My dad was for midwestern values; he was for families; he was for a firm handshake; he was for a little awkward sweet-talking with the waitress at the HoJo’s. Until he grew to the age of thirty-four he worked at one of those farms owned by a big international corporation that’s created from family farms gone defunct. Looked like a chessboard, if you saw it from the air. This was near Bidwell, Ohio. Don’t know if it was Archer Daniels Midland, Monsanto, some company like that. The particular spread I’m talking about got sold to developers later. I guess it was more lucrative to sell the plot and buy some other place. The housing development that grew up on that land, it was called Golden Meadow Estates even though it didn’t have any meadows. That’s where we lived after Dad got laid off. He’d been at the bar down by the railroad when the news came through.
So he took the job at Sears, in the power tools dept. About the same time he met my mom. She’d once placed in a beauty contest, Miss Scandinavian Bidwell. They got married after dating a long while. My mom, probably on account of her beauty crown experience, was eager for my dad (and me too, because I showed up pretty soon) to get some of that American fortune all around her. She was hopeful. She was going to get her some. The single-story tract house over in Golden Meadow Estates, well, it was a pretty tight fit, not to mention falling down, and we were stuck next door to a used-car salesman nobody liked. I heard a rumor that this guy Stubb, this neighbor, had dead teenagers in the basement. The Buckeye State had a national lead in serial killers, though, so maybe that wasn’t any big surprise. My mother convinced my dad that he had to get into some other line of work, where there was a better possibility of advancing. Was he going to spend his whole life selling power tools? Her idea was raising Angora rabbits. He went along with it. They really multiplied, these rabbits, like I bet you’ve heard. They were my chore, matter of fact. You’d get dozens of these cages with rabbits that urinated and shat all over everything if you even whispered at them, and then you had to spin their fur, you know, on an actual loom. If you wanted to make any kind of money at all. I didn’t have to spin anything though. I was too little. But you get the idea. Turned out my mother didn’t have the patience for all that.