Have you been reading the currently untitled horror story, parts one and two? I would welcome any suggestions (even just possible titles). Please. The whole point is to test drive the rough draft as I try to complete the story (or at least this portion of the story; I think it’s headed toward novel length over all three sections).
Today, as I threatened yesterday, we are going to take a break for a little autobiography. I do use some of my own experiences and some real geography in the story, deliberately but without any point.
From my own experiences: I really did drive right through Andrew on the day of my job interview (more on that to come). I also stayed overnight in Maquoketa the evening before the interview, much like Arkham does. However, the Super 8 was not there in 1977; I stayed at the Key Motel, back when it was a motel. I ate Kentucky Fried Chicken (since it was nearby; I may even have walked over to get it) for supper, having driven down from Janesville. I had scheduled three interviews in two days, and I had done two the day before Andrew. I remember the Janesville discussion, but I don’t recall now where the other one was—somewhere not too far from Janesville because I did the forgotten one in the morning and Janesville in the afternoon. Then I drove to Maquoketa, arriving at the splendiferous Key Motel about suppertime.
I know I kind of explored Maquoketa that night. Either that night or my trip to find a place to live (not the same trip, as in Arkham’s tale—oops, you don’t know that yet), I visited Ken’s Loft downtown and met Chaucer’s Miller, when a large (he seemed very large to me that night) man with a big red beard used his head to bash open the front door from the inside just as I was reaching for the handle outdoors. Quite surprising. As I believe I know who that man is (now), and I’ve come to like him pretty well, I don’t think I’ll reveal his identity here. On the trip to find a place to live, I did decide to upgrade from living in an upstairs apartment in an old house to renting an entire little house (more room than I needed to be sure: the two rooms upstairs never got used for much of anything, not even much storage). It still stands, in much better shape than when I rented it for a couple of years, on Emma Court (pay attention in future installments of the as-yet-untitled story).
I remember having to rescue my cat Malcolm from the tree in front (gone now) when not quite in my right mind. The black-and-golden she-devil had sneaked out the front (I think we were on the porch as I lazed and dazed), and the next I knew she was yowling from outside up high. Pete, the other cat, in those years took off for long periods of time, even in winter (I think someone somewhere half-adopted her). I enjoyed that house, even with its dark blue bathroom and the aged kitchen that was too huge a room to be useful. I wrote a poem about raking leaves in that yard, my first experience as an adult having to do outdoor housework. I also remember buying a case of Dubuque Star in bottles for a party I held at the house (maybe I really was a different person in those days). That only partly-drunk case of vile beer lingered around that kitchen for months—possibly years; it may have moved with me to the later apartment on Matteson Street. Even Kevin, visiting from Chicago one weekend, and I couldn’t work our way through that stuff.
But I have gotten far ahead of myself. Back to the day of my job interview…
I did not eat at a diner the morning before the Andrew job interview. And I don’t have any recollection of what time the interview was at (afternoon seems right to me just now). I did drive right through the center of my future universe without realizing it, getting about three-fourths of the way to Bellevue (I think; it was all strange, new territory to me then) before deciding I had better turn around. It was a gorgeously sunny day (as I remember just about every summer day of the mid- to late Seventies being; perhaps I should check some weather records or climate archives to see how bad my memory really is). I was listening to music in my little VW bug on the radio (all the sound source that little beetle had), and somehow I just ignored the town as I drove through. I spotted it on the return, however, just like Arkham and Mantorville.
That little bug was already damaged, too, now that I think about it. I had hit a deer the winter before, driving home to Ft. Madison from visiting my family. I don’t think it was a pa-diddle (one-eyed) because my dad had rigged something for the passenger headlight, but I drove it damaged until the next spring (1978) when I finally got the insurance claim—at least that’s how I remember it. I know the repairs were done in Maquoketa, finally. Perhaps I pocketed the check and just drove it for over a year, damaged. That bug also used to suck up a quart of oil every few miles when I lived in Ft. Madison; I know one trip I had a case of oil with me and used it pretty much up driving from Mt. Pleasant to my apartment on Avenue D (or maybe vice versa, which makes more sense because then my dad could fix the rotten thing once I reached Mt. P).
I do think Larry Sarver, then superintendent of Andrew (and nothing like Howie Phillips except he seemed to hire the first interviewee on the spot), was waiting for me at the front doors. And those who have been inside know that the school is just about as confusing as the fictitious one in Mantorville. We ended the tour of the building in a hideously orange (two-toned orange) room somewhere on the second floor, sitting in student desks as we talked. Looking that room over, I hoped my assignment (if I got offered and if I took this job) would be in some other room—preferably in the visibly newer and nicer part of the building. Of course, as generations of students may recall, it was room 206 in all its orangey glory, where I would spend the longest parts of most days for the next 32 years…