It is difficult to reduce most places to their absolute essence. To the one thing that defines them and sets them against the world.
Judah, AL was not one of these places. Judah was dirt: rich, brown dirt, dry dirt, dusty dirt. Dirt which kicked up at every step, dirt on which your boots left soft, deep imprints, every detail of the soles recorded in perfect dusty detail and slowly carried away by the wind.
Dirt. Dirt, fine and feathery. Dirt was everywhere in Judah, impossible to clean for more than a moment. Leaving its coat of fine sediment on everything, making it’s home in every corner and crack.
Dirt more egalitarian than the most magnanimous of men. Spreading across scorched earth, floating in the wealthiest circles and the poorest homes. Black, white, Hispanic, dirt, dirt never cared; never saw the difference between man as he was and the dust he would soon become.
Dirt. Dirt which peered up between the patches of parched grass and slowly covered each exposed root again. Dirt. Dirt which made the roads. And ran the roads.
Past the once white picket fences, wayward willows and bowed oaks, the Jones’ Jersey cow, the swarming June bugs, the crows, the telephone posts, under the wires, around the bends, and empty river beds.
It came with a sudden finality to every place it went. Each speck stopping with a sense of certainty. It came to a church to fill empty pews. It came to the bars to dry the patrons throats. It came to the courthouse to cover over long forgotten evils.
It came to a California style mansion in the deep south to watch. Concrete, with a satellite dish sticking out from the roof to bring in the Internet and the nightly news, with an out of place Hummer2 in front, and tall single paned windows, and the AC unit off to the side choking in the heat and stifled in the dust.
And the dirt crept. Across the yard, over the car, onto the rounded steps and deck, into the corners of the window frames, and through the cracks on the door. Faint, it spread in scattered and few pieces across the marble floor to the kitchen where it could have heard, had it ears, a fight.
Husband and wife, moved from California where riches had been earned back to the south they thought they belonged. Gaudy and as out of place here as they once were in LA. Fighting, over what it hardly mattered because it was soon over.
And the dirt heard, if it was listening. Bang, shatter, bang, bang, thud, stomp, stomp, slam.
And the dirt creeping in through the empty window pane, mixed with the blood.
And the dirt went with the Hummer as its tires feathered the dusty drive and onto the empty road.
By next Thursday when the housekeeper dropped her bags and ran screaming outside the dirt had already buried the dead.