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208 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1999
What am I doing here at the Blowout, during hunting season, without a gun? It’s a familiar sensation, this snag of guilt, because when I was growing up, a boy who didn’t hunt was branded as a pussy. For some reason, I never wanted to kill things, but I wasn’t bold enough to say so. Instead, I did the expected: went to church on Sundays and on Wednesday nights, said “Yes, ma’am” and “No sir” to my elders. And I hunted.
He’ll be waiting on my steps early one morning as I’m getting home from work. He’ll crack jokes about punching a time clock. He’ll tell me he sold the Triumph in Tempe, Arizona, and moved in with a Navajo woman for too many months, then stole her Trans Am and drove to California to live with his friend Laura, an actress. That he got a bit part in a Robert De Niro gangster film and somebody recognized him and the FBI found him and he did time. That when he was released after two years, he rode the bus east across the country. He watched the states pass him by, buttes and deserts and oil wells and famous rivers and markers of historic events. Outside El Paso they passed a huddle of Mexicans standing in their yard watching their house burn down. In another bus he crossed Louisiana during the dark early morning hours with a plastic flask in his pocket, watching his cigarette tip glow in the window, reading the names of places and trying to remember if he knew anybody from there.
We’ll notice things: three hawks in the same dead tree. A flatbed truck hauling a steeple. A child’s wheelchair in front of a trailer. We’ll drink beer and stop to piss along the road between the towns, Creola, Axix, Bucks, Sunflower, Mount Vernon, Calvert, McIntosh, Wagerville, Leroy, Jackson, Grove Hill, Fulton.
This terrain isn't pretty, isn't for the weak of heart, but in these desperate, lost people, Franklin somehow finds the moments of grace that make them what they so abundantly are: human.
JESUS IS NOT COMING.
Because at sixteen, I’d never killed a deer, which meant I was technically still a pussy.
...until I was fifteen years old, I played with dolls. Not girls’ dolls, but “action figures.” ....But while he [his brother] would wrench off G.I. Joe’s head and hands to examine how the doll was put together, I would imagine that my G.I. Joe was Tarzan of the Apes. One of my sister’s Barbie dolls, stripped to a skimpy jungle bikini, became Jane. A foot-tall Chewbacca was Kerchak, an ape.
“No,” he said. “I’m real proud of you, son. I’m glad you’ve got…imagination.”