I nestle the video camera on its makeshift tripod, carefully centering my daughter’s image. She tucks her hair behind her ear and gives a strained smile. She is sixteen, and that hair is long and golden–kissed light brown and straight; she has the gangly grace only teenagers have, that sleek gazelle form. She is wearing khaki shorts and a striped tank top, and the bite mark on her arm is already putrefying.
Thomas takes his lunch outside the shelter, on one of the park benches that look out over the interstate and down all the way to the containment pond. He has wondered whether a passerby seeing him from the highway would know whether he worked at the shelter or was one of its clients. He has had this thought most days that he has sat here. Today, though, his attention has been arrested by a small patch of gooselike objects floating out on the containment pond. If they are geese, it will be the first time he has seen a living thing on that pond.
There was a black, one-way window between me and my father, watching my interrogation. I imagined he was looking down at me with the rest of the generals on the second story. Their room looked down into empty cement room where I sat, alone, on a white chair, watching a black video screen. The decision to move them to another floor had been made recently after one of their interrogations became violent. That is, the person being interrogated became violent.
I spent last summer crawling through The Big Thicket with cameras and tape recorder, photographing and taping two of the last ivory-billed woodpeckers on the earth. You can see the films at your local Audubon Society showroom. This year I wanted something just as flashy but a little less taxing.
Perhaps a population study on the Bermuda cahow, or the New Zealand takahe. A month or so in the warm (not hot) sun would do me a world of good. To say nothing of the advance of science. I was idly leafing through Greenway’s Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World. The city bus was winding its way through the ritzy neighborhoods of Austin, stopping to let off the chicanas, black women, and Vietnamese who tended the kitchens and gardens of the rich.
All the young Kirks in Riverside Public High School are assigned to the same Homeroom class. They sit together in the back corner on the far side from the door. They speak only to each other.
The young Kirk on the Moon goes to school with no one. Each of the colonists has a job and he or she is responsible only to the duties of that job. The others call him Fisher instead of James since he spends his days knee deep in the trout pond, allowing the fish to glide between his legs. When the fish become completely inured to his presence, he thrusts his hands into the water and grasps one around the belly. It fights and Fisher holds on. He is supposed to take it out of the water, to throw it into the white bucket by the shore, but Fisher never does. He lets the fish go and when he comes home, with nothing to show for it, his mother expresses her irrevocable disappointment and sends him to bed.