The sky was still muted and dark. “Nothing’s open,” I said.
“I know a place.”
He turned left out of the parking lot, headed west on the highway. I
watched the blanketed farmland pass by us. When we stopped by some
woods, I couldn’t recount how we had arrived there. The trees glowed
with the cold half-light of dawn.
“Where are we?”
He parked off the side of the road and pointed ahead of us. “You can
see the mill from here.”
“I don’t see anything.” Just rows of staggered trees, gray branches
lined with iridescent ice. Pete cut the engine.
The snow crunched underneath our feet. Before too long, the graniteslab of the building’s back wall came into view. Here was the site wherefifteen men had died, among them our fathers. Pete gave me his hand asI shuffled down the last embankment. He pulled back a section of rippedfencing, and I crawled through.
“Is it safe here?” I asked when we stepped inside the mill. My voiceechoed back at me.
“Stay close to the wall.”I followed him up the iron stairs and sat next to him on the landing.
“I’m not sure this is stable,” I said, but like him, I dangled my legs over
the edge. We hovered above the charred walls and abandoned machin-
ery, visitors to a great looming emptiness. “Do you come here often?”
“Only when I want to feel holy.” Pete closed his eyes and kept them
“Are you praying?” I asked.
“No.” He opened his eyes.
“Will you pray for my mom?”
“I already do. Mostly, I just like to sit here.”
“And feel holy?”
“It’s not me. It’s this place. Places like this, they’re blessed somehow.
They’re more than what they used to be. They contain more. It’s like a
place struck by lightning.”
“Isn’t that like a cursed place?”
“The presence of God is here.”
I closed my eyes and tried to catch a sense of holiness, but mostly I
thought of the hydraulics bursting, flames gobbling up dry pulp, smoth-
ered screaming. “Feels creepy.”
“It’s peaceful, if you let it be.”