graphics mode c r o s s X c o n n e c t previous | next

| main page
| issue contents
| contributors
| e-mail us
   m a i n e    i s    n o t    m y    u n c l e

--- D A V E   K O C H

There were wooden-slot Adirondack chairs everywhere, big unpainted chairs pointed out to the lake. We'd write on them with laundry markers: big black lines of this pair of initials plus this one.
           Adam The Goy wrote ALBANY ALBANY ALBANY in columns down the arm of a chair he dragged into the bunk. If you want to know how many times ALBANY fits on the arm of a wood chair in Maine, ask him.
           Every time I tell that story, it comes out like I'm sorry.

In the middle of the night, first you hear crickets and then it gets later and they stop. You hear owls too and they stop. It's like someone let off a bomb.

Ginny Adler ran to the ice cream truck as a kid; she'd run out of her house, barefoot, the door left wide.
           Here she didn't eat ice cream, which they sometimes served on Friday afternoons. Here she ate bowlfuls of salad, unidentifiable dressing, hamburgers at cookouts, all that meaty sauce they spooned over pasta. Here she sneaked Slim Jims from a duffle under her bed, went into the woods, ate them by herself.
           It got so cold at night. It got so cold everyone slept under wool army-surplus blankets tucked under their chins. You'd sneak right in in the middle of the night and there'd be nothing between all these naked fourteen-year-old girl bodies and that army wool except some thin cotton sheet. You'd walk right in and there it was.
           Ginny Adler was a beautiful kid.

Fucker. Asshole. Dickweed. Cocksucker. Goy-hole. Those are a few of the names I called him behind his back. Those are the easy ones to remember.

This is how I get to sleep, lately. I close my eyes and picture myself on a raft with Huck Finn and Young Jim; we're poling the raft upstream, against the current. Young Jim isn't the slave from the book, he's this greasy-haired white kid from my high school biology class who's so skinny you wouldn't believe.
           We're trying to get upstream to a fort that's guarded by machine gun women who look like they're from the comic books I never read as a kid. Huck Finn and Young Jim are poling and I have a little dippy gun and I'm shooting at the fort and the machinegun women but it's like when people in football stadiums take flash-pictures of the field. There's no way bullets from my gun will reach that fort.
           Also, there are sharks in the river. If Young Jim falls off the raft, I'm going to feel so guilty.

On talk radio in Ohio, there's a call-in show about fireworks. Middle-aged men call in and relate their experiences blowing things up; it's on for three hours a day.
           First Caller: My buddy's asleep in his truck. I let off a bottle rocket in the backseat and run like hell. He's still got a bald spot on the back of his neck from it. You should've seen the truck, though. Blew out the back window and everything.
           Host: Another bottlerocket in the pickup story. I'll be damned.
           It's so lonely in Ohio. There are fireworks stores, everywhere.

Here's the thing about the truck rental place. They spray it with something that makes it smell new. The carpet's worn down near the doorway, but it smells like grand opening was day before yesterday.
           The forms they make you fill out at Ryder have separate boxes for each letter, and that's an unbelievable comfort. Anyway, my handwriting's for shit.
           The key chain's orange and says RYDER on it in navy blue and it flaps down and hits my knee while I drive.

Sometimes this is how you feel. You want to call everyone you've ever known on some kind of magic conference call and tell them to meet you at some landmark, you're going to pick them up in a bus. And you get there and everyone's standing around and you pull up in one of those giant tour buses that have leather seats and TVs hanging off the ceiling. And everyone piles on the bus and it's so crowded that people are, like, standing up in the aisle. And then it's easy, you just dive off a bridge. You think those guardrails are going to work on some big giant bus? I don't think so.

There's a boy and there's a girl and they're talking to each other, say, in the field outside the dining hall on Casino Night. Inside, a twelve-year-old Jewish boy is mastering craps, amassing points for his bunk, thinking his bunk has a fairly good shot at winning the trip to the ice cream place/batting cage/miniature golf because of him. Because of his newfound skill at a game of chance with a name that makes him feel older. (Elsewhere, twelve-year-olds have sex in the back seat of cars. The metallic cigarette tray, tiny and rectangular and recessed into the door, is overflowing.)
           The boy's saying asinine things, anything to keep the conversation going because the girl is starting to develop breasts, little lumps under her sweater, and because the waistband of the girls' underwear has slipped up and exposed itself, a quarter of an inch. At night, he will picture himself doing unspeakable things to this girl, who is telling him about her grandmother. At night, he will snap his head down, bent over at the waist, bite that waistband between his teeth, flick himself erect and just stand there, the ripped off panties in his mouth and her face in some big crazy O.
           Her grandmother lives in the guest room.

Peppermint soap tastes the way York Patties taste in hell.

There are so many stories about so many people. Did you hear the one about the kid who set his hand on fire trying to do some magic trick? Covered his had in lighter fluid, lit the match. He ran around screaming and split out the door and stuck his hand in the lake. He was gauze-bandaged half way up his forearm for the rest of the summer.

When this is a book, I hope a fifteen-year-old carries it with him to school in secret and thinks about it while trying to look up pretty girls' skirts. When he gets home, the first girl he's ever kissed will call him long distance and say she's finally found a boyfriend who likes to dance, too.

One time Ginny Adler put her head down on a dining hall table and just started crying and I went over to her and asked if she was all right, was there anything I could do. She picked her head up and mouthed the words thank you as she shook her head slowly meaning no.
           Sometimes that's the kind of childhood I had; little girls burst into tears in the dining hall.

They bathed in the lake. They used peppermint soap shipped by their mothers in Long Island. Or Baltimore. Special biodegradable soap they made their mothers seek out in natural food stores. They did that for us, didn't they? God knows they tried.
           They brought that peppermint soap to the showerhouse. God knows why. They had bar soap in red plastic travel containers, but they brought the peppermint liquid soap into the showerhouse, used it up, sent their mothers to go buy more.

At the break-fast, at sundown, they ate bagels they sent someone down to New York in a van to pick up. Howard ate his with lox, Ryan ate his with butter, Donny ate his with cream cheese, Max ate his plain, he picked the bread out of the bagel's crusty exterior and rolled it to a dough-ball in his hands, Benny ate lots of coleslaw, Noah said he wanted a hamburger, Andy went to all the different tables looking for an onion bagel, found an onion, sat down dejected, Allen tilted back his head and poured three-fourths of the sugar in one of those glass containers down his throat, Billy ate surplus individual serving size cereal, little cardboard boxes we said they picked them up from Arabs on the side of the highway, Daniel ate powdered chocolate Quick, dry, I ate everything, including all the people.
           The girls were in there, eating, too.

© crossconnect, inc 1995-2004 |
published in association with the |
university of pennsylvania's kelly writers house |