Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings

By Paul Ruffin | Go to book overview

The Mosquito

Fiction or familiar essay, this is not, of course, where a story ought to begin, given the current attitude toward stories set on college campuses, and it is almost suicidal to use writers and such as characters. But I’ve always believed, since my earliest days of poverty in rural Mississippi, that when you find something of value, no matter how you’ve come across it, you go ahead and pick it up and put it in your pocket and keep it, deal with the consequences later.

So there I was, a minor program participant at the Bennington Writers’ Conference in the summer of 1986, sitting in an audience of probably a hundred people, listening to Herb Gold read from his new novel. George Garrett and Alan Cheuse were directly in front of me; New York photographer Miriam Berkeley was to my right; and sitting to my left was Deanna Stark (name changed to protect my honor), heroine of this, my true-to-life, sohelp-me-God story. I don’t know who the fellow was directly behind me, only that he was tall and thin and from Alpine, Texas. The rest of the people were just a blur, students and staff, some from as close as Bennington, some from as far away as California. They don’t really matter to the story. You have to box things off to get a framework; outside the box anybody and anything will do.

Now, you have seen women like Deanna Stark—just to my left, remember? Sleek. I’m talking streamlined. Not an ounce of fat anywhere on her, unless you count the padding around her kidneys, which I don’t think is fair. You can’t see it, after all. You ever notice how you never find yourself thinking about beautiful women’s insides? Why should you? If you took one of Deanna’s kidneys and mixed it up with kidneys from a priest, a septic-tank cleaner, and your grandmother, I doubt that you’d be able to put your finger on Deanna’s. Maybe but not likely. Besides, some great tragedy notwithstanding, you’ll probably never have to.

All fe-male lean meat, and every square inch of it declaring that you’d better look quick before it changes because she won’t stay like this long, like it’s

-15-

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Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur and Other Meanderings
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xii
  • Things Literary, More or Less 1
  • Travels with George in Search of Ben Hur 3
  • The Mosquito 15
  • The Lady with the Quick Simile 19
  • Workshopping a Cowboy Poem 22
  • Was Emily Mad or Merely Angry? 28
  • On the Death of Edgar Allan Poe 31
  • Making Preparations for the Tour 34
  • The Girl in the Clean, Well-Lighted Place 37
  • Explaining a Poem to a Student 40
  • Some Rare and Unusual Books 43
  • Tales from Kentucky Lawyers 45
  • The Boy Who Spoke in Hymns 48
  • Making a Dam in Segovia 51
  • Just Thinking about Shit 54
  • To San Juan and Back 60
  • On Likker and Guns 81
  • Drinking 83
  • Rats! 100
  • The Bowhunter Asks for My Bladder 117
  • The Day the Sharpshooter Killed Something He Didn’t Intend to 120
  • Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, off to the Gun Show We Go … 128
  • From "Growing Up in Mississippi Poor and White but Not Quite Trash" (an as-Yet-Unpublished Memoir) 135
  • Trains 137
  • Learning about Sex 143
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