The Card: ♥7♥ seven of hearts
The Selection: “The Gods of Indianapolis” from the magazine “Punchnel’s” and the short story anthology “Mythic Indy”
The Author: Pictured at top middle left, Jason de Koff is an Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Soil Science at Tennessee State University. (picture from the University’s website)
(For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. In the 2016 edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”
since this year is my home state’s bicentennial. 🙂 )
For week three of the 2016 Deal Me “IN” short story reading challenge, I drew the seven of hearts, which I had assigned to this story from the Indy-based online magazine, Punchnel’s. The story will also be part of a soon-to-be-released short story anthology, Mythic Indy, for which this blog was happily one of the many sponsors rallied via their IndieGoGo campaign last year.
“The Gods of Indianapolis”
I’ve always been fascinated with names, both of people and of places. The names of people – surnames at least – often reveal where they come from. (Yes, I’m the guy who always asks someone he just met “where does your last name come from” – well at least if the name is unusual.) First names often reveal who or what someone’s parents admired – a favorite relative or respected parent and the like.
Names of places are fun too. Some places go through many names (think St. Petersburg, Russia, for example). Some go through most of history with an established name until the point that a ‘more civilized’ “discoverer” renames it after a head of state or generous patron (Think Mt. McKinley, now known (once again) as Denali). The state of Indiana’s name means, unsurprisingly, “Land of the Indians” and my home town city of Indianapolis, well that one’s kind of obvious when you remember “polis” is a Greek word for city.
This story offers an alternate explanation of how a famous street in Indianapolis got its name. If you’re not familiar with Indianapolis, its streets are laid out in a quite orderly, grid-like manner. Most main streets, north-south, east-west, and even a few radiating out from the downtown “circle” on the diagonals are named after our fellow states of the union. The main north-south artery, however is named “Meridian Street” and divides the city in half. Seems an obvious name as there are imaginary north-south meridian lines drawn all over the face of our planet. But maybe the name “Meridian” is a coincidence and actually has nothing to do with geographic concerns… Above: an aerial view of Indianapolis from many years ago (but not nearly as many as the setting for this story) You can clearly see the layout of the major streets, and there’s Meridian Street running right down the middle.
Author Jason de Koff hypothesizes an alternate history of a pre-colonized Indiana where… “In the 1600s, a group of Icelandic traders made the voyage across the Atlantic and landed on the eastern shore of North America. Heading west, they eventually settled in Indiana along the White River near a trade route used for transporting dried fish north and beaver pelts south. A peaceful people, the Icelanders befriended the native Miami tribe, intermarried, and formed a new society that maintained aspects of both cultures. The blended tribe prospered and grew…”
The star of the story is “Meri,” descended from both the Icelanders and native people and combining the best qualities of both. Such are her skills that she has risen to become the first woman to be named chief of her tribe, and is its leader when trade seems to be drying up and the tribe is falling upon hard times. The story takes place in an era where propitiation of the gods via sacrifice is not an uncommonly suggested solution for those in trouble, but just whose gods should be turned to? That’s when the story gets really interesting…
I enjoyed this story a lot – though I am admittedly a sucker for “alternate history literature.” As of this writing, the story may be still read online at http://www.punchnels.com/2014/03/24/the-gods-of-indianapolis/ It only takes 15 or 20 minutes to read, so why not give it a try? Let me know what you think of it. 🙂
I also think the question of a name’s origins is quite appropriate for my 2016 iteration of Deal Me “IN” since there has yet to be a definitive answer to the frequently asked question, “What exactly is a ‘Hoosier’?” After all, Indiana is known as “The Hoosier State” For an exploration of some possible origins of the word, I’ll refer you to this page of the Indiana Historical Society: http://www.indianahistory.org/teachers-students/hoosier-facts-fun/fun-facts/what-is-a-hoosier#.VpzaW688KrU
Beloved Indiana Pacers radio broadcaster and former coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard (below, with Reggie Miller on the right) is fond of saying, when a Pacer player drives down the middle of the lane for a dunk or lay-up, “He took it right down Meridian on ’em!”
Three down and forty-nine to go! 🙂