The highway winds up into the hills toward a better place than the cinder-block motel behind the truck stop where I stay for five weeks. I have to walk along a stark row of musty rooms every evening to call you from the pay phone beside the office just to say hey, we cut more brush today. Fed it through a chipper and watched the hillsides draw shadows across the road. There is always a moment of silence for the passing of creosote and mountain oak.
Archaeology isn't supposed to be so menial.
We try to laugh then, you back home pulling another TV dinner from the oven, me watching the sky blush into night and pretending I don't mind the way my arms still seem to move with the grind of metal teeth on wood. I never tell you how the chipper's voice gnaws at my pride or how I want to drive the cargo van into the creek and let the water wash away every trace of dust, every chewed-up sliver of cambrium.
Instead I speak about thunderclouds, how lightning tricks the vision. The smell of distant rain. You picture us on our knees searching the undergrowth for flecks of chert like wet eyes, for the hope of potshards. The conversation ends like dust settling. I go back to my room and shove a suitcase against the hollow door while a lizard probes the wall for signs of life.