Sinking lower in the club’s hot tub and today a birthday marks his face one notch less recognizable when anyway, meeting someone these days means who you say you are matters both less and more. Who cares, really? Get older and it becomes easier to say who you are not. No king of industry, that myth abandoned before anyone finished saying Constantinople, but who even says Constantinople anymore, such flourish abandoned in his particular past as a history major, an epoch in which windmilling toward the future seemed to matter, toting around the flag of belief that what happened before could actually help you later. Now just a service-minded bumbler close to retirement going around to enlighten the masses and so what if certain efforts fizzled? Could happen to anyone.
We bought Detroit because even after buying ourselves new houses and cars, $253 million in lottery winnings left the four of us with a ton of leftover cash. Why specifically? One of our daughters found the ad on Craigslist: One city for sale or rent—slightly used; a fixer-upper; free from most city noise; lots of pretty, healthy trees and grass. The asking price wasn’t ridiculous.The mayor took personal checks. We wanted to be the first people who’d ever bought a city. Sure, important people sometimes got keys to them, but that’s not the same thing.
The closer they get to Wickersfield, the slower she wants to go. She’ll stay in the car and never get out, they can just keep driving, taking detour after detour until they are lost completely. With the roads torn up like this, Allison will not be to blame. We tried, she’ll say from a B&B somewhere in Canada, but it was just impossible to get there. Arrival means smiling, means forgetting all she has seen, and she isn’t yet ready to do that. She watches the once lovely scenery unscroll outside the passenger-side window: trees that look like they’ve been dipped in milk chocolate, cornfields trampled by dinosaurs. Sometimes half the road itself is missing, snapped off like a cracker and tossed aside, lying in the mud with the guardrail. The road narrows down to one lane marked off by orange cones and Jersey barriers, and cars have to negotiate with each other, managing a degree of civility Allison didn’t think possible without uniformed intervention. They pass through woods and meadows, farmhouses off in the distance, now miles from the interstate that brought them here. The flood has drained from the roads and fields and forests, no body of water glowers off in the distance, but clearly a big river has ripped its way through here, sweeping up boulders and gravel alike, tossing them behind like loose change. What must the cows have thought, when the water rose, when everything they knew was washed away?