The Meat of Children

Favela Rocinha Rio de JaneiroAnd then those strange people flew those big planes into those big buildings.

You remember that, yes?

There was a vogue born in the aftermath, a fashion for declaring the death of things. As if actual deaths in the thousands were insufficient to the popular appetite for such things. Irony, particularly in the literary mode, was accounted an early casualty.

A rumor of demise that proved to be somewhat exaggerated.

This recollection occurred not in light of the recent anniversary, but was spurred a few days after when the Census Bureau reported an increase in the number of Americans and residents of the U.S.A. living below the poverty line.

A quick glance at the lead deposited this ratio in my brain: 1 in 7 American residents are now living in poverty.

The poverty line has been rather notoriously jammed against an invisible obstruction for several decades. Weighted by the burden of a fifty-year-old instrument of calculation, it has snagged on a flange of economics. Were the flange filed smooth and the weight cut away, the line would likely elevate until a vast, and not entirely unaware-of-their-circumstances, population found themselves under the thin shade of its protection.

Still, it is plenty high enough at present to overtop those 1 in 7 residents.

GunkidSpeaking of putting a bullet in the head of irony, 1 in 5 U.S. resident children are currently living below that line.

You can’t, as the comedians are wont to say, make this shit up.

Facts, in these situation, kick the shit out of fiction every fucking time.

The present moment is born of the past. The future moment is born also of the past, and the now.

1 in 5 children born from the past into present poverty. How the fuck did that happen?

Ultimate causality is a fool’s quest. It’s the arrow that never reaches its target because you halve, again and again, the distance it must cover to reach the bull’s-eye. A tail that no worm can consume without eating first its own head.

Why bother?

Is the poverty of children connected to job loss connected to economic collapse connected to heedless profiteering connected to wartime economies connected to overseas invasions connected to fireballs billowing from holes rent into the sides of skyscrapers by passenger jets?

Heat and pressure so intense it vaporized flesh and bone.

Are those the conditions required to create a future in which 1 in 5 children live in poverty?

It sounds like a story. A fictionalizer’s connecting of associated dots with no evidence of causality.

An inferno of the past erupting into the future, spewing these children here, now.

Jim Bo's BusWho are they? Who will they become? What will they do? To whom? How mad are they going to be? Is the now making more of them? What if they become organized? What if they want something? What if their desperation becomes intense, explosive?

Is it ironic to think about these things? To want to write about them?

Armies of the poor, manufactured by conflagrations of the past, marching into the future.

If irony did die, it was, soon after, resuscitated.

Irony undead.

A little clumsy, bleak, and pale, lurching, feeding, perhaps, on the meat of children, the only fodder it has strength enough to catch.

I think about those children and I want someone to fight. I want them to be able to fight for themselves. I want them armed.

So I do it.

On the page.

An army of the poor, with guns.

What will they do with them? Which of our towers might fall?

1 in 5, a tattoo worn by a caste so that they might know one another on sight, a signal, a word, heartening, a reminder that they are far from alone, a ratio that reminds them that as many as they may be, there are far more at whom to point the blade and the gun.


Charlie Huston is the author of the bestsellers The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death and The Shotgun Rule, as well as the Henry Thompson trilogy, the Joe Pitt casebooks, and several titles for Marvel Comics. He lives with his family in Los Angeles. Learn more at

Charlie Huston’s novel SKINNER will be published by Mulholland Books in 2012.