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Fresh Kills


ISSUE:  Spring 2016

Illustration by Pat Perry Any of the faces waiting in the St. George Ferry Terminal could have been Mimi; Robin had no photos for reference. They’d discovered each other’s existence only months before and had only corresponded by e-mail. She could narrow it down to what she knew about her cousin, which was basically that they were both forty-six, Ojibwe, had careers where they sat in front of computers all day long and children off at college. Robin was looking for a familiar face—round, a squat nose, dark or silver hair—but she hadn’t quite expected to see her honest-to-god doppelgänger waving with both hands, accompanied by her 300-pound husband, both wearing satin Jets jackets and sweatpants. Vic, the husband, had a shaved head and a pencil-thin goatee encircling a jolly smile. He enveloped Robin in a bear hug, and when he let go he grabbed her roller bag and said, “What’d I say, Mimi? It’s your freakin’ twin!”

“She is,” Mimi said, studying Robin’s face for a long moment. “I just got a chill!” They held onto one another while the commuters flowed past them, then followed Vic outside. Robin fished a cigarette out of her tote bag; the last time she’d had a chance to smoke was in the lounge at the airport where she caught her connection.

“Don’t tell me,” Mimi said with mock horror. “A smoker.” 

“A pretty one like you?” Vic asked. 

“Don’t you two start in on me,” Robin said.

In the parking lot, leaning against their white Cadillac, Vic and Mimi waited for Robin to finish her cigarette, both shaking their heads at the sight. They were joking but still accusing, so Robin took a long, last drag and tossed the rest. 

That night, at Vic and Mimi’s townhouse, the three of them stayed up late drinking Sambuca and talking. Robin had initially declined the drink. “Come on, hon, it’ll help you sleep,” Vic said, and filled her tumbler to the brim. She accepted it just to be polite, and tried not to spill it on the shag rug. Everything in their living room was too big—the drinks, the overstuffed and mismatched furniture, the TV. There were mirrors on one wall to give the illusion of space, but all they reflected was stuff. 

The Sambuca wasn’t to help her sleep—it was to get her talking. Mimi was eager to finally satisfy a lifelong curiosity; except for her mother, she had never met another Anishinaabe. “Do you speak the language?” Mimi asked. “I’ll go up to the home to see Ma and there are some days when that’s all she wants to speak.”

“Just a tiny bit,” Robin said. Although she audited and evaluated language classes in Minneapolis for the state, she’d never truly studied Anishinaabemowin, the language beaten out of Robin’s parents in the Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding school. “Say, boozhoo.”

Mimi tried it: “Boozhoo.”

“Gesundheit,” Vic said, and the two of them giggled.

“Robin, dear, was that right? See, to me, it sounds almost like bonjour.”

“Hey, I don’t know if that’s right, but you sound like a freakin’ Indian!” Vic said.

“Yeah, there’s probably a little French in there,” Robin said. She was the authority among them, though she was already a quarter of the way through all the words she knew. For the sake of the weekend, though, she would let them believe whatever they wanted about her.

Victor leaned forward to tell a grim secret: “See, hon, we always knew there was something, you know, different about Mimi.”

“Don’t make it sound like I’m retarded or something,” Mimi said. “I knew I was Indian.”

“We knew that,” he continued slowly. Robin was feeling the first warmth from her drink blossom in her chest. “But there was something else, you know, how do you call it? Inexplicable. Something we couldn’t quite put our fingers on.”

“I get these feelings sometimes,” Mimi said. “All my life I’ve had these premonitions. Like this one time, I’m driving through Park Slope, and I get this feeling like I have to stop the car. So I double-park and get out, and let me tell you something, Robin, something was pushing me towards this one apartment building down near Atlantic Avenue, so I just stand outside it. Can you imagine? Like a real whackadoo. Five minutes I’m standing out there, gaping up at this building, my mouth open. Neighbors peeping out their windows. I didn’t care. I’m in a trance.”

“Like a crazy person.”

“So I get out of there, and later on, I’m telling Ma about it, and she says, ‘Mimi, that’s the building where we lived when you were born.’” Her eyes bulged for effect. “She never told me this before. We moved out of there when I was three. There were no pictures of it. So Robin, what brought me to that place? What made me stop the car?” 

“She’s freakin’ psychic, is what she is.”

“And Robin, I know it’s nuts, but I could feel your presence, or your aura, or something, whatever. Even before I looked you up and found your e-mail. Ask Vic.”

“She said her hackles were up. You know, like on the back of your neck?”

“And here I am,” Robin said. She yawned. She’d been traveling all day. She made a move toward getting out of the easy chair, but they weren’t quite done with her, and the alcohol didn’t help.

“We think it has something to do with her being Indian,” Victor said. 

“Well, no duh,” Mimi said. “Would you let me talk?”

“It’s uncanny. She’s got a gift.” Vic shrugged with his hands. “But that’s what I’m telling you, Mimi. Don’t you think it has something to do with your ancestors? The spirits or something?” The look on his face was very earnest, searching. They waited for an answer.

“It could very well be,” Robin said. It was the only answer she could come up with. She was a skeptic by nature, a social scientist with a Ph.D. and little use for the superstitions her cousin apparently subscribed to. She had experienced things that couldn’t be explained away, though it was unclear how much of that was due to her heritage. Like the night three months ago, when she received the e-mail from an unfamiliar address, thinking it was her new Al-Anon sponsor because it said there was someone out there whom she’d never met, but who had been leading a parallel life to hers, someone who understood her. Mimi (real name?) claimed to be her first cousin, that her mother was Robin’s aunt, and this aunt was gravely ill in a nursing home on Staten Island. Could Robin come to visit, just so the old woman could see someone from the reservation again? Robin picked the e-mail apart. It was well-written, almost formal, but she couldn’t decide whether it was a scam or a hoax, or what, exactly, to make of it. Mimi had gotten the tribe and the reservation correct, she hadn’t asked for any money, and when they met over the phone, Robin heard a familiar voice, as though she were listening to herself speaking with a Staten Island accent. A week later, she bought the ticket.

For the first time in a while, Robin felt needed. For too long, she’d suspected that with her daughter, Cara, at college, and with the separation, it didn’t matter what she was doing or where she was. She could fly to New York and fulfill this longing she sensed in her cousin, even though they were essentially strangers. She didn’t tell them this, of course. She just enjoyed the comfort of instant familiarity. Mimi and Vic exchanged knowing looks that suggested Robin’s very presence was confirmation of everything they’d felt was true. 

Down in the basement, Victor inflated a mattress and set it next to the aquarium. He then left Robin alone. She went to the bathroom, washed her face and brushed her teeth, sat on the toilet with the cover down. Her whole body ached from the flight. She was sitting across from a memorial of some kind: two urns, each inscribed with a name (Brutus, Hannibal), and two framed pictures of identical Dobermans. She called her daughter.

“Help me,” she said, cupping her hand over her mouth to muffle her voice. 

“They can’t be that bad, Mom,” Cara said. She sounded distracted, slightly irritated. Robin wondered if there were someone else in the apartment with her daughter.

“Their dead dogs are in the bathroom.”

“What do you mean? Like, the carcasses? Ghosts?”

“Ashes. Is there someone there with you?” Cara cut her off and said she had to study. Finals week. Robin thought of having a smoke, but didn’t want to wake up the house or get caught outside. Cara was already on her case about quitting, and so was this new family of hers.

The basement glowed from the pale light of the thirty-gallon aquarium that contained a gigantic brown fish. Its flanks rubbed up against the sides of the tank, and it couldn’t turn around; it could only swim forward and bounce backward in the tank. With the assistance of a Benadryl, Robin fell asleep to the sounds of the fish tank and the slight, almost imperceptible vibrations of Vic’s apneic snoring two floors above her.


Robin was anxious about meeting her Aunt Cynthia the next morning. She put on one of her work outfits: a cream blouse, dark-green slacks, a pair of turquoise earrings her sister had made. She tried not to plan or rehearse what she would say, and instead tried to focus on getting ready. But she couldn’t help speculating on what would happen when Cynthia saw her face, if her aunt would recognize family that had been lost so long ago, or if she had even wanted to be found. 

Like so many young Anishinaabeg during the Relocation years, Aunt Cynthia had left the reservation for Chicago in the 1950s. But while her brothers and sisters stayed in touch, they lost contact with Cynthia—no phone calls, no letters, no visits. She was the vanished sister Robin’s parents whispered about. Eventually she married an outsider, not someone in the tribe. And while marrying a white man would have been met with suspicion, her husband was black, and she feared her family’s rejection. Nobody knew that by the time she left Chicago for New York she was pregnant with Mimi. She’d kept that secret, too.

When Cynthia was a girl, the children of the reservation were being stolen from their homes and sent to a BIA boarding school that changed their names, cut their hair, put them in uniforms, and beat them if they spoke Anishinaabemowin. By the time they were grown, they had been taught to be ashamed of where they came from, and they left the reservation to find places in the white world. Robin’s father never spoke a word of Anishinaabemowin again, and Robin’s mother stopped calling herself by her birth name. They raised their children in Chicago, far from the traditional culture; Robin had never lived in Waswagoning, she didn’t have an Anishinaabe name, and whenever she visited the family still on the reservation, she felt like a stranger. Robin was hoping that Cynthia had some insight into leaving the reservation behind, if it took something out of you, if you felt a part of yourself disappearing or if it was replaced with something else. But she was also afraid that her presence would remind Cynthia of the shame that had driven her here in the first place.

In the kitchen, Mimi had put out bagels and cream cheese on the breakfast bar, humming to herself in her pink tracksuit. “Smoke ’em if you got ’em,” she said. “There’s nowhere to do it between here and the home.”

Robin bristled at the condescension hidden in this bit of advice. She went outside to wait but refused to smoke—out of spite, but also embarrassment. Finally Mimi pulled the car out of the garage. A blue-and-gray pigeon sailed out of the sky and landed on the lawn. Mimi saw it from the car and called out to it: “Hello there, Mr. Pigeon! And how are you today?” It cooed and bobbed around the yard, then flew away as Robin opened the door and got in. “That one sees me off to work every morning,” Mimi said.

“Maybe he’s your spirit animal,” Robin said. She was half joking, trying to see how far she could take this authority on all things vaguely Indian.

“You’re right! Do we believe in those?”

“Yes, in a sense. They can hear what we’re saying.”

“What do you know? But I’d have thought my spirit animal would’ve been something different, like a dog. A pigeon, though—really? I guess you can’t argue.”

“You don’t get to choose,” Robin said. “It’s chosen for you.” By whom, she couldn’t say. But Mimi had already filled in that blank.

On Arthur Kill Road, Mimi pointed out a berm covered in brown grass, rising behind a chain-link fence. Behind it, out of sight, was the Fresh Kills Dump. Vic had been a supervisor there, for the Department of Sanitation, until the dump was decommissioned and he was reassigned to a job in Queens. Mimi said there was a plan to build a park over the dump. Mimi talked about 9/11, how she and Vic watched the funeral procession of barges loaded with the scorched husks of fire trucks and squad cars and girders from the towers on their way to be buried at Fresh Kills, a sight that inspired drastic contingency plans. “There’s only four bridges off the island, so in case of a terrorist attack, you know, a big one? I say we don’t suffer. The whole family knows about this. We got a succession. First we kill the kids, then we kill the dogs, then we kill each other. That’s how it goes. Of course, that’s when the kids were still living with us. I think that’s why they went to college out of state.”

Robin smiled. She was trying not to judge, but Mimi’s world was filled with vague, apocalyptic peril and the magic of half-remembered prayers and spirits. 


Cynthia’s suite at the nursing home was a semipermanent hospital room, decorated with framed pictures of her grandchildren and a crucifix over the bed. Upon meeting her, for just a moment, Robin thought she’d slipped into a dream where she’d gotten her mother back. Her mother had lived the last years of her life in the same way—wheelchair-bound in a home where Robin had to inventory her mother’s things and bring her new shoes and knickknacks to replace the ones that were lost; ten years gone, here she was again, but more lucid, more lively. Cynthia wore a knit sweater, her hair dyed black. It was tempting to believe she had more years left than the doctors predicted. When she saw Robin in the doorway, she smiled and held out both hands.

“Niisaajowinikwe,” Robin said. 

“Waswagonikwe!” Cynthia said. 

“No,” Robin said. “My mother was Waswagonikwe.” 

“Oh my god, I’m going to cry,” Mimi said.

“Did you bring her?” Cynthia asked, looking past them. “It’s been so long. I don’t know what I’m going to say!” Even after fifty years in New York, Cynthia hadn’t lost her reservation accent. It was jarring after listening to Mimi’s Staten Island accent all morning.

“Oh, no. Mom died years ago.” 

The rapture in Cynthia’s face dissipated, and she held Robin’s hand tighter. “What did she die of?”

“Oh, it was a stroke. Sometime in the night. That was a few years ago.” She decided it was best to leave out the Alzheimer’s. Cynthia let go of Robin’s hand. 

“Don’t be like that, Ma,” Mimi said. She patted her mother’s shoulder.

Cynthia began asking about people she’d known, searching her memory for family members, each recharging that look of expectation.

“Paul Fontenot?”

“Dead.”

“Petey Germaine? I used to sit with him before he had to go to the army. I cried so much.”

“I’m sorry,” Robin said. “He had a stroke back in the eighties.”

After about the fifth name, Mimi sighed and muttered, “Angel of Death over here.”

Robin tried changing the subject. She tried to ask a question that had been bothering her the whole trip. “Aunt Cynthia,” she said slowly, “do you remember what it was like on the reservation?” 

Cynthia mulled it over. “It was so long ago,” she said. “I can’t think of anything besides the people. They’re all gone, aren’t they?” It hung in the air for a moment. Mimi brought up more immediate concerns: the next visit to the oncologist; whether Cynthia was getting along with “the gals” on her floor; did she want another case of that sparkling water she liked?

After a while, Cynthia had trouble keeping her eyes open, and Mimi suggested they let her rest. Robin got up to leave, and Cynthia grabbed her hand and pulled her close and whispered, “I knew you’d come back for me.”

Robin could feel herself trembling as she stood over her aunt. “We don’t forget,” she said. “Gigawaabamin menawah.”

She’d hoped the sound of the language would trigger one last memory or look of recognition. Maybe her pronunciation was bad, or maybe she’d enunciated the wrong syllable or used the wrong word, because she saw nothing in Cynthia’s face. Robin gave one final squeeze of Cynthia’s hand and then let go.

Robin never could explain why the sky suddenly cleared the day her father died, years ago, or the dream she’d had of her mother after she’d passed away, her mother pointing at her and hollering something in Ojibwe, which was all she spoke in the end. Robin didn’t dare mention these things to people because she never quite believed they had actually happened. And she couldn’t be sure, as she tried to let go of her aunt’s hand and tear herself from the old woman’s gaze, that this had been real, either. 

“She can be a real heel sometimes,” Mimi said as they walked out of the lobby. “We caught her on a good day.”

“She seemed fine,” Robin said. “I’m sorry I didn’t have better news for her.”

“It was freakin’ spooky,” Mimi said. “What did you say her name was again?”

She’d already buried her mother, Robin realized; whatever she’d been looking for was long gone. She felt disappointed—even humiliated—that she’d thought this visit could somehow be cathartic.

“Niisaajowinikwe,” Robin said, looking away. She was distracted by her growing irritation at her cousin. She was tired of explaining everything. She had her own questions about where she came from and she was starting to believe that anyone who could answer them was already gone.

“Do you know what it means?”

Falling-water woman: Robin mouthed it, but kept it to herself. “I don’t know anymore,” she said. 


That night, Victor threw a birthday party for a neighbor down the block, an ex-cop named Ronnie, who was turning fifty. They’d seated him next to Robin—on purpose, she assumed—and all night Mimi went out of her way to say their names together: Robin and Ronnie. They were sitting around a fire pit in the backyard. The knots in the logs popped and the embers landed at their feet. 

“You’re gonna get home and find little pinholes in your fancy slacks,” Mimi told Ronnie. He shivered and held himself in the cold. He was about to be fired from his job as an EMT in the city. This was one of the many stories he told about himself. An hour into the party and his face was already red: He was never far from the whiskey they passed around.

Vic handed Ronnie a little white envelope, a birthday present: scratch-off lotto tickets and a dime to scratch them. Vic winked at Robin and hovered over Ronnie as he greedily set about scratching. One cherry. Two cherries. “Oh my fucking god,” he said. “I won ten thousand bucks!”

“What?” Vic bellowed. “You’re kidding me! You’re sharing half that with me, buddy.”

“Oh god. Thank you, Victor. Thank you, thank you.”

“Aw, come on now. I just bought the ticket.”

“Let me tell you, we’re all going to AC. I got the rooms. This is on me.” His trembling hands shielded the ticket from the sparks and heat from the fire. 

“Hey, before you call your travel agent, did you think of how you’re going to collect on that? What, you just take it to the bodega and they hand you a stack of twenties? Read the back of it.”

“All right, all right, I’ll read it. Okay, here it is. You just send the ticket to—‘yo mama’s house’? That’s what it says: ‘yo mama’s house.’” Vic wheezed with laughter, which spread as everyone watching realized what he’d done. Ronnie flipped the ticket into the fire and weakly tried to join in the laughter, too.

“Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy,” Victor said.

To Robin, it seemed cruel. She tried to laugh, too, but felt bad for Ronnie, even if she didn’t know him all that well. But her sympathy vanished when, later, he put his hand on her knee. She drew back from him and got up to go back into the kitchen. It was cold outside and she was sick of inhaling the smoke from the fire and cigars. Mimi and Vic followed her inside shortly after. She was sitting at the breakfast bar, and Vic walked up behind her and put his meaty hands on her shoulders. “You okay, hon? Ronnie’s a nice guy.”

The party was breaking up already. Vic walked over to Mimi, kissed her on the top of her head, and lumbered upstairs on his bad knees to pass out. Mimi stayed with Robin in the kitchen and made tea. “We thought you wouldn’t mind meeting someone while you’re visiting. You know, to trap you into moving out here.”

“I don’t need to meet anyone,” Robin said. “I’m fine.”

“We like to have a good time. Vic loves entertaining. I hope we didn’t put you off out there.”

“You know, I’m actually used to that. People like that I mean.” They drank like Indians, she wanted to say, but she felt bad for even thinking it. It had been uncomfortably familiar, and she’d felt the same despair as she did as a child, when her parents had parties at home. 

“They’re all good guys,” Mimi said, as if to apologize for the rowdiness, but not quite apologizing. “This doesn’t happen very often, everybody getting together like this. Every once in a while.”

“Does he drink every day?” Robin asked. “You know, my husband, Teddy, used to drink and take opioids. You’re not supposed to mix them.”

“Well,” Mimi began, but paused over the stove. She bit her lip. “Vic gets the sleep apnea real bad when he takes both. He doesn’t do that every day, though. He had his knee worked on a few months ago, and they keep on giving him Vicodins.”

“Did you ever think maybe he had a, I don’t know, a problem? You know, with the drinking and the pills?”

Mimi stared into her tea. “You mean have I gone through that little checklist they give you at AA meetings? Vic isn’t any different than any of my family, or any of our family, I mean. He certainly isn’t like my mother. That little woman could put ’em away, believe you me. But he never blacks out or nothin’.”

Robin thought about reaching for her hand, but couldn’t.

“Just because you went through it doesn’t mean I am.”

“That’s not what I—” But Mimi was giving her a skeptical look. Robin waited her out. She took a deep breath, just like they taught her in a hundred Al-Anon meetings, and she thought of the serenity prayer. 

“Vic’s a good man,” Mimi said finally. She let out a short laugh, rubbed her eyes behind her glasses, and said, “He said he’d get me out of Brooklyn.”

They sat together in silence for a few minutes, and Robin marinated in the shame from her misstep. She regretted saying anything. She regretted coming out to New York. Here they were trying to fix each other, but it was clear to Robin that the two of them were the least qualified to do so. 

Mimi left her in the dark kitchen. “If you go outside to smoke, just make sure to lock the door when you come back inside, okay?” 


The next morning they’d planned to go see Cynthia at the home again, and Robin waited for her cousin to back the car out of the garage when she noticed that the blue-and-gray pigeon was lying on its side on the driveway, intact but still.

“Oh my god!” Mimi shrieked when she saw it. “You were just fine yesterday!”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Mimi,” Robin said. She kneeled down next to it to get a closer look. Its neck had contorted upward, and its wings were half-opened, as if it died before it could fly away. 

“Don’t touch him,” Mimi said. “He’s lousy with germs. My spirit animal.”

“Oh, Mimi. Do you want me to get a dustpan?” 

Mimi considered it for a moment, paced back and forth on the driveway. After much deliberation, she went to the garage for a broom, and when she came back her eyeliner was smeared. Her voice was steady, though. “All over the news they’re saying there’s a bird flu going around. Avian flu. Something like that. We’ve got to get him tested.” She went back inside to get a pair of dishwashing gloves and some plastic bags and a Sharpie. Mimi put the gloves on but couldn’t bring herself to touch the thing, so she shut her eyes as Robin swept it into the dustpan and then slid it into the bag, which Mimi held open. They double-bagged the bird in a plastic shroud and then wrote over its breast, 5/19 possible avian flu fresh kills staten island.

Mimi thought it best to take the bird to the veterinarian who took care of her dogs. “I don’t know if he does birds, but I guess we’re going to find out.” Mimi didn’t want it in the car with them and didn’t want it rolling around the trunk, so she drove with her dishwashing gloves still on, one hand on the wheel and one hand holding the bird out the window as they sped down the avenue, Mimi chanting a rosary.

“It’ll be okay,” Robin said. She was holding the door handle as tight as she could because Mimi was taking the turns fast.

“Okay? Well who’s watching over me now? This is a disaster.”

“Someone is. Or something.”

Mimi’s cell phone rang. Robin pressed the answer button and put it on speakerphone. “Hey, yo, Mimi,” Vic said.

“Vic! My bird’s dead!”

“Your what? What now?”

“Yeah, that little pigeon I was telling you about? He just dropped dead. Probably of that avian flu that’s been going around.”

She waited for him to respond, but Vic was stuck in a fit of vicious, mean-spirited laughter. It took him a moment to catch his breath, and while he breathed into the phone, Robin and Mimi looked at each other. Mimi slowed the car down and pulled over to the side. Finally, he said, “Oh, screaming Mimi, are you stupid or what?”

“What the fuck are you laughing at?”

“I shot it! I shot the fucking thing! With the BB gun. It was just a pigeon!”

With the speakerphone setting still on, Mimi pressed the phone into the side of her face, her other hand still hanging the bird out the window. “Listen good. When I come home tonight, I’m going to kill you. I’m going to murder you, you hear me?” Vic kept laughing. “I’m going to figure out a way to do it and nobody’s going to know. It’ll look like a heart attack. Stop laughing. It will look like you died in your sleep. You hear me?”

“Okay, hon. Look, I’ll talk to you later. I didn’t know! I really didn’t know!”

After he hung up, Mimi said, “He doesn’t believe me.”

“I believe you,” Robin said. 

They drove a little farther down the road, to a one-story brick building that sat across the street from the fenced-in berm. There were no signs indicating what the building was, but there was a dumpster nearby. Mimi parked the car and got out, holding the bird at arm’s length. Robin followed. The dumpster was padlocked, but they could still open the lid enough to slip the bird across the transom. It landed with a meaty, plastic thud. Mimi finally took her gloves off and threw them in with the bird.

“We should say something,” Mimi said. She was crying again. “What are you supposed to say? Is there an Indian thing that we all say or what?”

Robin put her hand on Mimi’s shoulder. “We pray, same as everybody,” she said. “Sometimes an elder will say a prayer. I guess you could just make something up.”

Mimi laughed at this. “We’re the elders now, ain’t we? My ma is the last one. Then it’s us.”

This had already happened to Robin, years ago, after she’d buried her mother. But never had she felt it as she did beside that rusty dumpster. As much as she’d doubted herself, though, the words came easier than expected: “Creator, we’d like to thank you for sending this bird for looking over Mimi, and Cynthia, and I guess Victor, as well. He did—a good job, and if you could please send something else to look over Mimi. And Vic. Miigwech.” Her final word of Anishinaabemowin, the last thing she had left to teach her cousin.

“He was looking out for me,” Mimi said, blinking back tears.

Robin sighed. Remembering another fragment of ceremony, she checked her bag for the pack she’d bought at the station and took out the last cigarette. She broke it in two and took a pinch of loose tobacco to the dumpster, then sprinkled it inside as a gift for the Creator. She returned to Mimi and put her arms around her cousin, and said into her ear. “Maybe you should know this.”

“What’s that?”

“I don’t know the Anishinaabe word for it, but I remember back when we’d go to funerals on the reservation, the elders would say that whenever someone dies, you never say goodbye. You just say see you later. I wish I could remember the words. They sound better.”

“See you later, Mr. Pigeon,” Mimi said. 

“See you later.”

Robin held her tighter and looked past the chain-link fence in the back. The grass covering the berm was green and lush and tall, blocking the view of the expanse of the Fresh Kills Dump, once the biggest garbage dump in the world. There were signs along the fence from the Freshkills Park Alliance promising reclamation, computer-rendered scenes of what the place would look like in twenty years. Robin tried to imagine it, an enormous green park with little rivulets and trout streams snaking through it, trees and swing sets and happy families and windmills and greenhouses and dogs chasing tennis balls. All this bliss on top of a mountain of garbage and somehow everyone was supposed to forget what it used to be and assume that there was only earth underneath all that greenery. To believe it, you had to have faith in something magical, believe that the Earth could heal itself of all wounds, with time. And she was ready.

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