In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Paradise
  • Yxta Maya Murray (bio)

"I think we should go, Dad," I said, shielding my eyes from the wind. The sheriff had tweeted an evacuation order for Pulga twenty minutes before. It was quarter to eight in the morning and the sky didn't look right. Ten minutes ago it had turned from bright blue to a thick, pale orangy gray.

"I'm not going anywhere," said Wesley, my father-in-law. He looked eastward with his face crinkling up. He was a big bull of a man, about five-eleven. He was white and bald and wore glasses. He had a chipped front tooth and his son's blue eyes. He wore a Cowboys T-shirt and blue nylon shorts and black flip-flops. Eighty years old.

"That sky, though," I said. I'm five-two with a big ass and strong arms. I'm forty-four. My black hair frizzed all around my head. I wore black nylon shorts and a pink nylon top and no shoes.

We stood in the front yard of the house, which was on Edgewood Lane. Wes's black Yukon sat in the driveway. I'd parked my little green Prius by the curb. The winds whipped down the road. The crape myrtle bushes I planted on the sides of the house right after Mike died flattened and splayed from the hard gusts. The cottonwoods fringing the road shook like a huge hand was slapping them. Dead, gold grass and dried leaves crawled along our front yard instead of a proper lawn. Back inside, Jessie still dawdled, drinking her milk in the kitchen and playing with Henrietta.

"Shelly," I said. Our neighbor, a hefty yellow-haired woman, had just walked fast out of her house wearing flowered shorts and a white T-shirt.

"Fernanda, they're evacuating Pulga," she said. Pulga's a little town maybe fifteen miles away from Paradise as the crow flies.

"I know," I said.

"You got Jessie?" Shelly asked.

"Yeah, I think we're going to go in like ten minutes," I said.

Wesley shook his head. [End Page 405]

"Wes," Shelly said, grimacing. "Sonny boy, smell that air."

Already, it smelled like burning.

"Fires here every year," Wesley said, tilting his head my way.

"She can go." "She is the cat's mother," Shelly said, pulling her phone out of her shorts pocket and jabbing at it.

Ten or twelve other neighbors came hurrying out of their houses. Martin, Tillie, Babs, Fred, Nancy, I can't remember. Already, Serena Hammer's Honda and Joe Tate's Chevrolet chugged down Edgewood toward Pearson and Skyway. The rest of us stood out there gawking for probably too long, making clucking noises and talking about the Carr fire in Nor Cal last August.

"Concow lines are down," Shelly said, gripping her iPhone. Concow's another town, closer to us than Pulga. "Can't get hold of my mother."

"Evacuation for Paradise," Martin suddenly hollered, from two houses down. He's another white man—but they're all white except for me on this street, so why keep saying it. His nose practically touched his iPhone's screen. "They're telling us to haul out."

Shelly hustled indoors. People started moving back and forth between their houses and their cars. They lugged clothes, water, lamps, pillows, makeup cases, books, pictures, all this unnecessary crap.

I looked at Wesley. He sniffed.

"I'm not running," he said. "I built this house in 1982."

"Wes," I said. "Look at the color of that goddamn sky."

"This is my house, you just live here," he said. "You and Jessie can go." He started walking toward the myrtles on the left side of the house, where the hose was.

I ran inside.


Wes didn't want his son, Mike, to marry me. It wasn't a secret. I'm Pomo and Mexican and grew up in the Evergreen Mobile Home Park with my parents Lupita and Ben. Mike and I knew each other from around. We'd seen each other at Paradise High, where we graduated in '84, and then later at Butte Community. But Mike had been raised up on Edgewood. When he...