I park Sam's old Ford pickup on the near side of the driveway leading to a 1970s single-wide mobile home with smashed windows, and put on my work gloves. On the breeze that's scattering the remnants of dawn into a cloudless October Tuesday, I catch a whiff of wood dust from the Weyerhaeuser plywood mill off Highway 126.
Sam clambers down from the green cab of his International dump truck, marked with years of heavy duty and "Sam Wood Construction, Inc.," in white Gothic script. "Let's go take a gander at her. I sure hope Mike wasn't blowing smoke up my ass and we can pack 'er up by sundown."
He skirts the tilt trailer hauling a faded-orange Hitachi excavator and flashes a thumbs-up at the 40-yard drop box by the curb. The knee-high grass rustles as he wades through it in his white double-XL tee, denim dungarees that could fit two of me, and giant sneakers.
The story's the same as on the previous jobs: the last tenants abandoned the trailer after the park landlord raised the rent. Except I don't like the looks of this one.
The carport is bulging with towers of phone books, banana boxes, and big, black trash bags, one of which is spewing bundled-up diapers. The wind turns, and a stench of decomposing shit hits me. Both of us gag; my heart sinks when I hear Sam say, "Haul these to the box after I get started."
The stairs creak. The door has been ripped off its hinges, and Sam sends it—and the letters "UCKER" sprayed across it—crashing to the ground. He steps into the trailer, says, "Grab anything you want," and comes to such a sudden halt I almost run into him. The den reeks of stale beer, unwashed laundry, and rotting wood beneath the floor. We step over piles of clothes and broken liquor bottles, kick aside pieces of demolished furniture and beer cans. The wall by the entrance says "MOTHERF" in red spray. On the kitchen counter, pizza boxes battle with empty cups of instant noodles, pop cans, and fast-food wrappers. A mountain of trash crowns the stove, the empty bin tossed on the floor atop the cupboard doors.
A large coffee stain on the hallway wall haloes Sam's head. "I've seen quite a few bad ones, but this one's done up pretty bad."
We've demolished seven or eight trailers together, from Santa Clara down to Creswell and from Elmira to here in Springfield, and the last tenants of each made an attempt to make it a home: a flowerbed here, wallpaper there. No such frills in this one. I breathe through my mouth, following Sam down the hall. I enter the first room, where crayon monsters dance on the wall between drip stains ravaging the ceiling and broken toys littering the floor, and wish I were anywhere but here, that I never fell in love and came to the United States. In the bathroom, shards of broken mirror crunch underfoot; I shudder at the thought of seven years of this. Someone took a sledgehammer to the walls of the small bedroom, leaving the holes frayed at the edges like the craters that pockmark Oregon, whose rolling, forested hills resemble my native Slovakia and whose trailer parks remind me of nothing at all except