Greg Correll

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Greg Correll

Greg Correll
Location
New Paltz, New York, US
Birthday
September 21
Title
Founder, Chief of Deselopy (small packages); Editor (doesthismakesense.com)
Company
small packages, inc.
Bio
I write.

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Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 5, 2010 11:55AM

june bug boys

Rate: 42 Flag

Kansas fills the eye.

Swollen with blue-green wheat, veloured with bristling corn; all the Earth falls beneath its compass.  The lush wonder of it was ordinary to me, growing up, even as it seemed to upswell below me. Trudging from elementary school to framed home was like walking on the uppermost of Earth.

Its edges eclipsed all the unseen wonders of my childhood -- from my Book of Marvels, My Weekly Reader, my encyclopedias and stories -- all hidden beyond the bowl, the forever curve, the thick hide, of plain Kansas.

"Not for you," murmured the flat horizon.

Paris, pyramids, mighty peaks -- not just beyond but under the yards of black earth, the mighty loam, the tentacled turf of triumphant Kansas. No bedrock, where I was raised. Just deeps of soil, and then soil again. I crawled on the only world as if on a colossal dome. No wonder I ran away: I had to get over that edge to see if the world was really real.

And I had to run because Kansas goes on and on, in me, around me, beyond my determined stride. Kansas is forever.

--

We held June bug races on an overturned china platter we found, blue and white and chipped, dug up from the ancient dump at the end of Eby Street. We lay in the cool of the garage, bare bellies on the grey, swept concrete, three radiating spokes from that platter, our Keds kicking, lazy and random.

Their thin, geared legs ratcheted up, tapped down, carefully placed. Crabbed as archbishops, each was carefully placed within the small rimmed circle at platters center, and still they tumbled.

Three boys, three june bugs; each had his champion. The winner was the bug who didn't fall, the one who made it off the slow curve to the platters edge, onto the dry oil stain below. Only to be lifted into the center again.

This was the boy I was, the one in the middle, between older and younger brother. Bored from comics, done with the morning bike rides in the fields at the end of 82nd Street. Too hot. Father at work, mother busy inside: " I don't care where you go just go! I don't want to see you boys 'til supper!"

Three brothers waiting for the elm shadow to move across the macadam outside, waiting on the signs all boys know. The sun would surrender, the heat would loosen its knot. From time to time we would raise our heads like antelope, peer out the garage door into the white burn, alert to small changes, signals that the cooling had begun, and we could get back on our bikes. Two of us, anyway. Kirk, the youngest, with his heart condition, was only allowed to ride after dinner, and sometimes after breakfast.

We rested chins on fists; with the least possible effort we lifted our june bugs up, placed them into the faint blue line that circled the obscure initials in the center.

"Not yet! he hasn't reached the end!"

"He will, you win this one, OK? Let's start again"

"Put him in the middle middle, not on the line!"

"That is the middle!"

The small corrections of boys, applied to each other, a touch upon each other like rough cloth on lathe-turned spindles. The exactitude of fair, the small distinctions of justice.

"Just put him down once; if he falls he falls!"

"Mine's missing a leg! i should start him lower down."

"Just go find another one, then."

Prairie talmudists we were, splitting hairs, divining intentions, distinguishing the subtlest advantages.

These were the bugs we were dealt today. Chris did not get up. The fat-fendered chevy rolled by outside, heading for Grandview; Darryl LaVitus's hoodlum brother's car. We caught the powder blue of it in our periphery. No one looked up.

The tall cypress in the Kaiser backyard swayed slightly; we all paused: Chris' eyes rolled to watch it, Kirk bent his head; I raised up, my wrists pressed hard, fingertips grazing the cement.

The pattern of shade shifting through the neighborhood, times the breeze in the treetops, divided by the deepening of the pale blue above Sally Todd's roof, squared by the noise of other boys down the block, the squeak of bike tires, over the clack-ak-ak of pinochle cards clothes-pinned against spokes, from somewhere over on 83rd Street: this is what we parsed along with that small movement in the cypress tree. Was it time? Were we past the hottest part of the day? Could we return to the the streets again?

I eased back down. Chris and I glanced at each other. Having taken our eyes off the bugs we didn't know whose was whose, Kirk and I. Chris lifted his deformed bug and put him on the floor in front of him, flipping him this way and that.

I took the better of the two, determined by the sheen on his back, some frantic scrabble he had. Kirk let it go, didn't make a fuss, being the youngest. And he didn't want us to go. He let me pick, to keep us there a little longer. He put his on the platter agin, then put mine next to it.

I sat up. "They're all the same," I said.

"Mine has five legs," Chris said.

"They never get away," Kirk said, grinning. He wanted us to stay.

Chris crushed his crippled bug under his fist. He inspected the dark brown bits of shell, the white goo, stuck to the side of his hand, then smeared it on the floor, on his dungarees.

"Let's ride," he said.









|~

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Damn, man. Damn. I would ride anywhere with you.
"No wonder I ran away: I had to get over that edge to see if the world was really real"
I know this...I was 14. I remember that number from one of your posts too.
This calls to mind pictures of my sons, my brothers, my cousins. You have an amazing way of illiciting all that happens beyond what is happening.
This was so good Greg. I could even feel the Kansas heat (though I grew up in NYC)
Just how does one summon up the courage, the audacity, the sheer cheek to comment to Faulker on his work? Or to Flannery O'Connor, or Hemingway or Joyce Carol Oates or Willa Cather? Hey, love your work? Or, I'm such a fan! Or I really liked this phrase or how you twisted this scene at the last moment to put a whole new perspective into the multi-leveled canvas that already had entranced me?

Remember, when you finish your comment and hit "post," it won't be some literary professor or teaching assistant who will see it and who might condescend to agree with you or, more likely, dismiss your words gently with a civil, "keep up the good work."

Nope, the person who will see your comment will be Faulkner himself, or O'Connor or Hemingway or Oates or Cather - the real one. Knowing this to be true, then, just what the fuck are you gonna say? Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?

Awed again, of course, Mr. Correll. (r)
Brilliant narrative. Macadam. Such a word.
Ah, youth. We were too young to appreciate it.
R
I miss June bugs up in the Northeast. Don't think I ever crushed one in my hand. Their carapaces used to collect on our trees.

rated my man
What Clark K said . . .
Frank: thank you for this great comment.

...next: I understand that , and I am glad my work improves in this way, to say more with less. Thank you

trilogy: and Kansas is hot. a still and whole world heat. thank you

ClarkK: well, gosh. The whole list, but Flannery, especially. She needs re-discovery. Her words are wrought from some whole other metal.

I appreciate the comparisons. I have a long way to go, but I think I know how to get there. Thank you.

donnastreet: thank you.

Kathy: how is it you always comment, and so quickly; what a friend to writing you are. and yeah, macadam, one the great words, i agree. thank you

Donna C: yep. and thanks.


Con: if anyone missed it, Con got a deserved EP today. H-O-R-S-E laughs galorum. Thanks, my friend

sophie: thanks



__

I must credit my writing workshop, run by Kate Hymes. I wrote this last night, in her group. Hers is a Pat Schneider workshop. I know many on OS have been in writing groups with people trained by Pat. Who has, for over 30 years, been teaching writers to sit, write, read, and support other writers.
excellent, excellent and yes! to the EP
This is a wonderfully told story. Our world has change from where kids needed to out til dinner, to helicopter parents who map out every nanosecond of their children's miserable lives.
I would have screamed long and loud, Greg, if this post had been overlooked. It is like baclava, layered and sweet and yet at the same time a little crunchy.

Prairie talmudists we were, splitting hairs, divining intentions, distinguishing the subtlest advantages.

Out of so many outstanding lines, this was my favorite. Prairie talmudists - what an incredible description.

This my friend is writing on a grand scale. You had me there with you.


You had me there.
I remember those days, Kansas boy that I am. Good story, well told.
Hey Greg,
I loved this visual especially (I read this sentence 3 times): "We lay on the cool of the garage, bare bellies on the grey, swept concrete, three radiating spokes from that platter, our Keds kicking, lazy and random."

I was the middle child too, but of 3 sisters (one more to join us later), living on a chicken farm in N.WI. This felt like bits and pieces of my childhood from my younger sister giving concessions so we would play longer to a parent telling us to come back for supper. We were free and we had our own society and rules with the other country kids. I enjoyed this post immensely.
Wow. This is fucking good writing, Greg. I mean, absolutely amazing.

Thank you and Rated.
Wow, you are such a beautiful writer! rated.
[exhaling deep satisfaction]

Perfect.

Absolutely.

Perfect.
Three brothers racing June bugs in a garage while waiting for the Kansas heat to break -- in the hands of a lesser writer this would be mind-numbing. You made it transcendent. Plus serious bonus points for "Prairie talmudists."
And there you go wa-a-ay overhead. I shall make a wish.
Nikki: hey, thank you, that EP was like lightning. I try not to suss out the workings of the editors' minds here. I liked this one, but had no expectations, given the oddity of it. go figure

OESheepdog: ain't it the truth? we were allowed frontiers, back then. thanks.

Bill S: baclava! Now THAT is a cool comment. And thank you altogether.

Monte: "born and bred in the heart of the American wilderness". thank you.

LuluandPheobe. me, too. it was a great diversion, always something of interest. Learning that was fun, stimulating. Especially to us flatlanders. And never ANYTHING about Kansas. thanks

Y Heron: That bare bellies came to me as whole memory, as a pure sensation. i like that you like it. Thank you.

Gwen: thank you.

Caroline: well, I look a bit haggard and worn. But my wife says in the right light? sorta kinda beautiful. thank you.

WalkAway: How do I do that? Get published? (I know, actually. I know.)
But I work 6 ays a week. I write at night, and on sat afternoons. I have to choose: do i eat lunch, or type up my midnight scribble? today i went w/o food, and got soul satisfaction instead. Ah, bliss. (as i type this I am training a client how to re-categorize his site sections for an Ajax accordion. multitasking).

I have tons of work written, half a book done. I've had two short plays produced, one off-broadway. I had a poem published in a collection. I also have the world's greatest sci-fi action movie (really. no, REALLY.) done in outline (plus a few scenes, some storyboards done).

But I can barely keep up with earning enough income, preparing to pay for colleges for two daughters, paying my way out from under my wife's cancer/medical etc. I have no time to write query letters, to polish my work, to pursue it the way it should be done. I would go broke and take my family with me if i went for it.

So I write my heart out here, with the foolish and absurd and cliched idea that someone will see it, and give me an E ticket, to the front of a line, give me even a modest book contract. Something.

It won't happen, it's a pipe dream.

I love to write, live to write, must write, mustmustmustwrite, or die. So long as i can do that, squeeze it in, good enough. Good enough.

thank you.

Verbal! ahh. how swell of you to say.

I have had your shoes piece open in a firefox tab for days. waiting to give it the attention it deserves. goddamnmumblemumbleworkobligations. i know it will be Great.


Stim: yeah, i liked that too. I once studied Torah, in two weekly groups, for 3 years.

transcendent? thank you for that kind comment.
I'm a city girl, born and bred and I felt like I was right there with you. Just freakin brilliant. (Plus, we do have trees in the city and yep, June bugs all around the house every year).
"Kansas is forever" might be the most breathtaking three words I've ever read. There's a lifetime in those four syllables. ::sigh:: And then there's "crabbed like archbiships" and the click, click, click of the clothespins against the spokes of the bike tire ... fully alive. But, the part that makes me blink back a few stray tears is the spirit of "boy" ... I live that magic every day through my four sons and when I say it's magic, I mean that I am fully mesmerized. Outstanding and what a very, very well deserved EP.
Evocative. You write beautifully.
Gail: i had to read this three times to get it, what a lovely thing to say, and said so well.

Robin: oxo

Sally: june bugs are ubiquitous. and so are boys, i guess. Thank you.

Daniel: road trip! thank you

1_Irritated_Mother: wow.

we both like that archbishop line.

mother of four boys elevates you to me, even over and above your original and beautiful poetry and memorable pieces, like the recent one about heirlooms. That you can write so well, worn out by sons, and still find in them, as I hva learned to, such sweet, wicked beauty? remarkable. You honor me with this comment. Thank you.

M.McKenzie: thank you.
This is wonderful writing, as only you can do. It's always refreshing to find someone with a unique voice. And this seemingly simple tale is filled with not only beautiful imagery, but profound metaphors:

"The winner was the bug who didn't fall, the one who made it off the slow curve to the platters edge, onto the dry oil stain below."

What a perfect description of this pitiful, often pointless race we call life.
I need to be in a writing workshop.
@jimmymac
You ARE in a writing workshop
Greg the opening line and the last line of the first part filled me with such emotion I had trouble making it through the entire piece, making comparisons withmy childhood, measuring the emotional pitch, the decisions made in exercising powers of life or death over the lower order of creatures. As boys, we watched Dad squash so many small creatures for any reason...usually simply because he could. It was a way we could assert some power over our world, under the blistering sky and in the clear air of Kansas.

This is another of your stories into which I found myself immersed, laying on the swept concrete floor doing the small activities that boys do, locked in a cool and resolute competion. The days are long, and the shadows, moving in thier predictable patterns confirm this, and in those simpler times, under that deep blue sky, we knew that Kansas is forever....

I want everyone I know from our Middle State to read this marvelous piece.
Lots of resonance here for me. I'm so pleased the Eds. picked something so lovely and literary.
Greg,
From the initial descriptive paragraph and murmuring flat horizon ("Not for you" - brilliant) I was carried into your june bug boy world. I felt the "heat loosening its knot" - all of these things through to your little brother trying to keep you guys there a little longer and the crushing of the ugly/beautiful bug - all operating on so many levels. Fabulous, compelling writing.
A book of short stories! I can definitely see it! Keep it up!
Greg, You know how I can go on and on about your writing, right? Well, today I'm not going to do that, I'm not going to babble endlessly about your wonderful writing. I'm just going to say this...Fantastic! Oh yeah, one more thing, this is my favorite line of this piece."We lay in the cool of the garage, bare bellies on the grey, swept concrete, three radiating spokes from that platter, our Keds kicking, lazy and random." Just beautiful! Okay, I'm done.
R
Once again, marvelous writing. Thank you so much for giving us these treasures. Your description of Kansas is poetry. "Prairie talmudists" is brilliant. The calculus of the temperature is imaginative. The ending is perfect.
@ lbrary fat fngr iPhone will cmnt 2 each ltr tnx tnx tnx xox
Oh my Greg. This is a Saturday Evening Post cover, but better. Just wildly great, as usual. The details, the sense of place, the lessons, the dynamics, the words, especially the made up ones. We're so privileged that you share with us.
Tom: Thank you and thanks for being a constant reader. Like Lea and Kathy R and jimmy and so many others, i benefit from your support.

pitiful, often pointless: yeah, gotta agree. But also this accidental arrangement that is each of us? thrilling.

jimmy: What Tom said. and one of the two main things about writing groups is here on OS: we don't correct each other's work, we respond to what is memorable, what we take away, the ideas, and thus support writing and writers. The 2nd big benefit is worth pursuing, in your neighborhood somewhere: the benefit of writing then reading aloud to other writers, to get immediate responses to the writing AS WRITING. It's amazing what that does (Pat Schneider's style workshops excel at this; let me know and I will find you some in your area): it gives you a more compact, natural voice, knowing you will, if you opt to, read it aloud in 45 mins. You stretch your legs, as it were, become un-cramped.


Gary: fellow Kansan. We know something, we do.

And you honor me with this very close read and careful response. "cool and resolute competition" -- yep, well said.

Thank you, friend.

Hells Bells: resonance, from Ms Bells, I am compelled to note. And literary? well thank you for that. I live for that sort of thing.

Scarlett: if anyone reading this has not read Scarlett's work, get thee hence. Her "Mum's the word" tears it up, sends it home.

Thank you.

MAWB: Yes! I have enough for Vols 1 thru 3. Then there's the things I can't reveal tiil my teens are in their mid-twenties at least. Thank you.

junk1: Oh well, do go on and on, please! ;)

thank you and thanks for being another constant on my posts.

AtHome: the "calculus of temperatures" i like that. and thank you.

Greg: hey, get with this whole texting from your iPhone thing! no one can understand that mess.

Lea: your recent post about the Amazon and Leo is impeccable: heart, lungs, and the ineffable, so direct and moving. Your casual travel pieces are full of understated, elegant observation, and love of life.

Thank you.
I love the Canadian prairies.

very fine.

Thankyou.
This is marvelous writing, Greg. Fantastic opening line, put me right back home.
TheBarkingLot4: Thank you. Of course.

m freed: So do I . I used to live in Montana as well. There is an eerie beauty to the far western plains and badlands, distinctive from Kansas. Thanks.

Stellaa: thanks

Sparking: Thank you

Sandra! Did I know you were from Kansas and forgot? probably. I am getting old. As one of my favorite writers here on OS I am always happy when you read my work. Thank you.
How did I miss this? I'm glad it came back around to me somehow. Brilliant and lovely. A perfect encapsulation. I'm not sure it can be done any better. What else is there to say?
Bellweather: thank you
You knocked it out of the park.
Terrific post, Greg, brought back a time and place.
This is great Papa, I feel like I am there. Makes me want to go back to Colorado, Montana, revisit the places of my youth. Thank you!
scupper: and you caught it. Thanks

john g: thank you

Molly! mine kindelech! if you go to Montana take your sisters. They need to see the Rockies and I could us the break.