Excerpt of Garner by Kirstin Allio
(Page 5 of 6)
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The Ordinances said that blue skies were
customary but work could be done as well when skies were gray. Trees
were meant to be leafed and green but in Garner there were nine
months out of the year when they were bare.
The summer boarders were mostly young men who felt very free
to make advances. Garner folk hold their tongues, and, as if a June thunder,
wait for insult to pass over.
they are approved in advance by the planning board, wrote Heald the postman.
Every house must be situated on at least one-half
acre of land and centrally, so that it would not be too close to the
road. A proper plot with a proper house and preferably a fence
around it is required.
The town of Garner is shaped like a sail.
A sail-shaped shroud brought from some attic. A girl so lightone
man alone could carry her to her father.
There shall be no living in old railroad cars or
other discarded motor vehicles.
Scrap shacks and bearded men living as hermitsyou
may be ejected from your farm for back taxes.
And yet the tax collector or the selectmen or the secretary
or the town planner or the surveyor or the librarian shall not tell you when to
pay your taxes. There is no notice you receive by mail. It is like intuition or
the weather. Scores of people owe back taxes.
Willard Heald himself had never cared for hunting, but
hunters, he granted, must be allowed to hunt in apple orchards in all seasons
and negro apple pickers must be exempt from the stares that otherwise accumulate
around such a person and eventually drive him to a larger and more southerly
The Revolutionaries left us their motto. Live
Free or Die for the men and women of New Hampshire.
A dog on a leash belongs to a sissy. If a woman cries when
her husband is signaled off the road for misdemeanor, the officer is not allowed
to write out a ticket.
Massachusetts is a different country. Vermont is for
deviants. The state of Maine warrants a cold respect. The rest of America is of
no real consideration.
White Pine should be the State Tree. Mountain Laurel the
state flower. The lady's slipper is a rare woodland flower that grows alone. A
woman who can make jam from wild strawberries will never be a spinster.
The best wives must go to the selectmen and volunteer
firemen. All other men will get the second pick.
Religion is at once social and silent.
A true lithium spring is one in which the lithium occurs
naturally in the spring water.
Women shall travel in pairs until they are married. Women can
be anything they want as long as they are wives. Men can be anything they want
as long as they can fix their own machines. The best man is a kind of gentleman
A good hand with animals must be well regarded.
Not every man is to be expected to know how to shear his
sheep. The sheep-shearer must be kept in business.
The Ordinances are such that protect the locals
of this town and preserve its integrity as the only inland
sail-shaped town in America.
Willard Heald gazed past his wife into the dark that had
surprised them both: this new autumn dusk like homemade felt that muted them so
For some of our native folk, to meet the modern age was a
difficult task. It was I who came upon young Frances, face up in Blood Brook and
floating. I left her there and went for her father.
From Garner by Kirstin Allio, pages 11-25. Copyright
Kirstin Allio 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the
permission of the publisher, Coffee House Press.