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It was just a little school. Like a lot of places there in the Sonoran desert, it was a one-story building from the 50’s, built of cinder block, with a flat roof, all of it painted a remarkably less-than-festive flat white. During the three years Whistler had lived in the vicinity of the school (calling the dwellings scattered over nearly ten miles of sand, scrub, saguaro cactus and every variety of pointy, pokey plant life known to man a “neighborhood” seemed impossibly optimistic to him), he’d observed the little kids outside every spring painting murals on the longest wall, which faced the playground.
The bright, simplistic, and anatomically incorrect figures standing awkwardly on the big cement canvas were usually good for a chuckle as he drove by, unless the sun was jabbing those knitting needles of light in his sleep-deprived eyes. On those mornings, nothing made him happy except the thought of fleeing the unrelenting glare of the desert daylight and retreating to the stuffy dark cocoon of the couch at the back of the trailer.
Still, even on his worst day, Whistler wouldn’t have wanted to see the little school burn, nor could he have imagined such a small structure would burn for so long.