It took three-quarters of a ton of plastique to get rid of all the box stores in Tafts Corner. We had planned to hold a picnic in the ruins, and then scatter a couple truckloads of manure and wildflower seeds, but manure was in short supply, and the explosion made a cloud of dust that expanded from the freeway to the junction of routes 2 and 2A. We wound up having our picnic in the "green space" around the housing development just north.

"Shit, that probably ought to go, too," Amber said, sitting on the mown lawn, eating her sprouts and chickpeas, and gazing with disgust on the interlocked cubes.

As if summoned by her thoughts, an SUV drove out of the cloud, its wipers vainly smearing the dust on its windshield. It bounced over the curb and swung up beside us, making Piso and the boys snatch their Sam Adamses out of its path.

A man in a blue uniform with eagles on his collar bounded out. "All right," he said, "which one of you bozos?—" but if he was trying to be intimidating he blew it all by doubling over and hacking up a lung.

His pot belly hung over his belt, but his neck and limbs were thin, giving him the impression of being a styrofoam ball stuck with sticks. The severe crew-cut and mirror sunglasses were not enough to make him threatening.

"Cranberry juice?" I offered, when he could breathe again.

"No, t'ank you," he wheezed in a thick Bronx accent. "You in charge of dis mess?"

"That's what they tell me," I said. "N. E. Brahmin, Field Director of Green Mountain Reconstruction. My friends call me Bram."

"Colonel Flemming," he said, and hacked up another gob that nearly landed on Piso's lunch.

"Jesus, Mary, Joseph!" he exclaimed.

Flemming eyed him suspiciously, not just for his language but his country twang. "Where you from, son?"

"Come on, Flem," I said. "Not everybody who believes in God is a fundamentalist kook."

Unhappy with the sufficiency of my explanation, Amber added, "That's Piso!" When that got no reaction from Flemming, she went on. "Piso Mojado! You know, Ballet for Two Backhoes and a Bucket Loader?"

Piso was a remarkably dedicated worker for an artist. He was interning with us for a year, in preparation for his latest project, Concerto for Plastique and a Large Building.

"Yeah," Flemming nodded. "I heard of dat. Dat National Arts t'ing. Da backhoes hump each other. Nice use of da people's money."

Amber's jaw dropped open, and Piso rolled his eyes. "There's a whole country for folks like you, honey. I swam the length of the Mississippi to get away from them, I don't need to meet more up here."

Actually, Piso was on tour in Switzerland in 2004, but the tale of how Catholics, queers, and creative people escaped the deep south was now firmly fixed in legend. Being all three, it was hard to contradict Piso's claim to the mythology.

Flemming straightened up, and turned crisply back to me. "The Army needs to requisition your explosives."

This made Amber sit up. "Oh, no you don't. This plan has been in the works for months."

"Colonel," I said. "May I introduce Doctor Amber Greeley, my Ecocivic Specialist?" Usually at this point Amber made a joke about being the lowest lump of whale shit named "Lee," but the prospect of our project getting scuttled by the military had taken all the fun out of her.

"Dere is a war on, ya know," he replied.

"I hadn't heard," I said. "Treaty of Columbus. We get Cleveland, they get western Penn, all that."

"Da Christian States may have signed a treaty," he said, "but God didn't, dey say. A lot of folks still hope to get to Paradise by fighting to save our unborn."

I shrugged. "But Flem, you don't fight terrorists with high explosives."

"That's for Boston to decide. Where ya got it?" He turned back to look at the dust cloud, and coughed again, but it just seemed to be a reflex.

"Half of them are in the truck," I hooked a thumb at the big box truck behind me. "Half, less about a ton, but we really can't spare any. We'll probably be short as it is."

"Short," the colonel echoed. "Short for what? Dere isn't anyt'ing to blow up around here."

"Are you kidding?" Amber gawked. "This was the devil's playground before we got here. Nothing but box stores as far as the eye could see."

"The devil's playground?" he echoed, incredulous.

"Box stores," she repeated, looking as if she were speaking to a preschooler. "Walmart? Toys 'R' Us? Home Despot, Petsmart."

"Petsmart!" His face flushed purple.

"The animals were gone." She rolled her eyes. "It was an empty, ugly building."

About the Author
Eugene Fairfield, who also writes under the name Brian Wightman, formally studied writing under poet Stuart Friebert and fiction writer Diane Vreuls in the mid-'80s. He currently lives in Barre, Vermont, with his wife, Carrie Rouillard, where he works as the manager of a support team for adults with severe mental illness. His writing has been featured in Tales of the Unanticipated, Xizquil and Speculations, and his story "Nocturne's Bride" won Grand Prize in the 1997 Writers of the Future contest and has been reprinted by RevolutionSF. His Web site can be found here.

The Greening of Blue England © 2006 Eugene Fairfield

About the Artist
Erin Spaull is a former art student at Texas State University in San Marcos, currently living in San Antonio. A selection of her work can be viewed online here and she can be reached via email at

Artwork © Erin Spaull