A/C,dish washers, automatic transmissions, frozen dinners, and liberal theologians.
Some people move away, they get A/C first thing and crank it up to Cold. They drape themselves over it. Then they find a church where God is the gentle mist rising from the meadow and the smile on a child's face. They don't want to get sweaty anymore if they can help it. Some people dive right into decadence and make up for lost time, such as Wendell Tollerud who became a big noise in life insurance, has two cars (automatic with A/C), a one-acre ranch house (A/C, all the conveniences), membership in the Presbytarian church, and bought a lake home to get away in, which, he found to his horror, had no indoor plumbing. It was in virgin wilderness up north where septic tanks are forbidden. He paid the price of the cabin for a stainless-steel Swedish catalytic toilet (indoor) that converts shit into a fine white ash like powdered sugar. Wendell had had eighteen years of outdoor biffies and they held no further attraction. He wanted one you could sit in and not be reminded of all the people who've been there before you.
When Bertha Ingqvist, David's mother, said one April, "I don't believe I'll put in a garden this year," they knew she didn't have long. When you no longer care about fresh tomatoes and sweet corn, then death is near, and so she died the first week of June and now she is enriching the soil up there on the hill.
The Cheeseburger I bought at the Chatterbox Cafè when I was four, was with a dollar bill I stole off the kitchen counter. My father arrived just as Dorothy put the beautiful cheeseburger in front of me; he said, "You come with me," and I said, "I'll be there in a minute." He dragged me away without a bite. No burger since has looked so good to me. I still miss it. Wake up nights hungry and see it.
"Don't you know it's wrong to steal?" he said. Of course I knew. In the Bible, people who innovated tended to get smote, and that was at a time when God smote hard: when he smited you stayed smitten, smiting was no slap on the wrist. Mrs. Tollerud illustrated this in Sunday School with a flannelgraph: a cloth-covered board on which she placed cloth figures and moved them around. The liberals got kicked out of Paradise, they got flooded upon, and Pharoah, though decent in some ways, when he didn't obey God, God made a mess of Egypt, dumping locusts, frogs, blood, hail, lice and flies on them and turning day into night. She took down the figure of Pharoah the ruler and put up the figure of Pharoah with his hands over his face. It made us think twice about striking out in new directions. But knowing right from wrong is the easy part. Knowing is not the problem.
In my great-grandfathers desk, they say, was thousands in gold dust brought back from Colorado, the family fortune - all lost in the blaze, thus changing our history these past hundred years. All of us think of it often. The new house became a chicken coop later, and I wonder if the gold didn't sit in the dirt and generations of chickens crawl under the boards and eat it. In that case, the golden yolks of our boiled eggs were truly golden and so are we now. I loved eggs. I may be worth hundreds of dollars.
This is the news from Lake Wobegon, Minnesota, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above average.
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