History Town

Mary Biddinger

First the teenagers rebelled against history, and then they internalized it. Modern sex, modern sex, historical sex and decades thereof. So what if nobody bathed. Who cared if a little lace got snagged in the charger cable. The teenagers sought the most cutting-edge snacks fathomable: those cakes made with dry ice, sandwiches that illuminated the customer’s stomach hours later. Then, the reverse, and the homecoming queen was fighting the French club president over an exhumed cast iron skillet and some eggs that may have fallen from a hen or something more primitive.

So how to rationalize what we called “the reenactments,” which were either a barn-raising or building a phone that fit in one nostril and played music with subtle vibrations. Half the senior class wanted throbbing EDM, the remainder voting for a sole, blindfolded fiddle player in the corner. When the bell rang everyone ran out the door to their respective butter churns and lasers and to catch crawdads with either some old pantyhose or a replica of the Edmund Fitzgerald or bare hands, which readily walked in both worlds at once, though more historically acceptable if gloved.

When your town’s main industry is the history, it’s easy to regress, though nobody was pleased when dresses had to be imported from the neighboring town’s dead lady closets, old-timey post cards forged, all cameo brooches snatched up from the case as soon as a store owner pricked them into velvet. Never ask, “How long can antiquing be considered a sustainable practice?” After all, they recycled. Buried coffee grounds and hoped an old-fashioned bicycle would grow amidst the heirloom squash, ready to net a handsome price from some suburban fudge-seekers.

And what about when those teenagers went to university, beyond the vocational offerings of History Town Community College, where Joshua kept asking why you could not breed a peacock with goat, and the mayor’s daughter dressed in full robot before stiff-legging into Communications 101 with zero books in her backpack. And what about early-onset puberty? Middle-schoolers already in full historic dress, wondering what year pendulums had been invented, and whether theirs would swing back like that famous futuristic movie where the hero melts into a thread of steel.


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