The gutters in Cedar City are wide and brown; they’re extra wide and extra deep, so in places you have to leap from the road to the sidewalk. In the spring rolling, muddy-red water rushes down the gutters like a tiny flash flood. Once, driving through a neighborhood in the afternoon, I saw a tattooed man crouched beside the gutter, washing his hands.
On my street of duplexes there are always children playing in the road. I have to be careful not to run anyone/anything over: the scooters abandoned in my driveway; the large plastic balls resting in the gutter; the small, scrubby boys who play tag or stand in my yard throwing tennis balls at the neighbor’s second story window.
When my friends and I drive up Cedar Canyon in Peach, my fourteen-year-old silver Volvo sedan, we see at least nine deer. Two young forkys— two-points, my roommate tells us— fight playfully, bucking with their horns locked, until they get bored. As we go higher up the mountains, the scraggly sagebrush and Utah juniper thicken into aspens. My passengers urge me to “drive faster! The speed limit is 50!” But I fear the curves, the potholes, and hitting deer. Peach is sensitive. She is the same age as my sensitive little sister, but doesn’t accelerate as well. I’ve had her less than three months; she is my first car, so I mother her. Especially when the canyon turns from asphalt to dirt.
Polygamists deliver our newspaper. I notice this while sitting at the dark, high kitchen table. Through our broken white blinds I see her pull up in her white Suburban. Two very little girls, with high French braids and stiff, plain dresses stumble out with arms full of Iron County Today. They stand there for a moment looking scared until their mother calls a direction to them from her rolled-down window. Then they scurry up to my driveway and drop one, then on to the neighbors, while the Suburban moves slowly up the street.
There are always gnats in my kitchen. I bought flypaper and tacked it to the wall, but flypaper does not attract gnats, apparently.
It is dusk, Saturday evening. Still warm outside. I sit on the floor in the corner of my bare, too-big living room and read an essay about Frank Sinatra. The doorbell rings, and I leap up, wondering if other humans really do exist. I bound to the door and fling it open to find a small ice-cream-covered boy standing on my doorstep. He is holding a shattered ice-cream cone in two different hands, and he has a chocolate ice-cream goatee.
“Hi,” I say.
He looks up at me, bug-eyed. “Can I clean your house?”
I flounder. I like children. I like ice cream. I like free labor. But something tells me his mother would probably call the cops if he went missing for longer than three hours, and I don’t want to have my home raided like the cul-de-sac around the corner was.
“For money,” he adds, clarifying.
“Um…” my adult, collegiate brain is dumbfounded by this six-year-old stranger. “We... don’t really have any money.”
The little blonde girl behind him tugs on his shirt and yells, “IT’S OK, YOU CAN CLEAN OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES RALPHIE!”
I close the front door, leaving Ralphie and his companion still unemployed on my stoop. I go back to the Frank Sinatra essay. Back to my loneliness.
It never smells like weed here, and the sky is always enormous and deep blue.
If you are picturing this place in your mind’s eye, red and orange are important. For accuracy’s sake, if you are color-blind, you should not try to imagine Cedar City.