Losing them, fixing them, forgetting to put them in
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William Black the introvert has published stories in The Threepenny Review, The Southern Review, and Prairie Schooner. In his extrovert guise, he codirects Pages & Places, a literary and community-development nonprofit. He lives in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
I was eleven the summer the fire broke out. In the spring of 1967 my mother, my father, and I had moved to Umberland, Pennsylvania. An old miners’ neighborhood sprawled across the southern half of town, and its residents burned their garbage in a used-up strip mine, a pit of shale and sandstone scraped clean by bulldozers.
All that fall and into the winter, bulldozers and cranes cleared away the wooded top of Ransom Mountain, knocking down trees and shoveling dirt and rock into dump trucks, leaving behind a flat, barren expanse. Come spring, we were told, the mountain’s top and back would be a landfill that three counties would pay to use, creating jobs in town for the first time since the mines had shut down. But no one I knew thought very much about that.