Did Margaret Sanger Like Flowers?

Nancy, a single woman, as they call the spinsters in our easy day. Trimming a lilac hedge for Nancy. Some kitchen woodwork next, if this goes well.

Something burnt out about Nancy. A divorce, maybe. A weak spot for strong male egos, perhaps. A couple of those and gone is most of the best a woman comes with. And Nashville overflows with that genus.

She returned to her hometown two years back, having spent in Nashville her young woman’s prime. She was trying there for a vocal break. It didn’t come. She stayed on as a backup bird. She doesn’t talk about it, just drops a word or two. But that’s what I figure happened to Nancy. In Nashville, Tennessee.

Back home she found a job at Planned Parenthood. She doesn’t seem to count for much there, an errand girl. Not easy finding work in a small town.

The kitchen woodwork done, she brings up PP, would I fix for that outfit. A cautious proposal. Well, it’s PP, terminating pregnancies. Scraping life.


a chapter from Americaa

The Ellwoods are fourth-generation ranchers. Roger, Connie, four kids. On Sundays, we all drive to church in town. That’s where I met them when the Outlaw Inn receptionist and her family took me along the first time. I got a gig on the Ellwoods’ ranch now, and rent a cabin for 20 bucks a month.

An intriguing li’l faith tribe these kindly folks are. When we take meals or chat on the porch or wherever we happen to have bunched, there’s typically a lot of laughter. A special kind of laughter, triggered not so much by looking at things in an off-the-wall way, but flowing out of a steady gladness of being. One reason is, I figure, that they don’t watch TV, don’t listen to the radio, don’t go to the movies, even the local paper they buy only on the weekends and mainly for the local news. They even remove the radios and the antennas, and the ashtrays of course, from their cars.

“Gimmie the pliers,” I bid them, “I’ll do the same in my buggy!”

They laugh.

The Third Rail

a chapter from Seattle

Heyward Studio
My first piece in English was a novella about my childhood town. I wrote it in 1990, seven years after I had hit America. It got me invited to the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire, for a writer residency.
Thornton Wilder wrote Our Town at MacDowell. I was now walking the streets of Grover’s Corners of the play. I first saw Our Town on Commie TV as a teen and never again, but I was easily replaying now from the memory the chirping of the kids in the play, the concerned voices of the parents, the politeness of the neighbors, the eerie life-longings of the denouement. After watching it just once at the early stage in life, this wholesome-as-much-as-life-affords-wholesome world had gotten imprinted in me like a prayer. A variation of a call to go.