The Mayor Ignores the Rules
For someone born and bred right
here in the rainwater basin of the central great plains, Llewellyn Jones
the mayor and presumptive leader of Emlyn Springs, Nebraskais
showing a sad lack of common sense. His ladyfriend and bedfellow for
the past twenty-five years, Alvina Closs, is flummoxed.
Cant you wait an hour? she is saying. You can still get in nine holesmaybe even eighteenafter it blows over.
Ive got a tee time reserved, he answers. Im expected.
We dont live in Miami! Alvina counters, shrilly. Its not as if theres a crowd of people waiting to play. Why cant you wait?
Im going now, Viney, he says. Just like that. No explanation. No compromise.
You and your goddamned golf.
He gives her a level, noncommittal look. Ill be home by happy hour, he says. Then he turns around and walks up the stairs and toward the bedroom, his posture erect, his gait processional. If he thinks Im going to follow him up there, Viney says to herself, molars clenched, hes got another thing coming.
Plenty of others share Vineys agitation. The smallest and least civilized townsfolk are the most distraught: the babies, all of them, even the easy ones, are confounding their mothers with uncharacteristic, colicky behavior. The babies have been fed and changed and burped and read to and sung to and walked and held but still they are out of sorts. They are determined to cry, naptime be damned. There are grumpy toddlers, too, throwing tantrums, caterwauling in unison. Family pets all over town are nervous and misbehavingfluttering, howling, hissing, gnawing, mauling lace curtains, and mangling good leather shoes even though they know better. Premenstrual girls are arguing with their mothers, moping in front of the television, or daydreaming on polyester bedspreads behind violently slammed doors. Teenage boys contemplate their troubled complexions with dismay. Afternoon trysts are not going well. Noses tickle without relief. The carpenters in town curse and measure again, cut again, curse again, measure again. At the Williamses mansion, Miss Hazels most promising student strikes a C-sharp. Hazel cringes in the parlor; in the kitchen, her younger sister, Wauneeta, cringes, too. Downtown at the piano hospital, Blind Tom experiences a sudden unaccounted-for burst of tinnitus as he applies a cotton swab saturated with milk to a stained bit of ivory he found last week by the side of the road near Hallam. Next to the old train depot, the aged citizens encamped at the St. Davids Home for the Elderly are experiencing intestinal problems; not a one of them, not even Mr. Eustace Craven, whose bowels have emptied like clockwork for every one of his ninety-eight years, has had a decent BM all day.
And in the living room of the house that has been Llewellyn Joness primary place of residence for a quarter of a century, Viney turns her back on the mayor and plants herself at the picture windowarms folded, mouth adamantly stitched shut, brows lowering, wearing an expression that no one but her dearest friend has ever seen.
Viney rarely frowns. She does five minutes of facial exercises and acupressure every morning and makes an effort to keep her countenance (a word she routinely mispronounces as continence) relaxed and neutral. Time neednt be the enemy. A person doesnt have to spend a fortune on face-lifts and creams. Alvina Closs is seventy-four years old, almost seventy-five, but she looks at least ten years younger. Maybe even fifteen. She scrutinizes the ballooning clouds advancing from the south. The baby-blanket blue of the sky is darkening, graying. She can hear Llewellyn banging around in the bedroom, opening and closing bureau drawers. He must be changing into his shorts.
Excerpted from Sing Them Home by Stephanie Kallos. Copyright © 2009 by Stephanie Kallos. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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