MOSTLY AT THE FRINGES

Interstate highways were killing the railroads. Hollywood was overtaking Manhattan as the center of international influence. Maybe, he thought, the nation was in a race of obsolescence. The big action was taking place at the fringes of the continent – San Francisco and Greenwich Village – rather than in the center: Iowa and Indiana had become back country as much as Montana and Wyoming. Maybe more.

He drove north along the bluffs. Turned in, parked the car, and climbed to a spot towering over a dam and barge locks in the Mississippi. Already, deep cold had frozen the surface. As he gazed down, a large black bird with a white head and white tail stretched a massive wingspan and soared below him, drifting out over water kept open by heavy current. Teak-wick! The kid had never before seen an American bald eagle. Teak-wick! All power before him! Teak-wick! Behind him were mysterious earthen mounds, the burial remains of Adena or Hopewell natives who lived at this site a millennium or two earlier. He peeled a strip of shaggy bark from a sycamore trunk and turned to traipse back to the car.

Today, with a computer, the image would be manipulated with ease. Not so, in his darkroom isolation. He could ask if one form of perfection is superior to another. Any answer would have a hollow ring.

In town, anticipating Christmas, the Salvation Army kettles kept ringing.

At home, he kept picking up the phone to hear only buzzing.

~*~

For more from my THIRD RAIL collection, click here.

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