Photographer unknown: from the collection of Margaret Bourke-White

"Whatcha thinkin bout, Pa?"

"Oh, nothing, Ma. Just reminiscing about the good old days..."

"Don't be so down in the mouth, Pa. These are the good old days."

"I've seen better."

"Well, maybe so, maybe so... You know what we need us? A big ole fire to keep from freezin to death. Sure wish we had some wood..."

"Yeah, I know what you mean. That front door sure burned good last Christmas... Remember that?"

"I miss that door."

"So do I, Ma, but that big ole slab of tin I found at the dumping grounds works pretty darn good, if I do say so myself. Say, I've still got a couple of those tractor tires. What you say?"

"Oh, goodie. Fire one of those up and I'll make us a nice cup of hot water. Just cause the government is takin half your social security check doesn't mean we got to suffer."

"It's my own dang fault, Ma. I never paid back my student loan, and well... you know about the miracle of compound interest."

"A miracle, indeed. But don't go blamin yourself just cause things are feelin a little tight. You just got stoned and forgot all about that student loan."

"We both got stoned, Ma... Course then there was that diabetes, later, and all of those heart problems."

"Praise the Lord that that was back in the day when you could still file for bankruptcy. Else we wouldn't have this fine shack to shelter us from the storm."

"God bless our shack."

"He has, Pa, in so many ways."

"Yes he has, Ma. We had enough money left last month to get the water turned back on, not to mention those new socks of yours."

"These are some toasty socks, Pa. I love em. My little piggies feel like they're in paradise."

"Speaking of paradise, I wonder how your sister Eileen is doing."

"I'd say that she's probably feelin the glory, Pa."

"Well I sure hope so. That two hundred dollars she left us was surely a godsend."

"Bought us six and a half shares of GE, it did. Now we're livin the American dream, like everybody else."

"Not if the Democrats have their way, Ma. I hear some of em are fixing to vote against extending the capitol gains tax cut."

"But we don't pay any taxes, Pa."

"Well, we might someday... You and me was just talking about the miracle of compound interest. One of these days that six and a half shares of GE is going to be seven, then eight, and before you know it, the taxman is gonna be banging on our slab and trying to take our capitol gains."

"Over my dead body, they will. Just let em try. They won't do it, will they Pa? They won't refuse to extend the capitol gains tax cut, will they?"

"Well, they might, Ma. I just don't know. I'd sit down and write my congressman if those darn stamps weren't so expensive."

"Don't forget the cost of a pencil."

"I ain't forgetting. Say, why don't you and me take us a walk up to O'Malley's and split a beer?"

"I don't know, Pa... Can we afford it?"

"I hear what you're saying, Ma, but... Thursdays they got their free taco bar, so we can pig out for a buck seventy-five."

"Oh, Pa, that sounds so good. I'll just have a sip off your beer and get me one of those free ice waters."

"Now you're talking, Ma. It's a wonderful life."

"It is a wonderful life, Pa. Sure wish I had me some shoes, though. I hate getting my new socks dirty."

"Well, Ma, Christmas is right around the corner..."

"You been lookin at the Goodwill?"

"Not me, Ma, but maybe Santa has."


2005, Mark Hoback