July 3, 1958

There wasn’t a whole lot of anything going on in Albia, Iowa. Fifty years ago they used to mine coal around there, but now they were digging for suspicion. Seven men on seven separate porches watched me drive by like eyes in a spooky portrait painting. I stopped to fill up my Ford and buy a cold bottle of pop, and asked the guy manning the pump where the “McCullers Club” was.

“You got a dress?” was his first crack, before he finally gave me nutty, complicated directions involving hard rights, soft lefts, fence posts and particular trees.

It was late afternoon by the time I found the turnoff. The road leading in was unpaved and unfriendly. I bucked up and down in my seat like a rodeo rube. Finally entered a hilly section with some trees, and a smattering of cars with out-of-state plates parked in a clearing. Liz’s T-bird was one of them.

There was a paved walkway between two big old rooming houses, both of them nicely painted and quiet. Said “hello?” in each lobby but no one was around. I stayed on the walk, repeatedly glancing behind me like I’ve been doing for months now. Then heard a faint round of applause in the distant trees and followed the sound.

I spotted a low, one-floor assembly hall down a narrower path. Located its back door, creaked it open and stepped inside.

I was at the back of the hall, a few yards behind at least four dozen women sitting in chairs. Standing in front of them, a notepad in her hand and looking refreshed and great in a white blouse and knee-length dungarees, was Liz. She didn’t see me at all, because her eyes were glued to the paragraph she was reading from.

“Clara was clearly at the end of her rope. She’d done enough struggling with the heat, had enough of the pain in her feet, the pressure to produce, the lies, the half-jokes, the grueling labor of countless evenings, the transparent fabric of her being, the broken zipper that could not open into her soul. She would not, under any circumstances, bake this casserole.”

She gave a little bow, and the audience exploded in cheers. Liz smiled and started for her seat. A spindly older woman wearing a pink head scarf took her place, was about to address the hall and then saw me standing there. Loudly cleared her throat.

“This is a private, creative retreat, sir. How did you get in here?”

Everyone turned to look, including Liz, whose face went white.

“Well…I walked in. After driving in. Don’t mean to intrude but Liz Doomis over there has kind of a family emergency.”
“Who?”
“The lady who just read. Isn’t that her right—”
“Do you mean Elizabeth Doo-mah?”
“Yeah. Right. Whatever you say.” I walked hurriedly up to the chair she had just collapsed into. “Miss Doo-mah?”

She stood up, her white face turning plum red with embarrassment. “Excuse me a minute, sisters…” she uttered, and yanked me to the door.

“How dare you follow me here!” she blurted the second we got outside, “Whatever is going on in your head?”
“What’s in yours? I don’t hear from you for weeks, your place in L.A. is cleaned out, meanwhile Mr. Murder tells me at least twice he’s got you kidnapped so after a while I start to believe him. Thought you were cut to pieces in a shallow grave somewhere!”

She sighed. Walked me further away from the assembly hall. “I’m sorry, okay? Things weren’t working out for me…in so many ways. I decided to just get out of town, and then I heard from this incredible writer’s club I’d been trying over and over again to get into—”
“And you couldn’t let me know that you did?”
“No. That’s the thing. The McCullers Club frowns on any outside contact. Especially with men.”
“Gee, thanks. Carson McCullers told you this herself? Is she in there?”
“Oh no. She isn’t able to leave her home back east, poor dear. She let us use her name for the club, and we use her work as inspiration. Have you ever read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter?”
“If it isn’t a comic book or Dime Detective magazine, then no. And I wasn’t kidding about your brother Billy.”
“You mean…that wasn’t a ruse to get me out?”
“Wish it was. Stayed at his place one night in L.A. and he followed me to Cincinnati to help look for you. Now he’s in a hospital in Dayton, thanks to our murdering friend.”

She paced in a small, nervous circle. “Oh no…We have to go see him! Get him out of there!”
“You got that right. Too bad you’re trapped in Emily Dickinson’s tea party.”
“Ha ha…There’s only one day left. I suppose I could leave early…”
“How about right now?”
She stopped pacing. Chewed on her lip. “Well, I guess. As long as you promise me you’ll read all 900 pages of my novel when it’s finished.”
“Out loud and slow, baby.”

She gave me a squeeze and a kiss. I’d forgotten how great those things felt. Then she ran back in to break the news to her sisters.

Really, though. Me read 900 pages of any book? It was a lie, of course. A big, necessary white one.

THE SKINNYS
(compiled from newspapers left at the Chicken Bone Cafe, Palmyra, IL)

CHI 300 020 000 – 5 6 0
S.F. 010 001 301 – 6 12 0
W-Jones L-Elston HRS: Walls, Thomson, Spencer, Mays GWRBI-Cepeda
So the boys get back to Seals, Brewster probably has an APB out for me, and I manage to miss one of our best games of the year. Walls puts the Cubs ahead with a 3-run shot in the 1st and we’re down 5-1 to Drabowsky when we battle back. A Mays homer in the 7th ties it, and a Cepeda sac fly in the 9th off Elston wins it. Orlando also has a walk, single, double, and triple. Of course, the second Valmy Thomas comes back from his injury, Bob Schmidt goes out for a a week, so I may still be warming up pitchers if i ever get home.

PHI 004 101 001 – 7 11 1
MIL 000 200 010 – 3 4 0
W-Cardwell L-Willey HRS: Anderson, Jones, Aaron GWRBI-Hemus
Cardwell is amazing again, and cools off the white-hot Braves for a day.

PIT 000 200 200 – 4 10 0
CIN 200 000 010 – 3 10 1
W-Porterfield L-Nuxhall SV-Face HRS: Thomas, Robinson-2 GWRBI-Clemente
The Reds couldn’t buy a win if kids were giving them away with nickel lemonades, losing again despite two homers from Robinson.

STL 010 000 010 000 – 2 7 3
L.A. 200 000 000 001 – 3 16 3
W-Roebuck L-Sad Sam HRS: Cunningham, Zimmer GWRBI-Zimmer

STL 100 023 000 – 6 14 0
L.A. 001 000 400 – 5 10 0
W-Muffett L-Kipp SV-Paine HRS: Snider, Gray, Cimoli GWRBI-B. G. Smith
Jones is typically awful in the opener, but squirrels out of every jam. His Card-mates do nothing offensively to help him, though, rapping into four double plays until Zimmer ends it with a blast leading off the Dodger 12th. In the nightcap, a 6-1 St. louis lead is almost not enough, as Gino Cimoli pinch-hits for Snider against lefty Morrie Martin and crashes a 3-run shot over the screen to make it a 1-run game. Phil Paine keeps it that way, and the Braves and Dodgers are virtually tied at the top.

NYY 020 001 010 – 4 13 1
WAS 100 000 002 – 3 3 1
W-Turley L-Clevenger HR: Zauchin GWRBI-Turley
An early Senator lead lasts about twenty seconds. Bob Turley retires 19 straight at one point, before a Carey error and Norm Zauchin homer with two gone in the 9th make this one look far closer than it ever is.

BAL 000 000 010 – 1 12 1
BOS 003 434 01x – 16 18 1
W-Brewer L-Johnson GWRBI-Brewer
Dropping two to the yanks in horrific fashion has officially put the Birds in a tailspin, as the Red Sox score at will without hitting one home run.

K.C. 000 300 000 2 – 5 12 1
CHI 100 000 110 1 – 4 9 1
W-Terry L-Qualters SV-Daley HRS: Landis, Battey GWRBI-Chiti
Chicago loses all-star catcher Sherm Lollar for a week, and loses the game after tying it late on a two-out, 2-run Harry Chiti double.

NOTE: Tigers and Indians are idle, will play a July 4th twinbill at the Lake Mistake.

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National League through Thursday, July 3

Milwaukee 40 34 .541
Los Angeles 41 35 .539
Chicago 40 37 .519 1.5
Philadelphia 37 35 .514 2
San Francisco 38 38 .500 3
St. Louis 37 38 .493 3.5
Pittsburgh 35 41 .461 6
Cincinnati 33 43 .434 8

American League through Thursday, July 3

New York 49 26 .653
Baltimore 45 33 .577 5.5
Boston 43 32 .573 6
Chicago 43 34 .558 7
Detroit 38 38 .500 11.5
Cleveland 38 40 .487 12.5
Kansas City 30 45 .400 19
Washington 20 58 .256 30.5
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