Amazon’s warehouses are warehouses of commerce. Every item an American might desire, shelved and organized from floor to ceiling over acres of glazed concrete. Likewise Walmart—containing multitudes, now minus the hyphen. Likewise every mall of America. Ditto the dumpster. If trash is a record of consumption then it is also a record of purchasing power. Purchasing potential. Every day we dump our economics into the ground. I’ve constructed out of discarded cardboard a second home in the park, the first one having been taken from me. All the boxes from all the things I’ve ever bought stacked thick, glued, bolted. Boxes from my family, friends, local library. Landfill. How many stacks of paper. Paper is a prime insulator but it also burns; it holds heat until the heat leaks out. Every home is a fire hazard but few are exclusively byproduced. But paper once was wood so what does it matter—my second home is made of the same stuff as any other when we get right down to it. Sometimes when I’m lying in the tiny paper house I look around at the address labels lining the walls, my own meeting so many others, and I think of how I am surrounded by the good fortune of poor financial planning. I count house numbers to fall asleep, memorize surnames to keep my mind sharp. I grid the streets, make a mental map of the other side of town. Nothing but primo real estate. All these boxes, all this house, the ghosts of a thousand consumers. Not dead but absent. Removed, like me, from the labor pool. Uncalculated. Economically speaking, better off in the ground. But yesterday I watched a family erect their own house under the shade of a towering oak, diaper boxes and high-end cookware packaging mixed with Amazon’s black-taped brown. The father figure waved at me. “It’s a great location,” he called out. “Glad we got in when the getting was good, eh?” Today real estate agents are scouring the park, pointing at the biggest trees, the greenest grass. I’ll be moving soon enough.
Chase Burke calls Florida home. He has an MFA from the University of Alabama, where he was Fiction Editor of Black Warrior Review. His own work appears in Glimmer Train, Salt Hill, Sycamore Review, Yemassee, and Electric Literature, among other journals, and is forthcoming in DIAGRAM and Pithead Chapel. You can find him at chaseburke.com or on Twitter @cpburkejr.