MY TOWN

I pushed Johnny's head in the snow while his dad shopped for a Christmas tree. We rode back to town in the bed of a truck, whistling over frozen country hills that smelled like garbage. My hands got numb and evergreen branches smacked me in the mouth every time we hit a bump.

We went bullfrog hunting when the ground warmed up. I didn't want to. I calculated the life-value of a bullfrog, placing it somewhere between squirrel and eel. Does a bullfrog have a soul? Can it feel pain?

I didn't catch any. Johnny lifted a stick with probably six frogs screwed on. It looked like a family. And Johnny intended to cook it. I later reasoned that bullfrogs are so dumb they'd probably enjoy being eaten. Then I pushed Johnny's head in the dirt.

I came back to town 15 years later.

In the verdant woods of Pennsylvania you'll find a lot of rusting metal and precarious beehives stuck in the mud. You might see an abandoned swingset or a barber pole. Don't expect it. There are gypsy huts closer to civilization, and abundant flowing water twists through everything. Creeks and streams with little red fish and waterbugs, and secluded ditches where domesticated mountain lions brazenly jack themselves off.

There is a cloud of general indifference that hangs over the 600 citizens of my town. Ambition is low. If one dreams of success, one should bottle up his dreams like snake oil and hit the medicine show circuits immediately, or find a working car and drive as far and fast as one is able. That depends on your definition of success, though. There are many successful gypsies, for instance.

Cuisine is limited to local fare-- corn and corn products, the occasional pork or cattle dish, but also Chinese if you're willing to knock on the Chen family's door. They're strange, but generous.

Wealthy eccentrics in mohair clothes with twinkly watch bands and foreign glasses collect car sculptures shaped like spiders and King Kong. They want rustic beatitude and they find it, and they get sick of it quick. But the car sculptures stay behind, serving as checkpoints that signal when you've reached a certain distance from home.

My town is a toothless yawn. And it's depressing. And it's a blackhole and a sputtering star and a hopeless cheap diamond.

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