Death looms over the streets of Pithole – day and night. It rises like a pale moon on the clear, cold horizon. When I sit on my porch at twilight hanging out the wash from a long day’s work, I hear it in the thick voices of the boys as they holler “Hello Widow Ricketts” or “Goodnight Ms. Ricketts” as they trod past. End of the day they are raw-skinned and soaked in oil. Even the horses they lead back to the Livery stable don’t look clean. They are soaked in oil and hairless as if they've just crawled out of hell itself.
When I first came here, I wasn't much younger. Lord knows this town hasn't been around for long. Lord knows how long it will stay. Why, it wasn't much more than a couple of oil wells pitched on the Hampton Homestead ‘til word got out. When I crested that hill in my wagon, I felt like I was diving into a frenzy of bees. I’d been taking in washing down in Franklin when Mr. Ricketts drowned in that gray river. After a while I couldn't stand looking at that seam of water anymore—so I packed up and settled here.
Now, it’s a different kind of death that haunts me. Not the sudden, accidental kind that swept my Charles away. No, this town feels tied up in a different kind of death and we are just passing through it like shades. Maybe that’s why its death I think of as the boys parade back into town toward whiskey or dinner or whatever else their appetites might desire. It’s as if to them these girls, this life, is just a mirage they are passing through to another, better life. Me, I just keep my head down and my mouth shut. I've got a good well (those are rare around here--water is scarcer than oil) and a solid frame house. And lord knows there is no shortage of wash to take it. It’s the dreams that haunt me. Dreams of that same swift river rising up to find this town and washing all of it clean and we’re all swimming for our lives. A tangle of lost bodies grabbing at each other for help and none of us knowing how to hold on.