SIRE LINES: THE PLAINS, MARK PETERSON & ADAM PETERSON Adam Peterson
The Plains were born when the moon got lonely and the stars got dull. It was someone else’s turn to sleep. And there’d always been that hole, there, the one just past the Mississippi and before the Rockies. So many Conestogas dropped to what Americans assumed was Indian Heaven. (O, yes, there were always Indians, but no one knew what to call them, so eventually Americans just stopped seeing them, even when the Indians would stand in front of America and wave their arms. Even when Indians were Americans. With Italian-Americans and Armenian-Americans and Indian-Americans [different Indians], no on needed Indians anymore. No one saw what America had done). The moon got close as America’s heads slept on tiny pillows and whispered, Could you skootch over a little? When America woke they no longer believed in anything because someone had stolen the moon. So they blamed Oklahoma which they’d only dreamt of until one morning it was there.
Mark Peterson was born on and to The Plains which is why sometimes when he’s driving he needs someone to take the wheel; why when he’s talking to a police officer he needs someone to hold his decaffeinated tea; why when he’s shaking he needs someone to hold him; why when he’s full he needs someone to tell him when to stop; whey when he’s yelling he needs someone to find him a bullhorn; why when he’s dying he needs someone to lie to him; why when he’s fixing a car he needs someone to watch him; why when he’s shaking (again) he needs someone to cut open his head; why when his head’s been cut open he needs someone to sew him back together; why when he’s sewn back together he needs someone to take his hand; why when no one will take his hand he needs someone to tell him why not; why why not.
Adam Peterson came out broken. He couldn’t sleep no matter how long he counted the number of cherry trees George Washington cut down. In the morning, he woke up and got coffee even though coffee was what he blamed for dreaming about George Washington and axes. At the coffee shop, the baristas asked what he wanted and he’d say, Does anyone really know? The baristas rolled their eyes. Then Adam Peterson would say, Maybe I want your phone number. Or I want to see how American our children will be. Or I want to know if that angel is mad you stole her face. Or I want you and me, Friday night, Mount Rushmore. Or I want to sleep, not with you necessarily though maybe that, too, but mostly I just want to sleep. Or I want to know if you come here often. Or, sometimes, every time, a large coffee to stay, please. Adam Peterson had to change coffee shops often. Each time he walked back to his apartment, it felt like all the angles of sunlight were wrong. He thought about this when he tried to sleep and when he finally did, George Washington would be there holding an axe, breathing heavily, a field of felled trees behind him. George Washington would glance around then say, Sssshhhh.