The Sweet Tooth of Marine City

(Audio version read by the author.)


The five and dime where my parents bought my first typewriter is now a candy store that shares its name with a comic book series about the apocalypse, and that makes sense because I feel like I am a hybrid, half-human, half-alien, looking to be made whole, and I feel like it was there—in Marine City, a waterfront town halfway between Detroit and Port Huron, a ferry ride away from Canada, where the town-not-town of Sombra welcomes American dissidents with Ontario politesse (even my father, who once ran the security gate because he thought they were waving him through when they were just waving him forward, but after searching the car they let us through because we, a family of four with two young children, were clearly not drug mules for the Mexican cartels)—I feel like it was there that my soul was rent in two, having been fractured already through a series of traumas but only there, in the Stephen King Children of the Corn small town (not the Norman Rockwell small town it pretended to be), was it pulled into the part that I left deep in my soul and the part that I showed others; it was where I crafted my mask out of chewing gum and plaster of Paris and some old string I’d found in the basement and the chicken wire that my father used to make a baseball costume for my brother which apparently seemed like a really good idea at the time but proved to be an uncomfortable monstrosity… while I won a Halloween costume contest the same year as a robot that was just a couple of cardboard boxes doodled on in the last minute because, once again, I’d been forgotten in the rush to make something nice for my brother, although I think I won the contest because of who my father was and how I’d react if I didn’t win, because those were the only two reasons I seemed to win any contests that didn’t involve my writing, which is why I wanted a typewriter in the first place: it was the way that I could be me, I could pour out my God-given talent for story-telling that would make me rich and everyone around me proud, the two things I wanted most at the time except, possibly, a global plague that would kill most of the humans and leave us hybrids in peace.


The five and dime where my parents bought my first typewriter was located on Water Street, and called Ben Franklin, and from its front door you could see the Saint Clair River and beyond that the town-not-town of Sombra, which had a party store (do Canadians have parties?) where my brother would buy Topps baseball cards which looked just like the US version except for small details, but you could tell they were different because there was something in the production that meant that the edges were much lighter and more … beige? … so even if you had a stack of them, you could quickly find the Canadian ones, and my brother thought at the time that if any of his cards would be worth something, it would be those, because of the rarity; when he divested himself of his cards years later, he said that the collection as a whole wasn’t worth the money that our father thought it might be, our father who lauded my brother for his wise investment and sneered at my utterly pointless Star Wars cards, and I’d like to say that I showed him, that I ultimately proved my savvy, but my Star Wars cards are worth about as much as my brother’s baseball cards, which is to say, not much at all.


At the five and dime where my parents bought my first typewriter, the three of us—my mother, my father, and I—were taken into the back because the manual typewriter that I was getting was not part of the usual Ben Franklin merchandise, but they had special ordered it because my father was who he was, de facto patriarch of Marine City’s United Methodist community, donning a mantel that was passed every few years to the resident of the parsonage, whoever that might be (and at the time, that might be my father), and because there wasn’t a publicly available internet at the time, let alone Jeff Bezos’s Amazon (although there was a Jeff Bezos at the time, a teenager somewhere between Houston and Miami, already telling people of his plan to visit Mars); meanwhile, back in Marine City, near the town-not-town of Sombra, I felt like I was part of a government conspiracy as I was told that this typewriter was Very Expensive and that I was being entrusted with it only because one day I would be a world famous novelist and I would be rich and make my parents proud, which were the two things I wanted more than setting the entire vile and toxic town on fire just to watch it burn.


The typewriter my parents bought me at the five and dime on Water Street in Marine City that now sells old-fashioned candy of the sort I used to only be able to get at Greenfield Village was not very good, and it’s long gone, and I don’t know what happened to it because eventually I commandeered my mother’s much nicer but still manual typewriter, and after the A key broke on that one I learned to type using an asterisk for an A (and I think I broke it by forcing the arm one time too many, but I don’t remember), and even that typewriter is long gone, but I was disappointed because the typewriter that I’d gotten as part of a government conspiracy was garbage and that meant government conspiracies were garbage but more importantly it meant that my dreams of becoming rich and making my parents proud were garbage and the only thing left for me was slaughtering the entire Stephen King not Norman Rockwell small town where I’d learned that I was just someone fun for everyone to torture until I exploded: My human side, because I was learning to stuff my hybrid side deep down inside where nobody could see it, and at any rate I didn’t slaughter anyone because that’s not how I am, although I wrote a story later in which my Mary Sue protagonist did just that, and then drowned because there was nobody there to save him and realized the error of his ways with his last breaths, even though at the time I wrote that story I knew it was nonsense because, even knowing he was going to drown alone, he still would have killed everyone.


The five and dime where my parents bought my first typewriter became a drug store when the national fervor for cheap merchandise purchased in the front room and not the back offices of businesses named after Ben Franklin died down, and then the drug store went out of business, and then it became a candy store that shares its name with a comic book series that went into publication two years after the store opened, all of which happened after my family left town, even though a part of me is still lingering there, living in the walls of the store like Bad Ronald, except it’s a ghost not a tortured teenaged murderer, and it wants candy and a typewriter that works like promised and just to be acknowledged for who it is instead of having to be driven to acquire wealth and fame and not having value in its own right—that hybrid side of me, the one that loved its metal lunchbox with the apple and the worm on the side, the one that dreamed of unicorns and strawberry girls and just living in a quiet world without the mockery of its peers and the rejection of its family, that used to think that the best things in the world were those candy sticks from Greenfield Village with the spiral up the side, even though they reminded it of the time it wasn’t allowed to go through the Wright House on a school field trip because it had lashed out from feeling sad and marginalized and like usual for the mentality of the tiny city across from the town-not-town of Sombra it had been punished…

instead of loved.


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