San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Burning the warehouse

The third time our warehouse lost a worker because of over-stacked pallets, I left that job for good. The new girl had just finished cutting away the shrink-wrap when a box of paper fell on her and left her stumbling toward the open loading door. She nearly fell out. Although it was an autumn without rain, a cold draft was coming in. A square of sunlight clutched the concrete floor and the heavy, cold air clung to us. The rest of us put down what we were holding and knelt next to her. She couldn’t catch her breath.

She panted out, “I can’t move my toes.”

The hospital was right up the street. I picked her up.

I walked to the door, stepped down to the loading bay, into the evening.

Someone said, “Let’s burn it down.” I could hear the boxes of paper being unloaded from the pallets and thrown to the ground like rotted brick.

In the waiting room, before they took her beyond the double doors to where the beds and wounded men in vulnerable hospital gowns collected, she said, “Do you think they actually burned it?”

“Burned what? The paper? No. I think they just wanted to watch things break apart.”

“I hope they burn it,” she said. She rubbed her palms down her shins. “I keep thinking I can feel this, but I’m just not sure. Maybe I panicked. Maybe I actually can move.”

“Then get up. Walk around.”

She turned to me and said, “Think I should get a lawyer?”

I shrugged. Through the long glass doors to the sick rooms, I watched an old lady take tiny steps. She used her IV as a crutch. I turned back to the new girl. “See, how it works is, as soon as you find a lawyer, whatever money you win will be much less than if you’d represented yourself. But then if you represent yourself, your destined to lose everything.”

“So that’s how it works, huh?”

“Sure. I think so.” The old lady looked out at us from behind the doors. I wondered which of us was the lab rat and which was the scientist.

“I’ll bet they burned it,” she said. “I’ll bet you whatever my winnings are they burned that paper.”

“I don’t want to take your money,” I said.

“Have you ever seen a fire up close? Like a real big, uncontrollable fire?”


She kept rubbing her legs. “A few years ago,” she said, “I watched a man’s house burn to the ground. All our neighbors came outside to see. It was late, and the flames hadn’t reached his roof yet. We could see him through the windows. He was running from room to room gathering all those things he found important.”

“No one tried to save him?”

“Everyone tried to yell for him. But he couldn’t hear, or he didn’t want to. He just kept running from room to room, throwing his life into a couple suitcases.”

“Well did he get out or not?”

She looked at me. “That’s the ending. I don’t want to ruin the ending. I’ll let you decide for yourself. Once you tell me, I’ll be able to figure out the exact type of person you are, so think long and hard about what kind of ending you want it to be.”

When they took her into the back, I walked home. The hospital parking lot was quiet, save for an old dog tied to the bed of someone’s truck. He barked at me when I passed. I was the only person on the streets. It was late, darker than most nights. I could feel it, a quiet snow began to fall. A good, hard glow softened the skyline ahead. I heard footfalls behind me but I didn’t turn around. I let the first snow cover me. I walked on, imagined the man from the burning house gathered all the footsteps from his life into blackened suitcases.

– Mason Schoen is a creative writing graduate student.

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Burning the warehouse