Flood Line

Last time I heard from Fisher was a text message. bbq at the house on friday. bring neddin hoes for juan. The other numbers weren’t in my phone. I guessed Delgadillo. The message meant that Fisher was minding his parents’ place while they were out of town, ready to go hog wild one more time. The parents have a pool, outside barbecue, keg fridge, all that.

I didn’t text back at all. I’m gonna be thirty-six, I can barely remember the last time we blew up his parents’ place, and I don’t even know neddin hoes, as he says. But all in all, what am I gonna go all the way there for to see Fisher with that attitude he’s had for five years, to have him so upset by everything I say as the last four times, before we end up crossfaded and blacked out?

Work’s been slow, he means getting odd jobs with his neighbors. Doesn’t help when yer surrounded by people who say stupid shit all the time, saying that grandly like about people’s politics, but really referring to me, because he disagreed with what I just said about how to water his neighbor’s basketflower. Misunderstandings of mutually half-formed ideas that he answers with I’m trying to tell you something, not just talking to hear myself, like you. That kind of crap.

I didn’t bring it up at all, but that afternoon Sofía could tell I was playing one of Fisher’s songs. I learned how to voice-lead in his band, trying to fill out the sound of those songs. So Sofía and I got into this thing about it.

—You don’t wanna go see him and play your guitar?

—No. Ahain’t fixin to wait there onnim for a half hour till he’s done spittin out all his disappointment with hisself at me, and talks to me like amm his friend again.

—Your guys’ relationship has,

—It doesn’t have anything where that’s okay! He’s a grown man! He can’t treat me like ajest insulted how he lives and expect aknow that he knows he’s right, and it’s his job to show everyone how much they got wrong …! And think amm gonna keep hangin out with him? Aknow you seen us gettin into it, and now you think amm still as immature as he is!

—I just thought you didn’t wanna drive all the way to Junction, so I wanted to encourage you. But no, I think you’re the most horrible person,

—If you think amm gonna cling on to friends like that, yes, amust be, and you must think I am! Otherwise it ain’t logical!

—I just can’t talk to you at all. Everything I say you take it as a criticism of your whole existence.

—Yeah well, acan’t tell by how you say it.

—What’s that sposed to … my tone of voice?

—Yknow what else, amm fixin my attitude for us, if you forgot already, so adon’t know why you think awanna go wallow in shit with Fisher no way.

—Ohhh, poor you has no friends, only me . . .

Fisher sent me photos and commentary from the party, including how he’d brought this rich girl over. I found out later that it was Delgadillo, and Castillo from Eldorado got invited too, and Dumb Dickey Dickey Deetz, the guy with two middle names.

I still had the text message string afterward, so before I erased the whole thing I told Castillo that I’d love to see him again. Castillo called me about a month later, when I’d stopped giving a shit what it all meant with Fisher and his barbecues. Castillo sounded friendly but really tense, and he told me about the flood line.

Before I knew it we did the long drive so he could show me. Castillo talked about it almost the whole way out of Boerne, black hair blowing seriously in the wind. —They’re doin cottonwoods out west to give the buckeye and juniper and shit more of a chance. And cottonwoods can sit dry, yknow, or half the year under ten feet of ice and then the other half under ten feet of water and don’t care, like up in Minnesota. And they might have to at first. Cain’t call it a tree line, which is what it is, but it’s a flood line. Acud tellye all about that for sure, yknow my folks moved out to a new place, yknow, Christoval, after my sister graduated, cause it was all they could afford, and got flooded right out of it.

—And I came here in oh-five from Louisiana.

—Y-yeah, so. We all cud tellye bout floods. So nothin holds water like trees, yknow. Amean this kinda planting is the whole reason they built the Two Buttes dam, right.

—Tube Yutes?

—Two, buttes. Mountains with no top.

—All probly donate, but amm not really gonna drive out often and get my hands dirty, if yer that excited bout it.

—It ain’t no planting today! We’re goin to look for Fisher.— He looked mad on me because I didn’t realize anything yet. I pointed up the road. —He’s not in Junction?— That seemed to satisfy his curiosity. —You didn’t know he was gone?

—No! … His family ain’t lookin for him?

—Look, there’s shit you need to know. We’re lookin near that pipeline that lit up first, lookin for a truck or equipment with the name Halff.

—Whatta you mean lookin? You think his dead body’s out there on some pipeline vent?

—Or someone who saw somethin. Buncha software lops from Amazon and Apple and all came out from Austin and started the line goin, in Mertzon, matterfact, that’s the same as Eldoraydo. Speakin a Fisher, he knows Mertzon, says they got a big old Fuel Source there. Like asay they started plantin, they didn’t see shit. Acan’t believe abeen involved in this thing two months and ahain’t seen shit.

—What were you sposed to see, Cass?

Junction flew by and a visit to the parents was out. After Junction the Llano and the hill country run out and it’s just mile after mile probably till California of shit oil fields hiding amongst low rises, and that means flood zones too, barely a burnt-up hackberry or blackbrush or lote bush if at all, or just dead grass, both the sun and the ground sunken and hard. Asking to get flooded.

Castillo finished a roach and chucked it without sharing. —Ahain’t fixin to getche to do intheng, ajust wantche to see how important it is that none of this’s bein investigated so far. So look. The line outta Ozona will cross over a hazardous liquids pipeline that heads northwest. Biggest thing about the flood line is convincin all the money that these dozens a pipelines’re safe from shovels and tree roots. Here, getcher phone out. It’s called the National Pipeline Mapping System. Just put in Crockett County and see for yerself … Got it? … Yknow that’s how come no one in the US plants trees. There’s always some bullshit with someone else’s property. So the flood line heads around next to Barnhart. That’s around where the pipeline caught on fire. Not that one on the map, this other one.

—So Mertzon’s nice?

—Well, it ain’t got the culture. Land’s nicer though than Eldoraydo, with the river. And they ain’t had those fuckin mormons and hunnerds a kids locked up, like we did, that aknow of, so. But they could use the flood line, cause there’s no slope to the riverbank. So how’s the kid?

—He’s doin okay. Really nice kid.

—Yknow the one about the shower? No? Listen! Kid takes a shower with his dad and he points at, yknow, and he says dad what’s that. Dad thenks fast and says that’s my scrubber. Kid says how much you pay for it? Dad says fiedollars. Next week, kid takes a shower with mom, this time, and he points and he says mom what’s that. She says uh, yknow, it’s my scrubber. He says how much you pay for it? Mom says I dunno, ten bucks. Kid says you got ripped off. Dad’s was five and his got a handle.

—Amir’s fifteen.

Funny, when we got to Barnhart we just stuck to the roads, covered every one in town, got mad-dogged by some proprietors and didn’t hike out on the land at all, which was my concern. Castillo pointed out vaguely east. —That’s where the pipeline is, that burnt up.

Not a single new tree, or at least I couldn’t tell, no sign of recently-built berms, no equipment. Nobody nowhere, no grass or nature, a land locked by oil jobbers in solitary confinement, trucks and containers like fat white bugs crawling on a bone. Castillo asked a few people too-vague questions, like he was scared to ask the right question and get turned down, and no one reported nothing out of the ordinary for weeks. By the time I was done listening and waiting, it was clear that Castillo expected to find a trace of Fisher amongst these pipelines.

We ended up at some joint called the Oil Can, on Reagan Street mind you, eating dorados to our dusty faces because people haul ass right by there with their Dodge scat packs. You’d think anyone in this country would plant trees just to have some shade, but I guess not.

This kid was in there singing on his guitar and Castillo and I both probably saw ourselves in him since we haven’t played a show in how long. I’m just a boom-chucker, Castillo’s the big jazz bassist.

He went on talking like I knew what was going on. I know he was upset. It all hadn’t hit me yet, and I couldn’t ask the obvious questions. It seemed like our years apart made us unable to immediately get each other’s drift on any subject. When the kid told us and the trucker thanks for listening and quit, Castillo pulled out his phone again and I thought he’d get to the point.

—Course Fisher wrote a tune about Pico, quickern he could look up the whole situation. He didn’t show you?

—When was this? Were you there?

—At the barbecue! By then he was workin for Halff’s company.

—Yeah, speakinna that, who is Halff any,

—Shut up and listen.

—And who the fuck’s Pico?

Castillo waved his phone so I’d watch. Fisher was stoned enough to be irritated at everyone’s philistinism and drunk enough to transcend confidence. Two bars each of F and G major, like half of Fisher’s songs. Picooo, tu pito must not be too chicooo, you fucked Ikea and Walmart in Californeee, the hainas in the chante must be horneee. And Delgadillo laughing his ass off at the use of Spanish. The video cut off in the middle of Fisher complaining about how bad trap is. I thought for a second he was blaming me for trap, but then I thought better.


—Pico! You missed all this, didn’t you?

—Yeah, agod damn did! Explain!

—Halff, Mark Halff’s the guy with the dirt, the berms, for these flood lines. He’s big business.

—And he could trip over someone’s pipeline. So Fisher was drivin for him.

—And fuckin his niece in Fredricksburg. Yknow, Fisher-type total convenience. But that was our connection, Fisher innerduced me to the niece at a barbecue, a differnt one, he didn’t even know about the flood line and he didn’t, or doesn’t, give a shit.— Castillo wiped the last beer sweat off his frown and dropped his voice with a nod at the somnolent trucker. —Some people’re sayin now, and amm not gonna get you all involved with my contacts here, but some people say Pico ditched California and come here, yknow, to coolis heels, and he’s after Halff’s operation, yknow, for his next hit, and it’s simple as that.

I still didn’t get who these people were. —Why?

—Cause Halff’s in Corpus, and he’s gettin the dirt from the gulf, dredgin it up, full time! Yeah, Fisher was drivin for him. Halff’s got a sure thing cause of the state’s erosion control money. And he doesn’t hafta ask allem ranchers out on the flood line for dirt. And Pico doesn’t like Halff’s people fuckin with the shoreline, even know it’s silt infill, and you probly heard Pico hates truckin of all shapes and sizes, so he sprung the pipeline to hurt Halff.

—I wish you hadn’t told me all this.

—Why? Yer not incriminated,

—Cause amm fuckin confused! … What the hell’re we even doin here? Cmon, lessgo back to San Antonio. You cud stay with us a couple days. Just get this runnin around off yer mind, there’s the FBI exackly for this kinda shit!

—Please watch your language,— said the trucker just to me.

—Beg pardon,— we both said. Under our breath, big-nose polygamist, son of a bitch, so on.

—Alright,— Castillo breathed, —but stay with me tonight and we’ll jam.

—Shonuff. Lemme call Sofía.

Outside my elbow itched in the desert air and I scratched it on the painted brick. Here’s definitely better than Louisiana but I hate how much the weather can change. Looking out over that flat hydrocarbon blur I reflected how Boerne is basically the best possible outcome for my life, and Sofía basically is too. She answered that it was cool if I stayed in Eldorado. I asked Amir, too, and he agreed. He doesn’t really ask us to be there at every football practice anymore since his dad started acting right as not to sit a fine out in jail, because he knows we’ll make sure he gets the fine.

We drove to Mertzon, just north of those hills from Eldorado, and walked a short stretch of the flood line, broad but yet invisible, less greenery than orange stakes, chicken wire and advertising, the advertising that liberals make for those who already agree.

—But just at yer place, adon’t wanna go out.

—You think it’s more dangerous in Eldoraydo than here?

—Ain’t no one here!

—Ain’t no one there neither! Mormons don’t lynch, mormons’re the ones got lynched.

—We don’t have to do the whole histry, Cass!

—The amps’re at my place anyway. You don’t think Aaron’ll come out and play drums if we askim now?

—Where’s he? … Kerrville? Son of a bitch. His wife’s got oil money?

—Shit, adon’t know. Here, all callim. We’d better find some weed. For Fisher, man!


In barnhart, by san angelo


Not going to junction?

No. Cass showing me pipelines

they’re to plant trees on top



Fisher had job involvg pplines idk
Fisher missing


?? Not calling parents?

Not sure how serious


The flood line’s website gives the following outline: An afforestation project about a half mile maximum width running roughly from Ozona through San Angelo to Abilene, from water’s edge when possible and sticking low, only up to about thirty feet. The high ground is supposed to fill itself in over twenty years. The five big nurseries between Austin, Fredericksburg and San Antonio are participating, planting practically in rock on the west end, but cottonwood can do that. On that first planned arc there’re only about five thousand property owners to deal with and the planters want smooth talkers to do outreach.

The line’s supposed to bounce off the drainages of Spring Creek through that middle piece and Bluff Creek at the end, jumping the Colorado. The plan is to plant forests on rolling berms, they’ll drink up the water and mitigate flooding, groundwater and wildlife problems.If it’s a hit, they could build them all across the state in twenty years. Some tech money is paying for it, to make people forget that tech doesn’t pay taxes. They just need volunteers to help plant.

There’s also a big statement that the recent pipeline accident hasn’t resolved their resiliency or whatever, and they’re committed to changing the landscape, and wish that eco-terrorists wouldn’t get involved. Castillo says they’re talking about Pico. As for changing the landscape, he says that means Halff’s dirt-hauling racket, that they’re standing up for him.

Fisher has not been reported missing or else I’m asking the internet the wrong question. It’s true that this character Pico is wanted in California for attacking big-box store suppliers, but no one can decide if it’s one dude or a bunch of copycats. There’s a ton of memes about him, but it’s all in California meme lingo that you have to be twelve to understand whether or not they believe their subject. There was a series of arrests but nothing’s been proven. The name is believed to be a reference to Salomón Pico, a Mexican-Californian who killed 47 Americans while he jacked them for gold around 1850.

I can’t find a single word that Pico’s out here, or suspected in the pipeline accident, or that he knows about the flood line or this Halff company, or nothing. On the one hand no one but the flood line people seem to make much of the pipeline accident. It does feel, though, like a bunch of people’s websites are trying not to name or talk about something. So I’m stuck wondering, which is to say that Castillo’s insanity is contagious.

Comg home


OK! Goodnight? Find fisher?

Goodnight. No fisher. Still don’t know why looking at pipelines for fisher yesterday


call his boss?

We did some cool jams and all took turns soloing on Castillo’s wicked Marchione and got good and high. Castillo and I still could get good interplay like back in Fisher’s band, good loud echoes against cheap painted sheetrock and old wall furnaces in blank carpeted rooms lost in copless mesquite desolation, a ritual noise outside time and economics, except asshole Castillo wasted an hour of our time on a phone call, after Aaron drove all the way out from Kerrville.

On top of that Aaron’s ex had him all stressed out over how they didn’t have their Google spreadsheet current for the coming week as to whence their kid would shuttle every day. I could tell he was upset as all get out because he didn’t key up the drums and all night they sounded like a hooker clapping in church. So my life could be a lot harder.

In the truck the next morning I pointed out the window at Junction. —We ain’t stoppin by Fisher’s folks?

—Already tried that a few days ago.

—Okay.— I hate it when I feel stupid for being polite after the fact.

Castillo said he’d go on into the city and didn’t stay and hang with us a single day. It occurred to me when I was in my own bedroom again that, by the time we got started last night, Fisher’s name never came up, or whether Aaron even remembered him. The only weird thing was that when he dropped me off, he pointed at the gas station shades I’d been fiddling with on the dash and said: —These’re Fisher’s sunglasses.

Now this was a fully-formed life thing to deal with. Jamming with those dumbasses, a whole piece of the present dedicated to Fisher, too many drafts of time blowing past me at too many different speeds.

After work Monday I had Amir drive up Esser from the high school, left down to the end of Adler and let him do turns and park in that parking lot between the Don Ruben’s and the cemetery. When we came home I’d missed a text message from Castillo said that he was still in the area. Silver mica rain in the south looked like it could arrive by nightfall.

I didn’t know whether I wanted to respond, so first I called Irion County about the pipeline burst and to make sure Fisher wasn’t found dead there. Then I got the Workforce Commission just before closing time and asked if anyone was hurt or killed in the pipeline accident two weeks ago. They barely were aware of it and couldn’t advise me whom to call about the explosion’s magnitude. I asked if Halff had any accidents at all lately statewide, and they told me I had to come in for that.

—How was driving?— Sofía asked Amir, but he was quiet and I guess I thought he wanted me to answer, not for him, but instead. —Real smooth. Just a little impatient to turn sometimes, still.

I thought it was my fairest observation. Amir was eager and unafraid of the vehicle. He took shy smiling eyes to the bathroom and ran the shower. Sofía went on:

—Does he still swing out when he wants to turn left?

—Mmm . . . no.

—Do you talk to him about the manual still?

I know people say always assume best intentions when listening, but with a little extra attention that proves to be impossible. —A little, today. Whatbout you, you still talk to him about readin the manual? … He wantsta pass the written. He doesn’t wanna fail it again. Be patient.

We don’t see each other much with the work schedule, and the shared mission with Amir doesn’t really give us the communication confidence that I once hoped it would. I left the kitchen and told Castillo to make a pass. The doorbell rang about ten minutes later and he was now wearing the sunglasses. —Jesus, this whole town a church too?

—Seems like it, uh? You get lost?

—Atried a diffrent way. You got some time?

Sofía said hi, fingers polishing her palmwood pendant, and I asked her with a look. —Dinner’s ready in twunny minutes,— she told Castillo.


In the backyard we sat on cinder blocks and Castillo did an alkie one-hitter of Cuervo. —Might rain at last …

—Look,— I told him, —there ain’t no proof that the flood line had nothin to do with that pipeline explosion.

He sucked the tequila burn through his teeth. —Yer all fulla news today.

—You glad? So what? You talk to Halff or anyone who woulda seen Fisher?

He did the second hit and tucked the bottle in his breastpocket. —No one.

So it was gonna be me playing twenty questions. —Did you ever ask Halff’s niece if she said she’d seen him since he’s gone?

Castillo stood and went nowhere. —Shit, that’s a good idea.

—Whatta you been doin in town for two days, then?

—Awent to Austin. Talked to some people afound, went to this bookstore called Monkey Wrench, figure if amm gonna find people who knew Pico anywhere’d be them. Through them afound a barbecue and a tent in a backyard, figured abetter be polite.

—Barbecue? Pico?— Now I shot up and got near him. —There ain’t no Pico. Adon’t know where you got that from. You wanna find Fisher, whyncha look for him?

—Look. There’s complicated shit here. When he sang that song of his, the Pico tune, it was after atook him to see the flood line. He said Pico was around, he said Halff was scared ofim. He told me that before the niece even come up.

—So it was like, abeen drivin for this guy and he’s scared of Pico.

—It wasn’t like, this chick I’m bangin, I work for her dad, and he’s scared of Pico, which is the subject of thisahere song amm fixin to play.

—Yeah, yeah, you said! If not that, then what?

—After atook him to the flood line, he musta found out or read Halff’s name on the trucks at the flood line, or it’s one a them conveniences, cause like, within the week, he’s drivin for Halff and he’s comin outta Corpus with a truck fulla shit, and he’s not gonna be at the planting event, cause A he’s gotta get the rig back down there and B he’s fuckin her niece, which he said, which he said! was a total coincidence. Like a week before he invited you to the barbecue. And he was lookin for Pico out there cause he was out with her and some kids from the flood line said they was tryna figure out the pipeline situation so no one springs it diggin berms out there, and then they showed up at the planting even that awent to, and that’s why I went to Austin,

—Why didn’t you tell me this at yer place the other night?

—Cause this case, it needs to fuckin build gradually, so you unnerstand it!

I was too disgusted to speak for a minute and we paced the yard out-thinking each other. I was quicker. —The niece’s rich. He’s probly in Corpus, in a swimmin pool, havinnis way wither as aspeak and waitin for the next load a muck!

Castillo sucked his teeth like there was tequila in his face yet. —Then why ain’t he answerin his phone?

—Listen. Getcher phone out.


—Get it out. I ain’t got the messages no more. He said he brought the girl over to that barbecue. You were there.

He looked down the long list. —Yep.

—And he sang the Pico song … right? … What’d she say?

—When she heard it? … She was just actin like he was intrestin as all get out. Like all his girlfriends do first times around.

—She didn’t react when he mentioned Pico? I thought her dad was scared ofim?

—That’s what he said. Who knows if she’s clued in on all that.

—You didn’t ask her?

—Awasn’t fixinna find nothin out then! Adidn’t give a shit. Ajust liked the song. Anyway, first time aheard the song, that was at the barbecue when he innerduced us. Yeah. That was like, the week before his barbecue. They didn’t call you about it?

—No. No one invites me to nothin till he invited me last minute to his barbecue. Wait, that’s two things from the week before. He’s seein the girl and the barbecue where he innerduced you.

—Fine, I’m a week off somewhere, but you know where it all stood when he did the barbecue you know about, and I heard the song and didn’t talk about it before that.

—Cmon, lessgo eat and then you’re gonna get outta here cause I need quality time with Sofía. Hey. One more thing. Why’s the people with the flood line sayin that a eco-terrorist burst the pipeline and made them look bad?

—Yesee? It ain’t just me!

—Is Halff or maybe his niece or Fisher— almost said are you but didn’t want him to get defensive, —still talkin bout Pico to the flood line people?

—Doesn’t matter if they are in partickler, there’s shit bein talked about!

I flung up my hand and almost hit him because he turned to pace past me. —But it ain’t Pico … ! Could be anyone. You and Fisher cooked up the connection to Pico! Didn’t you! You got stoned and just like that! … or is there more shit you gotta build gradually so I unnerstand it?

He turned and looked toward me but not at me, brain probably like a rat in a maze. I knew he wasn’t deciding whether to lie to me. I believe he’d lost the trail of his own story. —Look, you wanna take over lookin for him for me?

—No. It’s a wild goose chase.

By midway through dinner, Fisher’s stupid Pico song was stuck in my head full-time and I was tired of being in the middle of the matter. Castillo kept teasing Amir with suggestions of our wild past and I had to work the whole meal long to keep him from occupying the boy’s perception, because I didn’t know how many kids at the high school are doing party hero crap as hard as we did in the band, and Amir doesn’t need that piece of me right now.

Sofía notably kept encouraging me to get involved in this thing about Fisher. At a point we could tell by the direction of Sofía’s beautiful profile that she was looking at the photo right at the end of the hall. My mom and sister and me in our apartment in Metairie. We framed it in July 2005 as a christmas gift for my aunt and grandma who lived out in the Seventh Ward. I ended up with it. Then she looked at me. —That flood line sounds like it’ll help a lotta people in the long run.

—I hope so,— I tried to only say that much. She kept on: —You oughta take Amir up there when they do plantings and helpem out. Make something that’ll last and be remembered.

—Yeah, with our luck, the flood line’ll work so well, the houses they build out there’ll be sellin for twice what they are now and there’ll be homeless like in Midland. Or everyone moves to Oklahoma.

—That’s not a reason not to work on it.

—I was sayin the other day,— put in Castillo, totally oblivious that putting it in here would work on his audience as taking a side, but then only the two sides care, —my folks bought a place in Christoval, which is like, San Angelo, cause it was the best bang for the buck, and they got flooded out. And now it’s rebuilt practickly right on top of the old one, and it’s gone up thirty percent from what my folks bought it for. Now they’re, I’m not bullshittinye, one of their favrite places they stay is Ignorant Hill RV park.

Amir chuckled. Sofía took it as taking sides, but by her tone she didn’t accept the argument. —It’s only gonna get better if someone does something. Anyway, Amir, this is an example of something with potential. You do community work, you meet people who can connect you to opportunities that we didn’t have when we left high school. And if you spend enough time up there, maybe Fisher’ll show up.— Amir nodded. Then she got her phone out. —He was still living in his van? What’s his band called? Maybe he has gigs lined up.

—Phones at the table,— Amir’s voice tipped up. I squeezed the back of his hand like he lets me do.

Back in the backyard I told Castillo: —Why don’t we call evryone else was there. You still got the numbers.— We called Delgadillo and he suggested that Fisher and the niece were a product of Fisher’s job with Halff, but didn’t know the first thing about the flood line nor the niece’s number. So that sounded back-asswards from Castillo’s view on it. I hung up before Castillo could bring up Pico.

We called Dumb Dickey Dickey Deetz, the guy with the two middle names, who appeared to us on a video call. His blond rat tail was out in a thin domestic mullet like a wore out corn broom.

—Boys! Amm sure glad yall called! Just this last Fridee athenk afinally solved the mystry.

We looked at each other and then at him on the screen. —What?

—Member the money that got took from that one big show in oh-seven with Strap-Onz and Marked Men? And aswore to God it got swiped! Awas at the bar and this dude and me get to talkin, and he says he was there that night, and he knew the guy who swiped it. From Keith the god damn soundman! Cause he smokedim out. And didn’t say nothin, chicken shit!

—Straight up, Deetz,— I said, —we’re over it. That was a long time ago.

—Amm tellin yall, amm fixinna get that god damn money back.

Deetz was referring to how he booked tons of our gigs, which in Fisher’s outfit was a godsend, and how we never got paid at said gigs for one reason or another. —Hey, don’t worry about it,— added Castillo, —Listen, Deetz, Fisher’s missin and we need evrytheng you know about him this past month.

—Missin?— Deetz sounded skeptical. —Since when?

—We don’t know! But this pipeline burnt up two weeks ago out his way, and right about since then ain’t no one got a hold ofim or seenim.

Deetz saw me react to Castillo’s leading with the pipeline. I said: —The pipeline blowup mighta or mighta not had to do with it. But Fisher was workin for people around near where it went up.

—Didye check social media?— I shot a look at Castillo, whose black eyes arched even more dramatically than normal. Deetz continued: —What work’s he doin out there?

—Does it matter?

—Drivin truck. He’s haulin dirt to build berms. To plant trees on.

—Isat that god damn tree water project?— Deetz’ face was now livid pink, —my cousin useta live in Sonora and he drove into a flash flood and got his car floated like a log and flipped up against a lightpost and god damn drowned! And my old boy Nemitz from school, he almost drowned in a cigrit store! And now them social justice warriors’re fixin to make more little hills, which is stupid, cause that just gives people more deep spots to get stuck in.

I couldn’t keep from laughing. —That’s too bad, Deetz,

—Yknow, yer laughin, but I showed my cousin yall’s band, so him dyin’s like five percent of you and Fisher’s fanbase goin down the fuckin hole!

Somewhere northeast of us a front quarter panel and headlamp exploded against an immovable object.

I cleared my throat. —Ahunnerstand. Listen Deetz, I know, it’s a problem. Abandoned oil wells’re sinkin West Texas all over, so there’s gonna be a lot more little dips. But listen. You didn’t get Fisher’s girlfriend’s number at the barbecue, didye? The one you and Castillo went to? We wanna caller.

—Whatta you mean more dips? A oil well falls in, you just let the rain fill it up … and there’s yer god damn flood control! See?

—We didn’t say we back the,

—Don’t need no more hills and deep spots. That hill shit’s real estate shit. This useta be the plains, and now they wanna make more hill country so no one can afford to live out here but Facebook fuckin people from Austin! Castillo, tellim how much rent you’re payin out in Eldoraydo now!

We let him holler himself out. Like I did with Fisher for four or so years recently. —No one got no common sense. And yknow, Fisher’s livin innis van just cause a that rent. Bettern yer place gettin flooded out.

—Okay,— I said with patience that Amir gave me, —amm sorry abrought it up. But did you get his girlfriend’s number? We wanna caller and see if she’s talked to him.

—He didn’t have no girlfriend at the barbecue.

Castillo and I exchanged another look. —You mean she wasn’t there at all, or she wasn’t his girlfriend?

—Jesus Deetz, she was the only female at the fuckin barbecue, if you didn’t see her, fuckin amm the virgin Mary.

—She was there? Awas on oxies,

—Okay, know what, never mind, Deetz,— I was anxious to quit this for the night, —you ain’t heard from Fisher this week or last couple weeks?— He thought. —Adunno.

—Here, hang up and look in yer text messages and calls. And tell me or Cass what you see! Will you do that?


—Thanks, Deetz!— we both did the refrain from the other life when he booked us shows.

We hung up, dialed, and Fisher didn’t pick up again.

When we came back in, Amir was in his room and I figured he’d heard us all swearing and being stupid out his window, and I guess he’s heard worse with worse intentions.

—What’d you find out?— asked Sofia right away. I said we didn’t find out nothing. Castillo lingered on my guitar and I wished he’d leave us alone so I could be fed up about this thing in front of fewer people.

—Go look for him. I can handle Amir and the house another night.

—Ain’t nothin to look for, I told you.

I think a side effect of rejecting all potential power structures between us is that Sofía and I have problems understanding each other’s intentions when we talk. Without Christian marriage or any other macho system to fight against, or to filter how we listen, it gets messy.

—You’re frustrated because you haven’t found the truth. Then it’s important to look for it.

—Lookin in the dark! Evrything aseen so far is bullshit! Amm not quittin like amm lazy!

—I didn’t say that.

The self-defence sounded like a parody of itself soon as I said it. I said okay and went to the door with Castillo by the shoulder. —Cmon. It’s gettin late. Agotta check Amir’s Spanish homework.

Castillo approached his truck without a word, but then turned again with one foot on the floorboard. —It ain’t all bullshit. Sofía’s right. Donche wanna help me?

—I never helped you!— It was true. All the research was for myself. —Adon’t care about this flood line’s problems and amm not chasin Pico with you cause he’s not real! Amm not behind whatever’s sposed to be his movement. Amm worried bout payin mortgage and college tuition. And amm not gonna assume Fisher’s just gone or dead. He’ll call when he wants somethin.

I just said everything I was thinking because it was quicker than starting over understanding each other. In that way I deprived him of any real choice but to be done. He slicked his hair back, smirked. A gust blew mesquite and juniper into my nose, like a warm heartbeat under dust like cold skin. And then some tiny warm drops. I turned and had the door half closed when he called at me again. —Hey. Hey! … What if Pico’s black?

—Shut yer mouth, Cass.

Hey deetz, any stuff in yr phone from fisher?


Negativ just bbq pics



Thanx deetz!

Latest memes from the internet that’re supposed to be about Pico: one has a white baby with a cute critical-looking frown, and it says one million oilfield workers laid off, nobody cares, Californian terrorist crashes into a pipe and everyone loses their mind. Another one has an X-ray type illustration of a guy’s brain getting brighter and more atomic, and his enlightenment is labeled with There is no Pico, real estate wants that oil land.

A search for the words FBI and Pico turn up just a statement from California Highway Patrol. But the next result is a notice from just this morning in the Observer. It quotes what they say is the Californian saboteur group known collectively as Pico: Oil industry collapsing. Texas needs more forest, fewer superhomes, fewer Walmarts. The people deserve a choice. Solidarity with actions at San Angelo flood line.

Clean fresh air ended at the garage doors the next day. Castillo sent me links on my phone but I had to wait until my boss wanted me to look up a menu for lunch before I could use the computer. The memes were a bunch of hot air. This is where the flood line’s PR people get their ideas when they panic. The president, too.

I was rereading what Castillo apparently didn’t find on the internet when my boss asked me what’s the hold up. I said the internet was acting up, and called in for barbecue.

I told none of this intrigue to Sofía, but she kept trying to encourage me about Fisher. So I agreed to call in sick and drive up to Junction just to spot for his van and ask around. Before I left, it occurred to me to ask the Kimble county sheriff if his van got impounded. No one saw nothing. I felt that all this stress was hanging on whether I simply called Halff and tried to get the niece, but I figured I could never get through the organization. How much of this country’s true history is safely, indifferently filed away in corporations’ privileged records?

Rain was falling under a blue northern sky as I arrived in Junction feeling exhausted and stupid, fearing pointlessness. The afternoon bartender at the Riverside Saloon was friendly and she said Fisher’s parents had been there looking for him a week and a half ago and supposedly they put in a missing persons report. She gave me the parents’ number but they didn’t pick up.

The Paddler’s Porch waiter and bartender said they hadn’t seen Fisher in a few years. Some college students there allowed me to use the time and ask them about the flood line. They said their boyfriends had been up to plant at the last event. They didn’t take the pipeline accident seriously and they had no idea about Pico. One of the girls didn’t like the flood line, said the organizers were going to loosen all that land for nothing from dead oil leases and naively deliver it to developers to blast the whole state’s housing prices through the roof. Her friend was from way out in Lubbock and wasn’t with it, but she agreed that everyone was scared about housing especially if you look at Midland. They told me to ask around at the college.

I have to admit I wouldn’t have thought to look in all these places if I’d just stared at a map at home. At this point I was furious at Castillo for running after intersections with Pico’s probably imaginary hostility to Fisher’s boss. Like life is a big Facebook comment string, or worse, he’d done this work already and found it too boring to tell me.

I went to Kimble County Sheriff and didn’t get lynched, but I thought the cop would pull his gun when he told me what was up and saw my face open wide. —Arrested?— I almost hollered.

—Merrawana,— pronounced the cop with abject disgust, —a whole ounce. Him and a nice girl, I just didn’t believe it. But we don’t have him . . . Schleicher has him.

I got on the phone, got gas, and then was headed all the way out to Eldorado again. On the way over Fisher’s dad called me and thanked me kindly, and did I know what happened, and I thanked him kindly and said I just found out.

Schleicher County Sheriff is a one-story yellow brick government toilet hiding behind some crappy trees. I convinced the deputy that there could be a problem here, and who’s waiting in the jail cell but Fisher and Castillo.

—How’d you find us?— Castillo was amazed, —Hey. Fisher got chapped for weed.

—What the hell’re you doin here?— I demanded, just about to lose it. Fisher looked like this was all someone else’s fault and Castillo started blabbing. —They picked Fisher up for trespassing, and then they foundis weed, and somehow he let my name slip about the flood line!


Fisher whined: —Drivin truck, like I was sposed to. But they musta told my boss that we got busted for weed and he’s dropped me.


—Me and his niece,— Fisher resented me for the humiliating question. Castillo told him that I’d been briefed, and I’m sure if he wasn’t in jail, Fisher’d have condemned my nosiness for five straight minutes. I turned to the cop, who was getting pinker than a boiled chop. —Listen. Are you investigating the pipeline accident?

—Pipeline accident? … Do I need to?

—Look. These men aren’t involved with the flood line organizers. They imagined this thing with the pipeline!

—Whattaya mean imagined?— It was probably the first time a black man had ever demanded this cop’s attention. Castillo spoke up: —Let us call a lawyer. We’re outta here.

Sure that the cop hadn’t read the Observer, I laid it out for him: —There’s no grounds to hold Castillo for accessory. These guys got arrested for scarin someone. They invented a terrorist who’s tryin to blow up Fisher’s boss’s construction company and cause trouble around the flood line.

—Flood line?

—That’s what I was workin on when I got bagged in Irion for trespassing,— explained Fisher.

The deputy looked at us all, at his clipboard, at the clock. —All yall get the hell outta masight. Except, uh, Fisher here. He’s awaitin trial for possession of merriwana. But back in Kimble! Cmere, I’m transportin you maself this minute.

Castillo slipped through the bars. I scowled at Fisher. —Where’s your girlfriend?

—She got let out.

—You need to charge your phone, and call people back once in a while, dumbass.— Fisher snapped: —I live in my van! I been in jail!

—Get a better job then!— and to the cop, —he’s a rock star.

—Asee. What’s that make you, a rapper?

I grabbed Castillo by the elbow and talked low down the hall. —Amm takin you home and gettin the hell outta here. Got nothin else to do wichoself, this Pico bullshit got you arrested.

In the car Castillo skipped thanks and got going. —Athenk that pig snaked my cash! Ahad like three bucks in here. If yer wonderin why Fisher’s in such a bad mood, it’s cause he was onnis way to get a salvaged tiny house when he got chapped.

—Salvaged tiny house?

—Sure, they’re strewn all down 35 and 20, I guess. People just throwem away, like when they move into them cheap new places out where it floods. He was gonna take advantage of his boss’s rig! This one was shot to shit so he was fixinna get it back in shape. But dude, atoldje this was how it is. What you told the cheese in there, it was almost right. While we were locked up, Fisher,

—Fisher gives you more to believe doesn’t mean shit.

—Listen! Fisher says, the day he got chapped for trespassing, Halff himself calledim halfway through the drive, tellsim to scrap the trip to Mertzon, cause he’s got intel Pico’s probly gonna try something. Calls the dispatcher, dispatcher says keep on, the pipeline management company’s just pissed off and they got a judge to shut down the whole flood line in the county, got nothin to do with no attack, and just find somewhere else to dump the load, so that’s what he tried to do! Yesee? They all know somethin! And, and the next day the god damn pipeline burnt up!

—You mean Halff’s been readin memes and now it come to a coincidence.

—Man, that’s not how a old buddy trusts each other!

All I could do is shake my head and not swerve. —Dyou really get arrested on conspiracy?

—Yeah, stupid fuckin Fisher. He couldn’t get out on bail and didn’t wanna call his folks that whole time. After a week or whatever he calls me, and you bet they listen to evertheng you say on the jail phone, and he mentions Pico and the court injection and all that shit, and I get taken out here.

I hate when it’s too late to get someone to care how mad you are at them because they came out ahead. —If I hadn’a took work off today, you’d be rottin in that shithole till the whole country found out that Pico’s a meme, man! Thank god adidn’t tell nothin about it to Sofía. White people live in a god damn fantasy world.

—On the other hand, if he’s real like they say, I got close and got out clean.

—Shut yer mouth, Cass.