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West From Chicago…excerpt from another old story

*this is the final excerpt from what I’ve called the “big truck” series–an abandoned, unfinished road trip novel I lost interest in 17 years ago and recently revisited.  I added it partially in response to posts by our friends over at the excellent Great Plains Trail blog–where they’re building something awesome.  The Great Plains are remarkable, and filled with beauty and wonder both magnificent and subtle, but all that open land always strikes me as a little spooky, a sentiment that carried over into the following passage

From the hive he drove straight on, stopping three hundred miles in, when the fuel tank approached one quarter.  Standing tight-shouldered and shivering at a self-service pump, feeling the fuel surge through the hose and into the truck, a tangible exchange of power, perched on the edge of unending Iowa, he looked out on hard gray fields frosted soil and stubble pierced here and there with copses of Imagetrees clustered  about tiny empires of tidy framed houses, barns, and outbuildings: feudal kingdoms of maize, wheat, and soy.  He wondered what sort of paradise it would be once the trees donned their canopies; but something about the flatness of the land unnerved a young man who had spent the relatively few years of his life traveling far, but only in latitudes, only up and down the broad, fecund spine of the Appalachians and the lands that separated those ancient mountains from the sea that once lapped at their flanks.  Too young to fear death or need great favors, his musings rarely turned to the protestant God who had perched, predatory, above his childhood, but he thought it chilling that in the great exposures of plain and prairie, there was no place to cower and hide and cringe-that God could reach down to smite and scatter and howl vengeance unimpeded by mountain or foothill or cliff.  And indeed He did, Hart realized, needing no great powers of concentration to recall the droughts and floods and blizzards and twisters that ravaged the region in biblical justice, almost ritually scourged and scoured the Midwest.  He supposed that these were the prices exacted for the privilege of living in the long, flat shadow of God.