“Not in Kansas Anymore” by Rocco Versaci – selection #39 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠K♠  King of Hearts (the picture at left is, appropriate for this story, from a Bicycle deck)

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Hearts is my suit for “Stories from Indiana literary magazines and journals.

The Selection: “Not in Kansas Anymore” from my copy of the Spring 2014 issue of “Midwestern Gothic” magazine.

The Author: Rocco Versaci (pictured at left upper right [from his website]), who earned both his M.A. and PhD at Indiana University, and also worked as film critic for the Bloomington Herald times. He is currently teaching at Palomar College in San Marcos, California. You may learn more about this author at http://www.roccoversaci.com/

What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card, and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

Not in Kansas Anymore

“This is some perverted backwoods version of Zen, where I’m shackled to the present moment, forced to feel each droplet of sweat, smell each dead possum, listen to each echo of thunder.”

Are you a homebody or do like adventure? How do you feel about road trips? For my part, I’m usually happy staying at home, or at least only straying to places that I’m familiar and comfortable with.  That said, I have been on my share of road trips over the years as well and enjoyed them for the most part. In a sense, this story reminded me of that feeling of being “on the road” and made me think that, in a way, being on the road is almost an altered state of consciousness…

This is kind of what the narrator of this story experiences.  We join him in medias res, pedaling across the country on his bicycle, as he’s leaving Kansas and entering Missouri (just one of the reasons for the story’s title). His reaction to seeing the “leaving Kansas and entering Missouri” sign on the road? “About Goddamn time!” (having driven across Kansas, I can appreciate the fact that it is a very long way across)  He encounters a detour, which have come to plague him during his trek.  Here we also learn a little of his background:

“Detours are another matter. Detours, I know about. I hit a big one in my mid-thirties. A lump in my chest that became nine weeks of chemotherapy. Nine weeks inside a body being slowly almost-killed. Like a lot of detours, it had piss-poor signage, and by the time I got back on the road I’d been on, it didn’t look the same.”

Smattered with details of small encounters on his trip, especially in the Ozarks, the story leaves the reader with a good idea of that ‘altered state’ of consciousness that being on the road can evoke. I liked the story a lot and it made me feel like going on a trip myself. I will NOT be bicycling, however. J

What are some of your favorite road trips (of any kind)?  I’ve often thought of going on a literary road trip, retracing some of Kerouac’s routes but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Or maybe a re-tread of (roughly) the path of the Lewis and Clark Expedition would be fun.  I also have accumulated a list of great places that I visited as a child on summer ‘family camping trips’ that I’d really like to see again through the eyes of my adult self. Maybe when I retire I’ll finally have ample time to try these things…

below: from wikipedia – a map of the Ozark Mountains, where much up and down pedaling was done by the author in the story

ozark-map

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