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In Such a Crowded, Competitive, Opportunistic World, Why Would I Be the Only One to Write This Book?

It's the story of the century, the most baffling, bizarre, and beastly crime in anyone's memory.It's the story of the century, the most baffling, bizarre, and beastly crime in anyone's memory. A beautiful, elegant, gentle, brilliant man, a theoretical mathematician, goes missing and is discovered three months later way back in the sticks in a horrifying pose. The town immediately goes into a panic. The local police travel in widening circles, scratching their heads and issuing cryptic statements. Many are convinced a serial killer is on the loose. Jim Hahn swears he saw FBI vans in town. Lisa Aschwege knows who did it. The gossipmongers jump aboard their gossamer machines. In a town where many do not lock their doors, we all begin locking our doors. And in spite of the fact that there are many here qualified to do so, including literature professors who teach up on the hill, NO ONE IS WRITING THE BOOK.

But apparently I'm wrong. For I'm sitting next to Floyd at the local bar. Floyd is a barfly in a brown cowboy suit who lives at a residential motel and tells everyone he's rich. Floyd is hard to get along with. Whether he's intentionally contrary, naturally cranky, or spoiled by wealth, I don't know him well enough to tell you. But (like everyone) he's fascinated with the mystery of the murdered math professor. He has a number of theories based upon the misinformation and hysterical tattle that has since congealed into the official story (the professor, it is said, was wrapped in barbed wire). He's wondering why his good friend and drinking companion, Loren Zimmerman, the crime professor at the college who tried to steal my wife, was taken off the case.

I explain to Floyd that Mr. Z. was never asked to investigate the case, that he had no authority to take it over, that every law enforcement officer involved resented his intervention. I tell Floyd that Mr. Z. had been threatened with jail time if he didn't back out. Floyd wants to know how I know so much. I tell him that you can't help but get an earful of a story like this in a small town such as ours.

"You know," he tells me, leaning in confidentially, "I've heard that someone is writing a book about all this." I order another beer and begin to worry. So someone at last is writing a book. I have a rival.

When I leave the bar I am in a funk, wondering if this book that someone else is writing will be as good or better than mine. Only later do I discover that Floyd was talking about me.

More from Poe Ballantine on PowellsBooks.Blog:

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Poe Ballantine currently lives in Chadron, Nebraska. In addition to garnering numerous Pushcart and O. Henry nominations, Ballantine’s work has been included in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Essays anthologies. His new book is Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere.

Books mentioned in this post

Poe Ballantine is the author of Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere

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