I first read “Fat Girls In Des Moines” in 1988 in Granta, a literary magazine (yes, I know, save it). It’s still around. Anyway, Bill Bryson, the author, was an American ex-pat at some point who later moved back to the States. Wrote books. One about his travels in Australia. I did not think it particularly good. But that’s not the point.
The point is this: The opening paragraph of “Fat Girls In Des Moines” is one of my favorites. I laughed aloud – something I rarely do while reading. Yes, I laughed a lot when I read A Confederacy of Dunces. But that was years ago and I digress. The point, again, is that I remember Bryson because of this one paragraph. I’m sure there’s a lesson there.
Here’s the paragraph:
“When you come from Des Moines you either accept the fact without question
and settle down with a girl called Bobbie and get a job in the Firestone
factory and live there forever and ever or you spend your adolescence
moaning at length about what a dump it is and how you can’t wait to get
out and then you settle down with a local girl named Bobbie and get a job
in the Firestone factory and live there forever and ever.”
Today, on the bus back from ****** – a trip that is typically at least productive because I get to read – an overweight, ugly obnoxious woman sat behind me, got on her cell phone and talked LOUDLY … incredibly loudly – even though I was trying to read and had earphones in and meditation music was on – pointless. So loud that if I turned around and started talking at her as loud as she was talking she’d think me very rude because she could not have her phone conversation. Instead of telling her to shut up or punching her in the face – my instincts – I turned my tablet into a recorder and recorded her conversation. Trying to make something positive out of a mess. Amid numerous “fucks” and “shits”, she covered these topics:
* Her possible $50,000 settlement from a big lawsuit. Or it might be $500.
* Her upcoming divorce
* A man who (I’m not sure here) is married to a friend – or an acquaintance. Or whatever. He overdosed on heroin. Recently. Paramedics found needle marks in/around his knees.
* She has never tried heroin.
* A female friend/acquaintance, a one-time dancer of some sort, who is now “all messed up” once hit on her by sitting between her legs during . . . a beauty parlor visit or something, dancing around and then licking her inner thigh.
All of this in 12 minutes and 23 seconds. There was more. But . . . .
Head pounding, I stepped off the bus early and walked home. I planned to do this anyway – but it was an extra relief because the woman was still yapping a thousand words a minute as I exited into . . . four-inch-high grass. Bus stops in suburban Florida being, on occasion, a bit primitive.
I have the recording but it’s going to take some skills with audio software I do not have. And I really do not want to spend time learning how to work this software just so someone else can hear this white trash-talking.
During a recent high school homecoming game – typically the final American football game of the year and a big event – Northeast High (the Vikings) in St. Petersburg played Osceola High from nearby Seminole (the Warriors), both in Pinellas County, Florida – the most DENSEly populated county in the state.
Northeast High students made many signs such as the one pictured. I know this because I’ve helped a friend – a NE High student – with journalism aspirations.
[Note: After a brief digital exchange with the artist who said creating a collage of her work was OK - as long as it is credited - I decided to republish this. She had not complained - but I had removed it because of concerns about copying someone's work without permission.]