Jean and the children accepted his invitation to drive to the
town. Harry dropped the stack of reading material on his front seat onto the
floor. Jean propped her feet on the magazines and old newspapers; when she
looked down her heels had cut into a Life magazine. She picked up a piece
of the cover photo: a pair of intense eyes, darkened almost into a Zorro mask.
She fit the ripped edges to another piece and Greta Garbo stared up at her.
Harry and his International Harvester reminded Jean of something she had read concerning the ease of finding uranium:
"I'd been driving along the same road to and from work for years. One day I stopped to change a flat tire and became one of the richest men in the state," said a former plumber's helper and one of the state's newest uraniumaires."
When Harry showed up with his flat tire, it was exactly like one
of these testimonials in her many instructional booklets (except for the getting
rich uranium part). She was loaded with these booklets -- in addition to the
articles from National Geographic and Look and Arizona
Quarterly. She had photographs as well, tons of those. To her own mother in
Springfield, Ohio she showed only the photographs that depicted hazards and
close calls, adopting a flabbergasted air at her mother's panic.
Most of the photographs arrived from the government, however, and they pretended that searching for uranium was an enjoyable social outing that involved pulling a Geiger counter from a picnic basket. Enticing. Why don't you join us.
For example, a smiling man and a smiling lady out on a uranium date. For example, a family of five out for a day of picnicking and uranium hunting. The government pamphlet explained that it was this simple. The uranium sat up grayish yellow in the cartonite rock. You could spot it with field glasses or opt for the simplicity and ease of a Geiger counter. After you found the uranium, the Atomic Energy Commission would help you bulldoze roads so you could mine it out. The A.E.C. would do all it could to help with expenses. Some people like Vernon Pick became millionaires overnight.
Jean didn't believe any of it, or at least not all of it. Her own plan was vague but specific and aimed mostly at Charlie and his scientific nature. Charlie who she couldn't stop thinking about. Charlie her son, Beth her daughter, she was the mother who was everything to them, who put them before all else, who wanted to grab them and keep life at bay. Nevertheless, a part of her left over from childhood urged her to be the errant daughter, to shock, displease, and unleash in her own mother hysterical permission-denied fiats that could no longer be enforced. Another part of her haughtily dismissed the maternal interference she kept inviting in. The one thing she didn't want was a truce. As long as she could go on fighting with her mother like the old days, the pre-Charlie days, the world was normal.
She was quiet as she sat in Harry's truck. She had arrived once again at the image of her own mother weeping and still begging no at the Greyhound bus station. No, don't go her mother so proud all the time, so careful of her appearance, so careful to step lightly like a dancer reduced to this. Everyone at the bus station looking at this weeping, youthful grandmother. And now as the errant daughter, was she happy as she drove away in the Rambler station wagon? Was she happy now with the tent she had bought from a lady whose husband had died in Yellowstone Park, with the pickaxe she had been given, with the hammer, with the knapsacks, with the Tupperware, with the pamphlets and the shovel and the cans of chili con carne, with the golf club for beating off danger, with the clothespins and antique washboard, with the flimsy notion that she was ready for this?
From Lucky Strike by Nancy Zafris, pages 26-37 of the hardcover edition. Copyright Nancy Zafris 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Unbridled Books.
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No Man's Land
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