I’ve been reluctant to share anything from my current novel-project-in-progress on this blog, but I don’t see the following simple paragraphs making many waves since, you know, we don’t meet any actual characters. To be frank– the novel explores small towns. It asks questions. It ventures answers. It plays with groups of people who aren’t quite as simple-minded as we sometimes make them out to be. -JD
Fathers in Winthrop wander aimlessly through the hallways of the high school assemblies in brick buildings their sons and daughters brave to venture into each day. Children: knitted sweaters and faded khakis. But not together. Pleated jeans and wrinkled shirts for the less well-off children. No irons at home, or no one to iron. No ironing boards anywhere in that two-story duplex. Not a single red mark on anyone’s pointer finger from carelessness while ironing. No overwhelmingly flat facets of cotton polyester fabric interrupted by long, scarring schismatic fissures where the bed’s mattress interrupted the smooth flow of the electrically-charged steel . No apple-sized bruises from tripping over plastic cords.
Who gives a damn about ironing?
Lots of people.
Fathers: unbuttoned white dress shirts, tie undone, sleeves rolled up; sweaty undershirts. Some wearing work boots and a loose-fitting flannel shirt, safety glasses in their pockets. Some in loafers, dreaming of women, the coming weekend, of soft bathrobes on their loins.
Mothers: cell phones in their hands, a new online story to share. Take a picture- look happy, smile!, play it off as something it might not always be. Make it a story. Get creative with it. Reality? Likes? Who likes it? Who will like-like it? How many? Comments? Will they like? Some fathers too, the ones with dark glasses, buttoned shirts loosened nonchalantly at 5:08 each night in the end-space of the parking lot, striped neckties thrown over their Toyota Corolla’s passenger seat, argyle sweaters if snow is on the ground folded neatly in the fabric of the backseat adjacent to the McDonalds bag and the cluster of fur left by a dog seven weekends prior.
And it is the happy who are dangerous, because in their jubilance they forget their happiness comes at a price that is not paid by them. But the citizens of Winthrop generally are not the happiest, or make themselves happy in the humblest of ways, like by reminding themselves each night how enjoyable it was to sit on the front porch, or by repeating the same lines over and over about how great their family dinners were, or about the simple beauty of waking up early and going to sleep in the same bed each night.
And working a respectable job with respectable hours, respectable attitudes.
Not rocking the boat. Calm, steady growth. Not for them but for others, but they never thought of it in that way. Did they? Was it beaten out of them by monotony, like waves against an abandoned, torn-down statue whose layers recede each year from the sea salt’s abrasiveness until it’s nothing more than a blank, marble slab?