Malled to Death
Nita Van Cleave
O ctober 21, 1977 Pristine land. Pond. Fourteen species of tree. One hundred and eight species of birds, and their heavenly, blended chorus. Paradise.

October 22, 1977 Chain saw's shrill grind. Backhoe rips and tears. Pond drained. Turtles attempt escape, and are crushed or buried. Infants of all kinds die, as parents are forced to flee in horror. Land is 'developed.'

October 22, 1978 "Welcome to Woodlands Shopping Center." "Grand Opening." "Sale!" "Plenty of Parking." Lincolns and BMWs arrive from other newly-eradicated paradises; chattering heads bemoan their need for trinkets and gadgets. Boutiques thrive. Business exceeds plan. Economy is good.

October 22, 1989 "Have you heard? There's a new center out on Westchester Road. Let's go there instead!" Shops close. New ones move in: 98 Cent Store, Busby's Liquors, Drugs 4 Cheap. Wrong element discovers 'Woodlands', and crime is on the rise.

October 22, 1995 All stores have moved on, or gone under, except liquor store. Broken glass, fires. Urine pooled under mailboxes; safe place for crack addicts to hide and relieve themselves. Bad area of town.

October 22, 1997 Area deserted, buildings torn down. Optimistic blades forge through aging asphalt, and outposts of green appear.

It's only grass, but it clings fast to a little hope. It remembers.

First published: October 1997