After the Lead Mine Closes

The federal agent nodded, and whether he understood me or not, I couldn’t say. He dropped me off at my home, the house on Fourth Street I had inherited from my mother and father, and I climbed the steps alone as I listened to his rental car shift on the highway, and leaving my repairs for another day, I sat down in my armchair by the window. The sun had returned, and sitting in its square patch of light, I closed my eyes and felt its familiar warmth on my face. People often ask me if I’m lonely, but what they don’t understand is that I’m never alone. Indeed, I’m surrounded by more people than I’ve ever been. I know that when I open my eyes I’ll see William Hooper’s boys sledding down the Blue Eagle chat pile and little Arthur Middleton swimming in the mill pond and my own son, lying on his stomach before the window, reading comic books, the hiss of pork chops frying just audible over the radio in the kitchen, and as long as I can still picture his face, I don’t think—no matter how sick I may become —that I will ever leave.

Born in a trailer parked on a gravel quarry, Dylan Henderson has lived his whole life within the borders of the Cherokee Nation. After dropping out of school at sixteen, he enrolled at the local community college, eventually earning advanced degrees in history, literature, and library science. He now lives on the outskirts of Radium Town, an abandoned settlement once famous for its “radium cures.” The last remaining bath house is visible from his upstairs window.