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“The Passion of Sheepdogs,” by John Haggerty

Rachel, oh Rachel! Mistress of my heart, irradiated queen of the desert, alien oasis, black-budget fever dream, ghost town of the future, sheepdog disco, heart of America. Shelter me in your double-wides, ll my ventricles with Alien Burgers, stun me with alcohol, swaddle me in the lights of your brilliant night sky.

One Day and One Night in Laughlin, Nevada

* Claire Skinner *

Driving from Las Vegas at night, the first glimpse is from Spirit Mountain, almost five thousand feet above Laughlin. Darkness below, darkness above, and at the very center: a line of light—red, white, turquoise, yellow, pink. Casinos. The blaze of them all the more startling because for an hour we’ve been driving through nothingness. Or what appears to be nothingness: the dark desert mountains and the dark desert valleys with the occasional blip of civilization (signs for Girls! Girls! Girls! Steak & Eggs only 5.99! Endless Slots!), then–blink, blink–gone.

Postcards from the Desert

* Claire Skinner *

I’m writing to you from the public library in Pahrump, Nevada. We’re here for the free Wi-Fi. Outside, the Spring Mountains rise jaggedly to the east. A few bedraggled clouds, ripped apart by wind, speed over the peaks. Inside, senior citizens stare suspiciously at laptop computers as if they will explode. Occasionally, they type, bird-like. I’m suspicious, too, but for other reasons. This town, like so many Nevada towns, is strange and inscrutable. There’s a man who’s lived in Pahrump as long as anybody can remember, who walks up and down the main drag, waving his huge, bright American flag at the passing cars. There are two legal brothels here—Sheri’s Ranch and Chicken Ranch—and numberless slot machines. A big Wal-Mart. I can’t say I recommend it. Which is saying something, coming from me: I love a dive desert town. I don’t love Pahrump.