The Unknown: The Red Line.

Scott’s a real sentimental guy, when you get down to it, I thought to myself as we rode through miles and miles of interstate cornbelt, him praising the scent of the air, the height of the corn, the blueness of the sky. He said “I can think here. I can think.” He pointed out the way that the red paint was peeling off of specific barns, saying one looked “rustic,” another “pastoral,” another “quaint,” another “antiquated,” another “kind of sad, the forgotten memories it seems to contain.” He speculated on the life histories of entire communities.

Scott was kind of excited to be going back to his little college that he went to, you could tell. He breathed a lot through his nose and looked sincere. His eyes had a kind of glow to them. He mentioned a novel that Jane Smiley had adapted from King Lear. The drive was long and flat. He told us that he thought Iowa ended up with all the good parts of the 1950s. He said “This is how it used to be is how it is here.” He tried to talk us into stopping at the place where they made that Field of Dreams movie. But Dirk wanted to get there, wherever it was we were going, ASAP. He said he was getting sick of Midwestern driving, that it seemed like everything was the same everywhere in the Midwest, he said, “Ohio is Indiana is Illinois is Wisconsin is Iowa is Nebraska.” Scott said, “Aw shucks, Dirk, it gives ya time to think.” I chuckled, because I always chuckle when Scott says “Aw shucks.” We listened to some Buck Owens tapes. I thought of Frank, and how lucky we were to be able to make trips like this, on our book tour, while that poor guy had to slog away at his 9-to-5 way over there in California. You would think he’d miss the seasons, miss the fall, miss the spring, yes even miss the pungent scent of fertilized miles of cornfields on a hot summer day. We drove the speed limit. We rolled the windows down. We passed a magnificent fruit and vegetable stand. We didn’t stop, but the watermelons were enormous. Life was everywhere.

We smoked a joint of high-quality marijuana a friend had grown for us in a closet in his house. We talked about organic farming. We talked a little about Flannery O’Connor. Scott told us about a 150-year-old abandoned cemetery he had gone to when he was taking a class in field botany. Out in the middle of nowhere. Scott told us how it has some wildflowers growing there that are so rare that they think it may be the only place in the whole world where they grow, and how he thought it was kind of beautiful, that all of those long forgotten decomposed bodies were feeding these rare kinds of wildflowers, in a place where hardly anyone ever goes to. I saw what he meant. Iowa reminded me a lot of Central Illinois, but it somehow seemed even flatter. How does all that corn get eaten?



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