in the back, fine black dust settling in my lungs, my clock ticking down to zero.

In the morning, apocalypse revealed. Black water and gray smoke, cords of wood and burning sun. There’s a scale at the bottom of the hill, but it doesn’t work. Green buildings, all of them sinking into the ground.

Many saints live in Missouri. But it doesn’t do them any good.

In the morning, a dream remembered. Kneeling in the dirt of the Colosseum. Fifteen of us in a circle, facing out. The crowd cheering. Roman soldiers spearing us to death. Remembering the pain, I touch my chest.

Many saints live in Missouri. But it doesn’t do me any good.