DELIVERANCE (1970) is a novel by James Dickey about four middle-aged men on a canoeing trip down the fictional Cahulawassee River in the real north Georgia wilderness.
08/19/10 | Novel

Deliverance

by Christine Fadden

Drive through counties, boroughs, days, years—in search of where to be a quiet woman best. A church sign claims, “Imperfect people meet here Sundays.” The m in imperfect is a w turned upside down.

The elderly who did not leave these one-tavern towns ask questions. This tattoo? Aw, it says Huckleberry. After the boy. A life on the M-i-s-s-i-s-s-i-p-p-i. Worm catches fish. Right? They don’t see the cherries. Keep wholesome. Fit in just long enough. On the outskirts, I will not check my email one hundred times a day. I do not bite the hand that feeds me. Sheets hanging on a line make me weep and I’ll wear decent underwear for once—for a prairie dress and a Forest Ranger.

Should I map out all cities called Home? Pick one out of a straw hat and tie a red bandana on a stick, walk kicking gravel in the boots the storyteller gave that the deep-country women and Mexicans compliment without fail.

I drive. I find a Forest Ranger who tells me where I can find pie and ice cream homemade. Yes, but where, my darling, could I find Home? Did they name Handsome Lake after you? Do those pink socks with the black bear paw prints come in women’s Large? Smokey doesn’t give a damn about preventing forest fires, so won’t you show me where to find the mushroom that makes me small in your hands?

Don’t distract the Ranger, the bus driver, or lifeguards.

In the rearview, the Forest Service flag flaps in high wind. I should have fucked that man. I used to be able to make anything happen. Instead, I will eat cold ice cream on hot berry pie with my dog just past the batting cages For Sale. Slo-pitch. I could really go for an upside down m right now.

“The boys ‘round here don’t play ball,” say the full hips of a half-dozen pregnant fourteen-year olds strolling past a church sign reading:

Keep the faith, baby
Not: Keep the baby faith

I hit the brakes, add a comma to the second line, and capitalize the F. The girls turn slow. They would rip your hair out.

“Kids these days,” and I’m the one saying it, but young in this town, I’d too be pregnant, cutting rainbows in my thighs, chucking stones at doll hospital windows,
spreading my legs in front of my cell phone. Fuck you, Forest Ranger, I’d shout, lighting underbrush on fire near the ATV trail where the boys that would never get me rode.

A voice talks to me from the gas pump: “Try your PIN again please, ma’am.” “Jesus,” I say, “Can you hear me out here cussing?” “I hear everything, ma’am.”

Burn rubber. Wind blow. Philly, I’m outta here take me back! The Lucy-Desi Museum could not have been built in a less-funny town. Revved it right by an axe murderer at a red light. Don’t stop at Music and More—Banjos, Knives. Don’t spend the night at Camp Nut n Fancy.

U-turn and for kicks, fuck the Forest Ranger on his maps and I love maps that smell like wood.

Sure enough, the boys on ATVs come. They can smell us. Being animals. I say, “Shoot ‘em. They breed. One day these woods will be overtaken the sound like bees in hate will never go away and their seed catch on the high wind the whole county the nation overtaken so’s churches cain’t even stop it.”

“Cain’t” I said “cain’t.”

My Ranger puts a hand over my mouth ‘cause I’m talking crazy naked. He multitasks, which means, he moves his body harder into mine with every “Bam! Bam! Bam!” the sound makes me come. The vultures circle thirty seconds (I count ‘em all) before spiraling toward the eyes of noisy boys who did not see nature as anything but theirs to plow over.

Go quickly, my Ranger says, get lost. But he doesn’t mean the second part. With his large hands, he irons out the map we crinkled. Drive past the batting cages, about sixteen miles. Meet me on Honey Hollow Road at midnight, here, right smack dab in the center of Dewitville. Do It Ville, there’s a place we could call Home.

We do.

Years deep, my Ranger tells me three hotels have gone up since the new prison went in. The road crew packs heat under their hunter’s orange safety vests.
Gary Spit says, “Chester Fraley says the man who shot his boys had a ponytail and I says—” A seventeen-year old girl says, “My old man was just out riding—” Her old man was eighteen.

A crack whore runs into a pool hall and the locals think it’s a joke. But as her eyes adjust to the dark she claims her sight. She seen us. At the forgotten one-room schoolhouse on the far edges past the mineshaft where they party—the boys who stick firecrackers up cats’ asses and the girls who won’t appreciate the keenness of vultures for silence—for years.