I used to fly for business sometimes, before the plague. There was always a book in my hand. I noticed that once we were in the air the pages would stiffen, the covers would warp outward just a bit along the ends. The canned air inside a plane is dry; that must have been the reason. By the time I’d landed and checked into my hotel the pages were supple again, the covers straight. It happened every time.
This past weekend we had an awful east wind, a rare thing. It came barreling out of the Columbia River Gorge and over the mountains into the Portland metro area, drawing wildfire smoke from the interior of Washington State. All the trees in the neighborhood bent over in the heavy blow and half our dahlias were ruined. The next day there were broken branches and leaves – still green – all over the street and the school field.
The dry wind kept up for two days and sparked wildfires here on the west side of the mountains. Terrible fires. The kind of fires that kill people (not to mention animals) and wipe whole towns off the map. So far, they say, nine-hundred square miles of the state have burned. Last night a huge wall of smoke came up from the south like a rampart of hell and blotted out the sun and cast everything in an unsettling orange light.
The air outside as I write is barely breathable. No children play in the field. There are no bicyclists, no dog walkers. The few cars on the road drive around at midday with their headlights on. I go out to check the sprinkler and come back in stinking like a campfire. You could probably smoke a turkey just by leaving it out on a platter for a few hours. I pick up a book to get my mind off the apocalypse but find the pages stiff, the covers warped.