Travelers in the area often report that upon entering Porkopolis, it is impossible to tell “what is and what isn’t.” Goose didn’t know the cause of this peculiar sense of confusion. It was easy to point fingers at the ever-present mists hovering over Nodaway Valley, the failing eyesight and upside down memories of the locals, or a factor not easily ignored…God’s Everlasting Will, which carried weight in these parts.
As he turned left off Hwy. 71, Goose’s Roadmaster found its way to the town square, where his fiftieth class reunion was in full swing. Was he wrong, or was time already beginning to slip and slide? He parked near a curb lined with dusty trucks, wondering what it was that skittered beneath the left wheel and splattered its guts on the Roadmaster’s grille.
Polly Dooley, gone but not forgotten
Years ago he’d been a genuine part of Porkopolis, so named because of multiple hog farms and the miles of sweet-sour stench rising from the pens. Porkopolis wasn’t a unique name by any means – in fact, Cincinnati laid claim to it sometime around the Civil War – but all in all (and despite the stink), his hometown stuck in his mind as a place filled with perfumed lilacs and bluebirds and generous girls eager to sprawl on the football field under a harvest moon when Homecoming was over. Lucky for him, his sperm had failed to precipitate a hasty marriage at The Valley Church of Life. He gave thanks that the targets of his sweaty efforts weren’t doomed to spend nine months in the farmhouse of a distant cousin. Porkopolis had more than its share of distant cousins.
Goose reckoned that peddling bibles was a sure way to repay the Lord who had steered him clear of trouble during his years at PHS. After graduation, he’d have preferred tending bar at the VFW, but bible-selling was profitable and he’d been able to buy the Roadmaster, with change to spare. Not exactly new, it wasn’t exactly old either, and the holes punched in its chromed sides made a fine statement when he kicked up dust in the driveways of farm ladies. His luck held during his bible hawking rounds, and now and then, a few regulars found the means to scrape together enough to purchase a seven-volume set, bound in fake white calfskin stamped in gold. Goose had a soft spot for extending credit to 18-year-old ladies who promised to pay one way or the other, however, he did not accept Master Card or Visa, and in his long career had never accepted a package of pork tenderloins in exchange for his services. The closest he came to selling out was when he accepted a plate of elderberry cobblers from a Hacklebarney lady, in the days when his ribs were poking through his shirt.
Goose thought he looked real good as he stood in the town square, juggling ham slabs and summoning smiles for classmates he didn’t recognize – except for Mavis Swan, the ‘60 PHS prom queen who he noticed had gone to seed, and her escort for that long-ago prom, Rolly Butch, the former star quarterback, whose new knees were genuine plastic. Goose had his original knees. His seersucker suit was new and only slightly rumpled and looked smart with a red, white and blue necktie purchased at considerable cost. He took pride in his hair, mostly his own. And pride in his teeth, polished to dazzling perfection by his buddy, Dr. Chip Bloodwell, who fled Porkopolis after graduation and never returned. It had been a bit of a hassle locating the right pair of white buck shoes to wear with his seersucker suit, but the Lord had suggested a rummage sale where he found a pair like Pat Boone used to own. They smelled like sour milk and pinched his toes, but no one would notice unless he was asked to dance. Considering the oxygen tank hoses the attendees had plugged into their nostrils, it was unlikely there would be much dancing.
Goose’s life in the Valley seemed to kick in when he was around age five, the year he began kindergarten. Discovering the trick to playing doctor and nurse took several years, but it had been worth the wait. By the time he reached high school, he’d perfected the role of a doctor who knew who would and who wouldn’t. It later served him well on his bible-selling route… (cont’d on next page)