68 Slices
Medium 9780253000958

Under the Influence

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

My father drank. He drank as a gut-punched boxer gasps for breath, as a starving dog gobbles food—compulsively, secretly, in pain and trembling. I use the past tense not because he ever quit drinking but because he quit living. That is how the story ends for my father, age sixty-four, heart bursting, body cooling and forsaken on the linoleum of my brother’s trailer. The story continues for my brother, my sister, my mother, and me, and will continue so long as memory holds.

In the perennial present of memory, I slip into the garage or barn to see my father tipping back the flat green bottles of wine, the brown cylinders of whiskey, the cans of beer disguised in paper bags. His Adam’s apple bobs, the liquid gurgles, he wipes the sandy-haired back of a hand over his lips, and then, his bloodshot gaze bumping into me, he stashes the bottle or can inside his jacket, under the workbench, between two bales of hay, and we both pretend the moment has not occurred.

“What’s up, buddy?” he says, thick-tongued and edgy.

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Hometown

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub
Medium 9780253329561

Chapter Twelve

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

Phoenix tossed notebooks, microfilms, bits of bark and stone into the vaporizer. Footprints of rebellion. He listened with regret to the hiss as each tell-tale item withered to a memory of molecules. Down in the guts of Oregon City devices would sort the vapors and reuse them for making plastic kidneys or glowrods or spoons. He searched the apartment for other incriminating evidence. Guides to meditation, maps of the coast, stick-figure illustrations of Teeg’s yoga positions—all went into the shaft. Hiss, hiss. Soon the only remaining clues were the holos of Whale’s Mouth Bay, tiny cubes intricate with the shapes of beach and cliff and grasses. He squeezed them until the points dug into his palm. Once he destroyed them he would have no way of bringing the wilds to life. And what if the city spun its webs of comforts around him again, lulled him in the hammock of its pleasures, until he grew to dread the outside?

Why not just leave the holos in the projector until the last moment? It was early in the year for typhoons. But you never knew about weather. Cantankerous, the weather. Any day, a storm could roar across the Pacific, tearing at the Enclosure’s skin, and the crew might be called out to mend a float or weld a cracked tube, and if the call arrived while he was away from the apartment, there would be no time for returning home to vaporize the cubes. And he must leave no tracks. If the crew simply vanished, apparently gobbled up by the sea, the health patrollers would lose no sleep. There were always too many bodies crowding the Enclosure. Security would simply recruit new troubleshooters. But if the H.P. came along, found the holos, and recognized the Oregon coast, they would have gliders waiting in Whale’s Mouth Bay when the crew arrived. Welcome to quarantine, ladies and gentlemen.

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Words Addressed to Our Condition Exactly

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

In the fall of 1971, seeing that I was floundering, a veteran teacher who had I floundered himself when he was twenty-five gave me a book by a writer he knew down in Kentucky. “You might find some guidance here,” he said, handing me The Long-Legged House.

It was a paperback edition, small enough to fit in a coat pocket, printed on cheap paper, unassuming, not the sort of book one would expect to confirm or change the course of a life. The cover illustration showed a cabin perched on a steep riverbank, with a view across the stream toward green ridges fading away into the distance; a curving flight of stone steps led to the uphill side of the cabin, which rested on the ground, while the downhill side rested on poles, evoking the long legs of the title.

The author’s name, Wendell Berry, was unknown to me, but his photograph on the back recalled men I’d known while growing up in rural Tennessee and Ohio. He wore a work shirt unbuttoned at the throat, with a T-shirt underneath and striped coveralls on top; beneath a billed cap, his face lay in shadow, the mouth slightly open and jaw set as if he were catching his breath in the midst of sawing or plowing. In the faint background of the photograph, instead of the usual desk littered with papers or shelves of books, there were blossoms, as of hollyhocks or fruit trees in flower. The biographical note identified him as a teacher and farmer, as well as the author of three collections of poetry, two novels, and the slender book of essays I held in my hand.

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Chapter Eight

Scott Russell Sanders Indiana University Press ePub

“What sort of test is it?” Phoenix asked nervously, licking the narco-flavored paint from his lips.

“It’s called an ingathering.” Teeg lay face-down, back arched so that her upper trunk was lifted off the floor. “It’s a form of collective trance. Pioneered by the Quakers centuries ago.”

They were in Teeg’s apartment, where she was demonstrating yoga positions for him, and he was doing his best to avoid staring at her. She wore a body-colored shimmersuit—“The next best thing,” as she had informed him one day, “to nakedness.” Phoenix sat muffled in several meters of gown, feeling like a cheap present extravagantly wrapped. He had come to her place straight from work, so he was still bedaubed and bewigged and befrocked in the public manner. “All right, I fall into this trance. Then what happens?”

If you achieve the trance,” she corrected him, her back arching further, vertebrae popping, “you drift toward the center.”

“Where’s the center?”

“It’s not a place. It’s an experience. Kind of a stillness, a brightness. In the ingathering we all gravitate there. If everyone’s perfectly clear, we merge together in the—well, the shining.”

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