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father-son relationship

Woe and Wonder

On a Saturday morning in early June, just before the heat spikes, I set out with my eight-year-old son from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. We start the way I drive to work—north on Spencer Street past rows of midcentury ranch houses; left around the playgrounds of William E. Orr Middle School; then right on East Katie where, just past Algonquin, I see two burned-out truck trailers at the edge of the Boulevard Mall parking lot. One has holes in its sides like white paper someone held a lighter to, blew out the flame, and burned again and again. Still, standing on its wheels and struts, it seems positively stalwart compared to its companion, collapsed on its belly—a gesture of abjection, it feels, but also prayerful? Inside the trailer shells I glimpse blankets and bottles and a plywood shed. I don’t dwell, though. I’m on my way to get waffles for my boy.

Illustration by Corey Brickley

Location

The camp was deserted when they trekked into it. The tall canvas tents were zipped and the big table in the midst of the glade was clear but for a monkey that looked up when Simon approached. The monkey bared its teeth and screeched. Simon stepped back. One of the creature’s eyes, he noticed, was partly closed. A line of scar tissue ran from brow to cheek, over the corner of the eyelid. Rayyan picked up a branch and jabbed at the animal until it climbed off the tabletop and loped in the direction of the trees on toes and knuckles. “Bad monkeys in this park,” said Rayyan. He took a cloth from his pocket and wiped the table before he invited Simon to sit. It was a rough wooden table, made of felled saplings knotted together. They sat opposite each other in canvas chairs and resumed their conversation about Rayyan’s favorite topic: Manchester United. “Antonio Valencia,” Rayyan said. He exhaled and shook his head slowly and sadly. “Always they put him in the wrong position.”