The old man in Cole’s novel lives in a postapocalyptic wasteland in the American southwest. Like the other members of his village, he salvages whatever he can find that still has value. He was once a hero, having made great finds, a refrigerator among them, but later he became a symbol of bad luck, cursed for bringing a radioactive radio into the village.
East is curst
Now the old man hunts alone.
‘If you couldn’t read, you wouldn’t have made it past the sentry gun. So you must be civilized. Or no one ever came and the building’s back-up batteries finally ran down, though that shouldn’t have happened for another hundred years after I wrote this. Which means I was the last and these markings mean nothing to you. So go ahead and burn it for fire. At least that might be the start of a civilization.’
‘If on the other hand you can read, it means you are probably from my time; is that the right answer? My civilization. You survived the bombs or knew someone who did and they taught you. I guess.’