I used to travel every summer weekday from my house on madison street along the seven blocks to the fairgrounds on galena street where the kid’s baseball league played its games.
Because i lived in Wisconsin’s driftless region–a small corner of the midwest unflattened by glaciers–every part of the walk was up and down hillsides. The angles weren’t dramatic like San Francisco or like the mining towns i’ve seen in the West where buildings cling to the surface like box elder bugs to tree bark, but walking from my home to the fairgrounds was like travelling on a pedestrian roller coaster.
Along the walk, the past competed with the present and doomed the future to a tenuous role: on my block, the stones with which Frankie and Johnny Long had terraced their rose garden were still in place though the roses and the Longs had withered and died during the same harsh winter; and the pasture behind my house that my dad had accidentally set ablaze was now covered with houses, but the fence between it and our yard remained; and the Evanstad’s barn still stood at the end of our block though the horses had been sold off the year I began school. On my walk to the fairgrounds the past and present merged.
On the second block of my walk, I passed the county hospital where one summer I visited every on the way to baseball practice while my mother recuperated from something no one explained to me; on the next block, I passed a gate where a classmate named Joshua Schneider met me to walk the rest of the way to the fairgrounds until he was killed on his uncle’s farm while riding on a tractor; and on that same block, I passed a cluster of pin oak trees and peonies bushes where Richie Probst and I played at hunting until we accidentally put an arrow through the abdomen of a rabbit–an arrow that we had no idea how to dislodge and instead held the rabbit until it closed its eyes and died.
Every block was like that. Objects like tombstones on a grave that suggested to me what had already happened was more significant than what was yet to occur.