Somewhere in the house — I can only guess where — there’s a sturdy flat box meant to hold a ream of paper, with a patterned lid that fits neatly over the bottom portion; this box contains a long story I wrote for adults who are children, and for children who are adults — a sort of Huck Finn lightly fictionalized family history set on the farm where my father was born, and where he grew up during the Great Depression. It’s called The Little House on Road 64, but the real place was on Road 66, not far from where it meets Avenue 404. I say long story, but I suppose it’s really a short novel; if memory serves, it runs between 40,000 and 45,000 words. Or maybe it was 24,000, or 33,000 — they all sound right. The chapters are short, and as the story moves along, they cover just about everything my father had related of his childhood. In fact, when he read it back in the late Eighties, he said, “You’ve covered it all.” With what, he didn’t say. Beyond this, I remember few details, but one does spring to mind, and that’s when one of the characters — the mother, I believe — says that the mosquitoes in Alaska are as big as crows — a pleasant bit of hearsay founded on preposterous exaggeration, because, as we all know, they are much bigger. But as wicked as they are, crows are great comedians — wicked because they like to dine on human eyeballs, comedic for sundry other reasons. Or, as Stephen Monroe tells Mary by way of illustration in A Listening Thing, “In the land of crows, the man with one eye is king.” Despite using a keyboard, this is perhaps the truest bit of folk wisdom that ever flowed from my pen. So what, you ask? To which I reply, Yes, exactly. But now I wonder: when writing Road 64, which typewriter did I use? It had to be my old Royal. I had no other.
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Categories: Everything and Nothing, New Poems & Pieces
Tags: A Listening Thing, Avenue 404, Childhood, Family History, Huck Finn, Mary, Memory, My Father, Road 64, Road 66, Stephen Monroe, The Old Royal, The San Joaquin Valley, Winter Light