Fonlies

Took the bus out to Shorebirds Stadium for a job fair. It was worse chaos than at the Red Cross. People were in a worse temper, too, which is odd if you think about it. Or maybe not. Maybe folks who go down by the Red Cross have all but given up hope of finding those who got disappeared. I don't like to think about it.
Everyone was real mad today, though, I tell you that. Getting in the faces of the "recruiters" and hollering at them, which don't seem like the best way to get a job. The guy just before me really gave them a hard time. "This wouldn't be happening if the President was still around!" he yelled.
"Sir--"
"I mean, I'm All American, right? White as a Ku-Klux sheet! And you tell me there ain't no work?"
I stayed out of it. In the IOWA camps we called guys like that "fonlies," cause they were always saying "if-only." As in, "You can bet I wouldn't be here with all you terrorists if only the President knew what happened at my trial." You couldn't get through to them, not for nothing. 
I was real polite when it came my turn. Kaylea would of been real proud of me. The young kid behind the table asked what my experience was, and when I said construction he sighed.
"That means the Mexico Wall, don't it?" When I owned up he said, "I must of talked to two hundred people today who worked on that damn wall, men and women, all ages. I've got to be straight with you--that's not useful experience."
That did make me mad. I leaned on the table. "Why, cause it makes me a criminal? You know I'm not--"
He waved me off. "No, no, it's not that. But hauling rocks around in the hot sun, and sometimes hauling them right back--it ain't the same as regular construction, see what I mean?"
I closed my eyes for a second, seeing Gilly stretched out on her back, dead of sunstroke while the gang boss screamed like it was our fault. "No, I suppose it wasn't."
Now the young kid leaned forward. "At least it worked in the end, right?"
"What did?"
"The Wall--it keeps them Mexican rapists out."
I looked him straight in the eye. "That-there wall wouldn't keep a coyote out." I said it Western-style. KI-yoat.


Posted by Rob Stevens at 12:31:17, Thursday, March 5, 2026

Abandoned Gas Station

Not having anything better to do but wait for Brandi to get the Red Cross moving in the search for Kaylea, I took a walk around town today. I suppose I better start looking for a job soon--I can't just be sleeping on Kyle's old mattress and eating his Cheetos--but dam'fino where to start. Salisbury never was the greatest town, but it's like totally gone to seed since I been away. Seems like all the storefronts are boarded up and abandoned, including the Shore Great Valu.
I stood there right in the median of North Salisbury Boulevard, staring at the place for a long time. The cheerful yellow and red colors of the sign were still there, though there are shards missing out of the plastic. Probably from bored kids throwing chunks of concrete at it. The gas pumps are shut down--prices still say $29.99 a gallon, so you can tell they been abandoned for years--and big old pieces of plywood nailed up over the windows.
I wonder what Mr. Patel would say if he could see the place now. He'd stand there in his sport jacket and tie and his neatly brushed gray mustache, shaking his head at the waste of it all, no doubt. He was prolly the best boss I ever had, even if he was more polite than friendly. The job wasn't too bad neither, 'cept when I had to drain the deep-fryers and clean the filters at the end of the night. Lord, how I used to hate that! If only I'd known then what was waiting for me in the broiling Arizona sun, the gang boss hollering at us as we worked:
"WHO'S GONNA PAY FOR THAT WALL!"
And us calling back: "WE ARE!"
The Shore Great Valu was paradise next to that. And I repaid Mr. Patel well, I like to think. When times got really rough in the fall of 2018, I went to the President's local HQ over on Church Street to see what they could do for me, all the work I'd been putting in for the President (truth is, Kaylea put me up to it). Tom Purdy was sitting in one of those spinning office chairs with his fat legs up on the desk and his hairy belly uncovered under a smelly old T-shirt. He heard me out and said, "You work down at the Shore Great Valu, right?"
"Yeah?"
"We're expropriating Joshi Patel," he said.
"You're doing what now?"
"Arresting him for being illegal and taking over the place, Rob! You can have it, long as your racial background check comes up All-American."
I thanked him, o'course, and came to work early the next day. I could see Mr. Patel was surprised to see me in before noon. When I told them they was coming for him his eyes got real big. He thanked me and run off afore I could hardly get the words out. So I had the place all to myself till they took me away eight or nine months later. Sure is a shame they let it go bust.
I wonder where Mr. Patel is now. Can't remember if he ever mentioned having a family or not.

Posted by Rob Stevens at 15:49:37, Wednesday, March 4, 2026

A Bad Morning

There's no getting around it, this morning really sucked. The Red Cross has set up one of them Search Offices at Main and Division. Kyle's already been there a few times, looking for his brother-in-law Eric because his sister Kim is too busy with their kids to go. He told me to get there well before they open up at 8:30 in the a.m. So I got there like quarter after, and the line already stretched down the street most of the way to the bridge over the river that runs over to the park. Most of the people there were black and I don't mind saying I was a little nervous, but no one gave me a hard time. Lot of tired-looking women there with screaming kids, but that was better than all the folks who were hunched over silently and wouldn't give you the time of day.
I didn't reach the "intake desk" out front of the trailer the Red Cross is using till almost ten-thirty. In the old days I would've been screwing around on my phone playing Angry Birds or some shit and listening to loud music, but of course I don't have no phone these days (and ain't got hardly nobody to call if I did), so I was stuck trying to strike up conversations with folks who had their own troubles. The guy ahead of me was maybe in his fifties and had steel wool kind of gray hair. He allowed as how he was looking for his daughter who was a student at UMES (Kyle says I should say that's the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, about twenty minutes' drive away down in Princess Anne, for anyone reading this who ain't local), and she "got caught up in some kind of blamed foolishness back in '18" and he hadn't heard from her since. Had no idea if she'd been killed straight off--that was the year of the big race riots, which the President called "gangbangers running amok in our streets" and said the cops should "shoot to kill"--or if she'd been deported to an IOWA Camp. I wished him luck, just making conversation like I said, and the dude started bawlin' on me! I looked at my shoes for a while after that. They're scuffed old loafers two sizes too big that were all the Goodwill in Tucson had left.
So I finally get up to intake, and who's sitting there pushing paper but Kaylea's old best girlfriend Brandi Sykes! Her eyes were like covered by a film of dust but she blinked it away when she saw me, asked how the hell I'd been, shook her head sorrowfully when I said I just got home after being sprung and needed to find my Kaylea. "I'm gonna level with you, Rob," she said, "it's taking three to five months in most cases for us to track people down. That's if you're lucky and they were in a Individual Opportunity through Work Alliance facility"--why she don't just say IOWA Camp like everyone else, I do not know--"working on the Mexico Wall like you or one of the other big projects. If they was in a torture site or an informal camp--"
"They can't of tortured Kaylea," I said, feeling I might break down like the guy in front of me in line, "she didn't do nothin'!"
"I'm sure you're right," Brandi said, smiling like it hurt her, "anyways just start by filling out this-here form."
"Then what? Do I go wait in an office or something?"
"No, you wait to hear back from us."
So what could I do? I filled in the form best I could (name, last known address, physical description when arrested, any "reported information" on where she was and suchlike), then slouched back here to Kyle's place and slept the whole afternoon away till now on the stained mattress that's all he has to give me, not like I'm complaining.
I can't just sit around and wait for a letter from the Red Cross in the mail, for crissakes. But what am I gonna do?
Posted by Rob Stevens at 17:01:08 Tuesday, March 3, 2026

My Kaylea

Her daddy, Mr. Lyons, took this picture of Kaylea in her prom dress. So you have to keep in mind she's a good 15 years older now. But wherever she is, no matter what happened to her in the IOWA camps, I know she's still as beautiful now as she was then.
(Original image credit: By Daniel Atun, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24654283)

Posted by Rob Stevens at 13:26:30, Monday, March 2, 2026

Searching for Kaylea

I'm real tired after my long bus trip--three solid days from IOWA Camp Number 365, Zone 574A West (Arizona), including a six-hour breakdown in Oklahoma and the long detour around the ruins of Washington--but my friend Kyle, who I'm crashing with, convinced me I should start a blog right away in case it helps with the search for Kaylea.
So all right. This is a total waste of time for anyone who knew me and her back here in Salisbury, Maryland, where we both grew up and went to school and lived for the first three years we were married. We were both born on the Fourth of July, 1993, and ever since we were in Prince Street Elementary the other kids used to tease us about that all the time, saying it meant we HAD to get married. "No it don't!" Kaylea used to holler back, her brown pigtails whipping back and forth she shook her head so hard. Of course that just made them tease her even more.
Me, I just smiled. Even when they went, "Rob and Kaylea, sittin' in a tree! K-I-S-S-I-N-G!" I thought she was real pretty even when we were like seven.
Look, I got to get me some sleep now, I'm seeing triple I'm so damn tired. I know I got to post a picture of Kaylea here, but I only got the one little crumpled-up color print and Kyle don't have a scanner, so I'll have to find a place to scan it in when I wake up later today. So for now I'll just say she's about five foot two, slim build (not that anyone got fat in the IOWA camps, ha-ha), brown hair and eyes. Oh, and by race she's All American, of course, just like me--what they used to call white or Cawcayshun. (Spell check says that's wrong, but spell check don't like Kaylea, neither.)
She was deported a week or two after me--this was late August of 2019--and I heard a rumor she was at an IOWA Camp right here in Delmarva somewheres--that'd be a Zone number in the low two hundreds East, I think. I know it ain't much to go on. I promise I'll post that photo later today if I can find a working scanner! Everyone'll see then how pretty she is.
Posted by Rob Stevens at 08:17:45 Monday, March 2, 2026