A subway runs beneath this one-note town, shuttling through red dirt, spurring electrically towards town's end, its single car full of identical men in gray suits lulled to sleep by the rattle-rack of the journey, one end of town to the other and back, again and again and again. You stand in the car and cling to a pole, and the men sway in unison, traveling further into sleep. They build a dream this way, underground. With the juice of so many dreamers, the dream world goes viscous, spirals up through the dirt, seeps over the town.
Like Daphne, the daughter of the riverboat conductor. We suspect that she thinks she is better than us, so we can't say we regret what happens. She rides the train to her after-school job at the soda fountain. The riders spew the dream at her until she's heavy with it, until it hangs from her hair like honey. The dozing men buoy her towards the surface, looming distorted as the underside of the ocean. How the heat of the day comes wailing through her shorts. She sits on the curb, panting with it. The riverboat conductor is jealous, suspicious, unhappy in his pinstriped hat. He halts the river, sits Daphne down, gives her a talk.
Meanwhile the dream muscles over town. How the heat comes wailing from the plains! Strange pairs start clumping in doorways, on stoops, in the anemic grove by the stockyards. In the trees teenagers fuck matter-of-factly as owls. The antique stores empty as we tangle in the aisles, dropping glass jars with our movements, our feet sucker-punching their fragile, hollow guts. The empty streets echo with humping.
Yes, but he likes Daphne, likes her likes her. We can see in his bare, strained wings, thumping against his track jacket. His wings are hot! He is hot! The subway rumbles beneath them, that, and the screech of hawks on the plains. How the heat tumbles towards us, impossibly across the horizon. He presses himself against her. From the sunburnt edges of the sky come cracks like an ancient failed varnish. Daphne says no. We've heard about this! He thumps his wings again, ardent and wordless, pressing stiffly into her thigh.
Daphne, with panic. He runs after her, runs her down, knocks her on her back in the middle of road. How he wants her! And he is the track star! The riverboat conductor hears, must be, or someone comes to help, because as he leans in to kiss her Daphne goes wooden, sprouts leaves and fine thin branches from her scalp, filigrees of laurel, shoots her high top sneakers down (she has always been stubborn) cracking through the asphalt, sinking into the ruddy ground below, and her roots work down into the dirt and wind themselves silverly around the subway car. Her skin gone barky and rough, the lover pulls back from his kiss bearded with splinters.
This is when our town starts vibrating all the time -- it is the effort of the tree roots clutching the subway in their fist. The dreamers, now awakened, want off of their ride, and they shout and kick at the doors, and Daphne sways as she holds them, rocking sweetly as a mother. A tree in the center of town disrupts traffic, that and no one ever feels like humping anymore, and most of us move away soon.
The boy still shows up now and then. It's just sad. You'll see him. He's the one with a red face like windburn, with the twigs and leaves in his hair.