Little Utah

The crinkle-crinkle of the Cheetos bag sounds different.

It’s a better sound than potato chip bags make.  It’s almost musical.  Maybe it’s the slickness of the bag, maybe there is a slight echo the dusty cheesy residue helps create.  Holding it close to his ear, Eric could hear everything happening in the neighborhood, everything that would happen, and everything that had happened there since the beginning of time.

No, really.  The crinkle-crinkle told the whole history of the world–ashes to ashes and Cheeto dust to Cheeto dust. He’d been able to hear it since he saw the angel.

There were people in town who liked to call his neighborhood, which sat just off the bypass between Maple and Spring Streets, just past the location of the old Wal-Mart and the New Wal-Mart Supercenter, “Little Utah.”  It was a weird thing to do, give a neighborhood in a town of 10,000 a nickname.  Like China Town, Little Italy.  Like this was some big city.  Like there was some wave of immigrants that followed some sort of land rush.  But this was Kentucky, and the fact of the matter was that there hadn’t been wave of any sort of people in this county since before Kentucky was a state.

But there had been a ripple.  About 15 years ago, there were two Mormon missionaries who rented a room in that neighborhood, before it had a name, of course.  They were, as Gladys Johnson would tell you, the most polite young men she had ever met, and they probably had dinner at every house in that neighborhood at least twice.  By the time they left a year later, they had baptized 12 people, and helped the 12 buy the old Church of Christ that had flooded out, clear out the mold and hang new drywall.

Not just polite. Hard workers too.

Eric’s parents were among the 12.  His birth was always considered something of a miracle.  His dad wasn’t as old as Abraham (in the Bible), but he might as well have been.  He’d been old for as long as Eric could remember.  Eric, his mom always said, had the heart of an old man.  He couldn’t do much outside because of his weak heart, so he spent most of his time inside, doing quieter things.  Video games were too much excitement, so he read.  The great scriptures, stories of great men, books about how things worked.

And he listened.  To the crinkle-crinkle.  To the sad rhythm of circling insects on a hot day.  To the buzz of the occasional hummingbird.  And then, after the angel, to the whole history of the world.

This is a re-boot of an idea I had about 16 years ago.  I had been reading a good bit of magical realism and some first-hand anti-Mormon accounts from 19th Century northeastern Ohio.  I had always thought that Eastern Kentucky would be an interesting setting for a sort of tribute/hat-tip to Salman Rushdie and Gabriel García Márquez, and as part of this daily discipline, I wanted to explore that.  For now, these paragraphs are a placeholder for what will be a longer experiment.


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