The Benny Poda Years
6 - Milwaukee
By the time I made my way to Milwaukee, winter'd beat me to it. But I was feelin' good, and a dose of the cold meant the daisy-fresh pastoral and pastel Wisconsin spring was even closer, and with that I could certainly deal. I felt like the clouds over my aura, the shitty indignities of life that dogged me like a bad cold, were finally shedding their jaded skin, and that maybe now I could breathe.
Her name was Sally, and we'll not give her a last name because she was real, and she came in the bowling alley from the place across the street in a flock of other girls but she shone—blond, ample, radiant. She was wearing a cardigan sweater like girls did in those days to show off their busts, and of course this was also before global warming. When you could still smoke pot in the backs of Greyhound busses, and get roaring drunk on airplanes. Back when there was a God and he still made girls like Sally—she was nineteen, twenty, and that night our hands came together furtively under the scoring table and she took me home with her. This is back when prophylactics came with a big red "O" on them and they looked like matchbook covers. Oh, Sweet Jesus. And the beer was cold and there was flour in the pantry, and Arthur Godfrey did that Old . . . Soft . . . Shoe.
Me and her uncles would sit in the den and watch him do it on the little RCA, or flip to see the Golden Boy, Paul Hornung, run for another T in the wintery Green Bay mud. I came to love Paul Hornung. I came to see him as a metaphor for Mario Lemieux.
Her crumpet was like the Lily of the Valley, and her arms were strong, from milking. Yes, she lived on a farm—yes, her grandparents too, who were German, and the beer was drunk in steins all day long and I love a good polka as much as the next fellow, with beer, sauerkraut, and Granddad. This was back in the day when cliches were sentient and palpable, and they ran along my skin like the dew.
Not before or since have I wanted it so much. I had my cock in her four, five times a day—I couldn't get enough! I came to understand for the first time how a man could want to have children with a woman—I wanted her to have six, seven, eight. Sure, I'd gotten some pussy in those years—but look at the kind of pussy I was gettin'! Some of the skankiest, most odious River Pussy a man could imagine. But Sally's was my temple, and she loved it when I sucked and licked her huge clit long into the night, and her thighs were strong as a gymnast's as they tightened and loosed in her frantic rhythm, and her juice was like milk and honey.
I worked odd jobs on the farm during the days, and the labor invigorated me. And then came the spring, and she started going to the University—and I, a man of no education but what I'd learned on the streets. My child was inside her, though, but when she lost her innocence for herself she lost it for me, too—I'm not the kind of man one wishes to marry. That's when it started to fall apart.
How can I close this? My four-month idyll was waking up into hell, and I ran like the coward and the bastard I was, and I never looked back. Or maybe I just did. The past is passive suicide.
But the beer, son, the beer! Her fragrant flower opening under the moon.
Essay Questions for Chapter 6
1. How is the narrator's different level of experience in what scholars have called "The Milwaukee Interlude" reflected in the style of his writing?
2. In what period of American history does the episode take place? How do we know?
3. The writing in the chapter has been compared to that of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Are the same things that were most important to Fitzgerald also important to the narrator? Explain your reaction to the final line.
4. Does the book remind one of Henry Kissinger's memoir, Henry Kissinger: The Cold War Years? In what way(s)?
5. Are you happy that the narrator is finally getting some quality pussy? Is the narrator a reliable one? IS Sally really some quality pussy? Support your answer with examples from the text.
Due Feb. 7. Watch those comma splices!