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Harvey made a face. ‘Some day it’s going to be maggots. Think about old Jud. All he’s got to look forward to is worms and maggots. Seriously. We could go deep into the woods. Bring backpacks and make a trip out of it. I can show you some of the places the old man took me.’ He picked up steam. ‘I mean, seriously. You can’t believe how wild it is once you get a way in. Nothing but trees and lakes. Wild is the wrong word. What’s the word?’
‘Then we’ll go this winter. How’s that? You won’t find mosquitoes in the winter. I’ll guarantee it.’
‘You don’t like snow? What the devil’s wrong with some snow? God’s own stuff. Clean and pretty and white. Beautiful stuff. God’s own stuff.’
‘Snow, cold, freeze. They go together. They give me the creeps. Why don’t we go down to Iowa for a nice vacation? That sounds better. We can visit Grace’s folks and have a fine time.’
‘Iowa,’ Harvey said with scorn. ‘Some adventure. What we need is a good adventure.’
‘I have an adventure,’ Perry said. ‘I’m a pioneer in this town. Scratching for a living, married, trying to help a bunch of crazy farmers grow corn in the woods, living in my father’s house. That’s an adventure.’
‘Curses to you.’
‘Damns and darns.’
‘We’ll go to Africa then,’ Harvey said. ‘Off to Africa. Do you have a problem with Africa?’
‘I suppose not. More bugs. Tigers and lions and cannibals. Minor stuff. Do you know anything about Africa, Harv?’
‘I’ll learn. I learned about My Khe. I can learn about Africa.’
‘My Khe. Is that in Africa?’
‘My Khe is a place in Asia,’ Harvey said. ‘Asia, Africa, Australia, Alaska. The big As. Adventure, the big A.’
‘You’ll forget yourself, Harv. Let’s go see about Grace’s supper.’
‘Grace is such a good sort.’
‘And the Arrowhead, another big A. You have to think about all this stuff. When you think about it, it’s awfully interesting. You have to think about all the adventurous places that go back to the first letter of our alphabet. Think of Afghanistan. Think of Algiers and Atlantis and Allen-town. Aruba and Athens. Athens, Lordy. I’d love to go to Athens. We ought to go. Just pull out of this burg and go.’
Grace came to the porch.
‘You’re really an extraordinary sort,’ Harvey said. ‘You must be American.’
‘Through and through,’ she laughed. ‘Come have supper.’
‘Full-breasted American, I like that. You don’t see many full-breasted Americans in Africa. Will you go to Africa with us?’
‘Oh, yes. I’ll start saving for it.’
‘You have to start talking my brother into it. Paul is very down on Africa. Paul is actually very down on the big A, you know. He didn’t pay attention as a kid. Didn’t listen to the old man, and look where it’s got him. Doesn’t respect the big A! Grace, you’ll have to persuade him to join us. Otherwise, well, we’ll run off together, how’s that? We’ll capture inchworms. Have ’em stuffed and mounted on the walls. Brother Paul loves stuffed inchworms and all other of God’s bugs. Don’t you? Sure. Brother Paul is actually quite religious. Learned it from the old man, right?’
‘Just like you loved the old man, right?’
‘Let’s eat,’ Grace said.
She guided them inside, lit candles and snapped out the lights. She served supper.
‘Inchworms!’ said Harvey. ‘My God, how did you know? My favourite.’
Afterwards Harvey wanted to go into town. Grace stayed home, Perry drove. Harvey was already tight, drinking beer from an aluminium can. It was a clear night, and the sky was high and the headlights lit a narrow tunnel through the woods. Along the road there were crickets and mosquitoes.
‘I’m home,’ Harvey said.
‘I am. I’m really home.’
The town was small, a few quiet campfires in the fog, and the forest grew everywhere, to the edge of town, into the vacant lots, on to lawns, brush and high pine. Perry drove around the sawmill hub and out to Franz’s Glen. Cars and pickup trucks filled the parking lot. ‘I’m home, all right,’ Harvey said. ‘Make me behave.’
‘What the hell do I say?’
‘Tell them you’re a hero.’
‘Perfect!’ Harvey grinned and mashed the aluminium can in his hands. ‘Just like the old days.’
‘Everything’s the same, right?’
The tavern was crowded. Addie was there. She was with a group of young people, young to Perry. On the floors there was red sawdust and spilt beer.
Addie saw them and waved.
‘Same place,’ said Harvey.
A Hamms sign revolved behind the bar. In the corner a jukebox was playing loud music, and Addie was dancing with a stupid-looking boy. She Was barefoot. Everyone was happy. The old men sat at the bar in brown cotton pants and flannel shirts buttoned at the wrists, and the kids were all at Addie’s table, and others sat at the tables and booths, a middle group of married people, the in-betweens and stalwarts. The jukebox was very loud.
‘It’s the same,’ Harvey grinned. ‘This is a very lecherous place. Don’t ever let your kids come here.’
‘Right.’ Perry watched Addie dance. She was a fine dancer. She smiled while she danced and he liked that. He didn’t care much for the fellow she danced with. No matter, though. Addie waved again and Perry grinned and waved back, and a young waitress with a beehive hairdo brought them tall bottles of beer. Harvey took her hand and told her she had a lot of class.
‘Perfectly exquisite,’ Harvey said when she left. ‘Very tight-assed and exquisite. Someday she’ll be a virgin, I’m sure.’ His face was turning red.
‘Awfully young, Harv.’
‘I’m young. Who says I’m not young?’
Addie was dancing with a new partner. The place was noisy, Saturday night. She held her sandals while she danced. Bishop Markham and Herb Wolff and another fellow were playing pinball machines under a giant walleye that hung on a wall.
Harvey asked the waitress to sit down.
‘We’re having a great homecoming party,’ he said, ‘and you have to join us. Really. You’re a very classy girl, you know. Exquisite and quite classy.’
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