Below is Part 13 of 23 monthly installments for Visitant.
Boxed-in by February shadows, Agnes Person has cabin fever. Cowlicks have lowered her brow ridge Neanderthal-style. Slouching, she uses a stick tool called pencil to X out Groundhog Day on her lunar calendar. Why follow the Cro-mag Homo sapiens and worship a TV weather rat?
Agnes woman pouts, fed up with small-town Pennsylvania bureaucrats deciding on the burrow fetishes of a buck toothed woodchuck named Philip. After performing four ritual clicks North, South, East, and West, she and domesticated wolf TN curl up on her cave couch and watch a weekday game show with lots of neon and swell cash prizes.
Q: Jordan’s old org?
King Hussein, Agnes yells at the set. She takes pride in her grasp of recent events.
National Basketball Association enunciates the host, smooth as frappe.
Q: Nadik, Mass.?
Agnes knows the correct answer. Nadik was a praying village Pilgrim elders built for local Pequot Indians, a designated place to wear grey knee-socks and build stone fences.
Q: Twin Sisters?
Siblings, blurts Agnes, before the contestant, a retired school principal, can move his lips.
A: City in Idaho famous for mammoth baking potatoes.
Twin Falls, shouts Agnes.
On a roll, she hits the remote and opens her AAA road atlas to Twin Valley, Minnesota, A-3, just south of Fertile, and close to Ada and Ulen, fraternal twins maybe. She finds Twin Lakes in the two-part state of Michigan. Northland, bleak copper country, another A-3 town. Twin girls of miners? No, daughters of AC coil magnates, switched at birth.
Agnes moves west to Twin Bridges, Montana, B-4, near the Great Divide. She imagines two Siamese-American girls, twins, surname Bridges, born joined at the hip. Both gals later married carnival men—one on the sunrise side of the Rockies, the other on the sundown western slope. Thanks to modern medicine, they are now two towns—one silvered with leaves of quaking aspen, the other verdant with rains dropping salmon coho fry from Pacific inlets.
Agnes doesn’t like the trajectory of this twin sister gig. She fears sad endings as a form of truth. Goodbye, Manifest Destiny! Setting her cap due east, she turns the page of the atlas and passes through Chicago, Illinois, E-1, city of lake effects, Palmer House Hotel, and four-star bistro brownie.
Circling Twinsburg, Ohio, D-2, tucked between Aurora and Chagrin Falls, she reconsiders life in a 19th-century Amish community — girls in scratchy homespun aprons and hand-me-down clogs. Over the Chagrin fells, streaks of carmine stroke dark waters. Dawn rises, chagrin falls. Rosy clouds scatter like petals fearless of drowning.
Agnes closes her atlas and surfs the channels. She pauses at a PBS special. A sheep rancher in mid-sentence is pointing to them-thar hills. Better than gold.
Pitchblende, Agnes answers, uranium oxide, UO2, lumpish ore formed in weathered uranium. Pulverized by makers of Fiestaware for coho-colored glaze. Who’da guessed? Ha, radioactive plates.
Opting for tamer isotopes, Agnes returns to “Play by Ear.”
Q: Candide’s famous adventure?
Puzzled Agnes flashes Leonard Bernstein’s same-name opera: stray Navajo sheep poisoned by pitchblende glow pink on a butte with no towns named for twins. Agnes worries about the toxic grass and spring lambs.
Q: Why are no sheep-raising towns named Agnes?
A: Poor A-4 pioneers preferred Alma in western state corners without alms.
Q: What happened to newcomers who planted peaches at Angel Fire, D-2, New Mexico, farmed okra at Agra (almost Agnes), E-2, Oklahoma, and then harvested velvet horns at Antlers, F-4?
Catching on, Agnes answers with a question.
Q: Did their trail re-cross the Ouachita Mountains eastward along present-day Route 3 to Broken Bow, F-4?
A: Broken-hearted, they were too sad to shoot Indians and kill deer in gardens that failed them.
Onward to Arkansas, these pioneers zigzagged their covered wagons, each time lowering expectations as they camped at Luxora, E-2, Jasper, B-2, and Viola, C-1, settling finally at plain-jane Calico Rock, C-2.
Seeking happy outcomes, Agnes returns to B-4 towns of Montana. She wants to reroute the twins and their joined lives through communities of joy. She finds plenty of towns named Arden in the road atlas, but has trouble finding townships of Love listed as a four-letter word.
For starters, she chooses twin rhymes in Virginia, Lovington, F-5, and nearby Covington, E-5; next stop is Loveland, A-5, northeast of Cincinnati, Ohio, followed by Love’s Park, D-1, just northwest of the Windy City. A canoe detour to Luck, A-2, Wisconsin, and reservation towns of Spooner, Rice Lake, and Trade River tempts Agnes, but she steers the twins southwest, passing through Texas to New Mexico, Lovington, E-4, and Loving, D-5. Veering north, the twins end their pre-nuptial travels at Loveland, C-2, Colorado, just before the Bearded Lady arrives and carnies set up the tents and Ferris wheel.
Index finger on standby, Agnes decides to travel as Alice, her business alias, and swing by her Texas namesake, C-5, after the elections. She’ll call her dog Lassie, better yet, Lasso, another no-town name. TN won’t mind.
► Next Installment: March 19th | Speed Humps