Big Bridge #10

Export: Writing the Midwest


Skip Fox


The country I come from

A cast of broken teeth on an endless plain (and river ditch road bank trail wood corn mansions a million rooms upending floe of ice palace after storm it rained and froze on all the branches swamp pricked with great snappers quarry of small mouth and carp maybe Jimmy Hoffa in their deep cold waters preserving even what is best forgotten like a life without reason purely self insistence or maintenance and so forth). A watertower gropes the sky, not so grand as encompassing, in vain. Blue haze in every distance due to the slow decomposition of time.


I heard his story twice in my adolescence, both times from an older man, lowering his voice, once from my father, before I told it to other boys, who seemed all to have heard it already and in a similar manner, then with a nod to my own son, lowering my voice as well. How once some men decided to take the law into their own hands, since no one was willing that the girls come forth against what they were probably given to understand were their own best interests, more accurately the meaty fog of their lives’ compression which occluded the question of confusion and numbed the recognition of their fears (and all this was before television), they were all so thoroughly mediated already, their eyes, nerves, simply, so pawned to “everyone else,” a clusterfuck of such confusions and blind interests from which rose proprieties, like flies over the ditch of their lives’ stench, bringing them to be disinclined, in their way, to even think that an arrest, publicity and trial would be to anyone’s benefit, least of all their own, sweet lost selves, for whom such an experience might prove “too much,” whatever the fuck that was. Despite hosting a medium sized state university, or perhaps because of it as one author has already suggested, my hometown was very provincial, probably still is. (No indications to the contrary.) Anyway, late one night, the story goes, these men broke into Morton’s room, tied him up, threw him in a car, and took him to the vet, who was on retainer, so to speak, his “talents” redeemed that night by the common, social contract; recovered by those with whom he found himself at least in reluctant agreement, and so he slowly, carefully, but without anesthetic, castrated the sick fuck that night amid the pans, pleas, and shallow eye of basin, on the same table he used for dogs and cats, and goats, his practice in “transition.”

When I was growing up I would see him, I think, four or five times a month, riding his bicycle, groceries or whatever else it was it in his basket. Perhaps immune to mute approbation, he’d ride down the street though the fog of his sexual lobotomy, bike wobbling beneath his fat red head, cropped, glasses bobbing with the effort of riding thus, on the road to the bumpy edges of town down decades through all those years. My town was so provincial, he was totally safe. Young to his dying day.

1James Purdy

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