In a White Land
Elisa come home last week with her boyfriend. His name is Terry. She’s been goin’ out with him for eight months and she calls us up on New Years and says, oh, I’m comin’ home soon and you’re finally gonna get to meet Terry. Like we all been sittin’ around here waiting for it. Big deal, we finally get to meet Terry, and that’s gonna make up for all the numbnuts she dated when she was still living here. I got to go pick them up at the airport.
First thing is all Terry can talk about is how different everything is in L.A. In L.A. they got this and in L.A. they got that. I try and tell him, yeah, we got shopping malls even in Indiana, Terry. He says how it ain’t the same because of how L.A. is a real city. Also because of how we can’t see no celebrities when we go to the malls in Indiana, not that he cares about celebrities and all that but he’s just sayin’. And because we gotta drive twenty miles just to go to the movies. Big deal, I say. Some of us like to drive. Oh, he knows all about that. In L.A. you drive everywhere. How about that.
Then we get into town and he says somethin’ about the name of the place.
“Whiteland,” he says.
“That’s what they call it,” I say.
“I guess that’s pretty appropriate.”
I don’t know what to say to that. Yeah, we all a bunch of white people down here, I guess. What’s he want me to do about it? I can’t control it or nothin’. He want me to go Chinese overnight? Of course I only thought this at the time, and didn’t say it, which I guess I should have. But it got to that point where I would have just been sayin’ it for the sake of sayin’ it, like it wouldn’t been part of the conversation no more, and I would have felt stupid. Meanwhile Elisa ain’t sayin’ anything at all, so the whole thing would just be awkward.
Terry wants to know what it is we boys do for fun around here. He says he’s bored out of his mind.
“You only been here six hours,” George says, “and it’s a Tuesday night.”
I figure this is gonna send him off on some big tear about how much there is to do on a Tuesday night in L.A. Sure enough.
It seems like Terry just can’t get over the whole Whiteland name. I wonder how come it is that he never knew that’s where we was from, because you’d think Elise would have mentioned the name of her home town once or twice, but it don’t seem like Terry listens so good, so I don’t know what difference it would make. Anyway, he says, “What’s the next town over? Klansville?” I tell him the next town over is New Whiteland, which he thinks is even funnier.
“Pardon my askin’, Terry,” I say, “but ain’t you white yourself?”
“Yeah,” he says, “but it’s not my fault.”
Which I have to admit is an answer I was not expecting.
Elisa is spending most of her time with Mama which means I’m the mister lucky who gets to hang around with Terry all day long. This is on account of we are the closest in age. But I think he mistook me for his chauffer or something because he always wants me to drive him up to Indianapolis. He says he’d go crazy unless he spent at least part of the day in the city, which I don’t really understand because alls he does when he gets there is go to shopping malls. It’s not like he’s goin’ to the opera. And then on the way back he asks me and George all these questions which are about whether or not we’re a bunch of rednecks only he don’t say so. Like he asks if we go out cow tipping a lot. I say, nah, Terry, all we get around here are pigs. George laughs ‘cause he knows who I’m talking about but Terry just says how it must be a lot easier to tip over a pig.
“You know, George, I been thinkin’ about giving that Terry a kick in the ass before he leaves.”
“Naw, Curt, you don’t wanna do that. You do that and you’re just gonna prove his point for him.”
“Which point is that?”
“That all us out here are a bunch of stupid rednecks, I guess.”
“Yeah, but also, it would prove my point, too.”
“That he’s a dumb asshole who ought to get his ass kicked.”
We put Elisa and Terry on the plane back to L.A. today. Before they went I give Terry this t-shirt he was askin’ for. He wanted somethin’ that said ‘Whiteland’ on it to show his friends. I knew how come he wanted to show them but I didn’t let on. I ended up selling him Jimmy Reuschel’s gym shirt from WCHS which I got from Jimmy for nothing and we split the twenty bucks I told Terry it cost.
Right before he left I remembered how Dad would used to say, boy, you’re from a small town, and you ought to be proud to live in a small town. But don’t act small town, because that’s just what they want you to do. He used to say that all the time. I never bothered to ask what acting small town meant, or who they were who wanted me to act like that. I think I might know, though, now.