Little Housing Crisis on the Prairie

"It sounds wonderful," Ma said politely in her gentle voice. "And what will our rate be after the introductory period, Mr. Edwards?"

"That depends on those scoundrels in Washington!" Mr. Edwards declared hotly.

"Pa, how much will we pay for the house?" Mary asked.

"What we pay doesn't matter much, Mary," Pa explained. "At 1.5 percent interest, we can easily service the debt on the principal."

Laura was confused. "But when do we pay off the principal, Pa?" she asked.

"She's got you there, Edwards!" Pa laughed. "What about that principal?"

"Those are two mighty smart daughters you have there, Ingalls," Mr. Edwards said admiringly. "Well, it's pretty simple. Your loan will reamortize every 60 months. The minimum payment will be recalculated at that time, but your rate will vary annually according to the then-current prime lending rate. Of course, your regular rate and payment resets will continue to apply, but these will be capped at— Look! A jackrabbit!"

"Good game surely is plentiful in this country," Pa observed.

-- Susan Schorn's "Little Housing Crisis on the Prairie" at McSweeney's

Gadsby, Champion of Youth

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Just as Gadsby was thinking nothing was now lacking in Branton Hills, a child in a poor family got typhoid symptoms from drinking from a small brook at a picnic and, without any aid from our famous Organization, a public clamor was forthcoming for Municipal District Nursing, as so many folks look with horror at going to a hospital. Now District Nursing calls for no big appropriation; just salary, a first-aid outfit, a supply of drugs and so forth; and, now-a-days, a car. And, to Branton Hills’ honor four girls who had had nursing training soon brought, not only small comforts, but important ministrations to a goodly part of our population. In districts without this important municipal function, common colds may run into long-drawn-out attacks; and contagion can not only shut up a school or two but badly handicap all forms of public activity.

“Too many small towns,” said Gadsby, “try to go without public nursing; calling it foolish, and claiming that a family ought to look out for its own sick. BUT! Should a high mortality, such as, this Nation HAS known, occur again, such towns will frantically broadcast a call for girls with nursing training; and wish that a silly, cash-saving custom hadn’t brought such critical conditions.”

TIME FOR SOME STORIES

ALRIGHT SO ONE BRIGHT MORNING IN KINDERGARTEN FOR SHOW AND TELL I MADE AN ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT HOW SOME OF THE FLOWERS IN OUR FRONT YARD HAD BEEN TRAMPLED DURING THE LATE EVENING. I GAVE EVERYONE WHAT I HOPED TO BE A SUSPICIOUS SQUINT, AND THEN WAGGED MY INDEX FINGER AT THE CLASS AND DEMANDED TO KNOW IF ANYONE ELSE HAD ALSO BEEN THE VICTIM OF AN OVER-NIGHT FLOWER TRAMPLING. A LOT OF KIDS STILL WANT TO COPY THEIR PEERS AT THAT AGE SO A WHOLE BUNCH OF KIDS IMMEDIATELY STATED THAT THEY DID THINK SOME OF THE FLOWERS IN THEIR FRONT YARDS LOOKED AWFULLY TRAMPLED, AND BEFORE YOU KNOW IT I’VE GOT HALF THE CLASS BOASTING TO THE OTHER HALF ABOUT JUST HOW TRAMPLED THEIR FRONT-YARD FLOWERS ACTUALLY ARE.

NOW THAT I HAVE ALLIES, I DECIDED TO FORM SOME SORT OF ‘POSSE’ TO CATCH WHOEVER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FLOWER TRAMPLING. EVERYONE VOLUNTEERS, AND SINCE IT’S FRIDAY I ANNOUNCE THAT WE’LL MEET IN MY FRONT YARD AT 10AM SHARP SATURDAY MORNING.

SO ANYWAY SATURDAY MORNING ROLLS AROUND, I COULD NOT CARE LESS ABOUT FLOWERS ANYMORE, I’VE GOT OTHER IMPORTANT SHIT ON MY MIND AND CARTOONS TO WATCH, WHEN A CAR PULLS INTO OUR DRIVEWAY, A PASSENGER DOOR OPENS, AND THIS RANDOM GIRL IN MY CLASS WHO I DON’T EVEN KNOW THAT WELL IS BOOTED OUT INTO OUR FRONT LAWN. MY MOM GOES TO CHECK IT OUT AND COMES BACK ASKING IF I HAD CALLED A “MEETING” AND THAT THE GIRL IS HERE FOR THE “MEETING”. MY MOM LOOKS REALLY AMUSED.

The Brick Moon

If from the surface of the earth, by a gigantic peashooter, you could shoot a pea upward from Greenwich, aimed northward as well as upward; if you drove it so fast and far that when its power of ascent was exhausted, and it began to fall, it should clear the earth, and pass outside the North Pole; if you had given it sufficient power to get it half round the earth without touching, that pea would clear the earth forever. It would continue to rotate above the North Pole, above the Feejee Island place, above the South Pole and Greenwich, forever, with the impulse with which it had first cleared our atmosphere and attraction. If only we could see that pea as it revolved in that convenient orbit, then we could measure the longitude from that, as soon as we knew how high the orbit was, as well as if it were the ring of Saturn.

"But a pea is so small!"

"Yes," said Q., "but we must make a large pea." Then we fell to work on plans for making the pea very large and very light. Large, -- that it might be seen far away by storm-tossed navigators: light, -- that it might be the easier blown four thousand and odd miles into the air; lest it should fall on the heads of the Greenlanders or the Patagonians; lest they should be injured and the world lose its new moon. But, of course, all this lath-and-plaster had to be given up. For the motion through the air would set fire to this moon just as it does to other aerolites, and all your lath-and-plaster would gather into a few white drops, which no Rosse telescope even could discern. "No," said Q. bravely, "at the least it must be very substantial. It must stand fire well, very well. Iron will not answer. It must be brick; we must have a Brick Moon."

-- The Brick Moon and Other Stories, by Everett Edward Hale

The Most Dangerous Man in Publishing

Evergreen 51 (February 1968)

When talking about the major obscenity trials of the mid-19th century, Norman Mailer once said, "There's a wonderful moment when you go from oppression to freedom, there in the middle, when one's still oppressed but one's achieved the first freedoms. By the time you get over to complete freedom you begin to look back almost nostalgically on the days of oppression, because in those days you were ready to become a martyr, you had a sense of importance, you could take yourself seriously, and you were fighting the good fight."

There seemed to be some justice to this comment, and so I asked Rosset what he thought of it. He waved the question away. "That was Mailer! He would have been crazy in any time," he said. And then he launched into another story, about the time Mailer filmed a movie, "Maidenhead," in the Hamptons. Rosset picked up a small wooden block onto which a photograph of his East Hampton Quonset hut had been laminated, and told me about how Mailer had bit off a chunk of an actor's ear while filming at a nearby estate after the actor had gashed Mailer's head with a hammer. "What was his name? Tony?" he asked Myers. (Rip Torn was the answer.) Myers went over to a cabinet of old VHS tapes, took out "Maidenhead," and pulled off the cover. "What a terrible movie," she said, and smiled.

-- Louisa Thomas, "The Most Dangerous Man in Publishing," Newsweek, December 6, 2008.