Type of Collection: Short Story
Summary: Implosions of America is a collection of nine short stories that deal with issues of love, sex, beauty, marriage, loss, confusion and, sometimes, the meaning of fishing, art, or TV in America. They were inspired by watching people around me struggle with the reality of mature love, and the battle to keep the flame of tenderness alive.
Many of these stories are the antidote to romance novels. They’re about real love, mature love, and the confusions that we all face in life trying to make meaning out of how we live. As a writer, I believe in happily ever after. But I also believe in real love. Buy this book and you’ll see what I mean
From the story “Implosions Of America:”
Tucker was still out getting supplies for our billboard work when Janie Hawthorn came up with the idea of a TV demolition event. “We publicly unveil a group of TVs,” she said, “all stacked into a pyramid, then smash them to pieces.”
Angeline Worley, a quiet, studious girl who worked in the library, piped up and said: “Yeah, we could have them all powered up and tuned to individual channels.” I’d been attracted to her since moving into the house. Angeline had a confidence about her that I only partially understood in women back then.
Janie seemed to like that idea and looked like she figured she was captivating at least one of her housemates.“Shoot, I’ll do the whole thing naked,” she volunteered. “I’m not proud.”
It was obvious Janie was intent on keeping our attention. She offered up Linda, her lover, as another volunteer for what she was gleefully calling Naked TV Destruction.
Someone said they thought it would be pretty dangerous busting glass without any clothes on.
Linda seemed relieved that a practical reason had already been found to dissuade Janie from her notion. But TV trashing was good high-concept. Besides, a national election was scheduled in a few weeks and the idea of wasting a stimulated cathode-ray tube while Tom Brokaw or Walter Cronkite interviewed experts from the Ronald Raygun and Jimmuh Cawta camps was just too inspiring.
“I’m sorry,” Janie continued, ”I’m morally aroused. There’s something about the power of the naked female body.”
It was kind of an uncomfortable scene. Twelve of us lived in the house: five women and seven guys. All the guys were unmated.
None of this bothered Janie, though. She just continued to verbalize her plan. A number of us pointed out the simple impracticality of being naked in public. I suggested that political action involving nudity was counterproductive since attractive women exposing themselves on the streets of a city was a political act in and of itself. This was pretty obvious, but it also got Janie’s attention. Her heart really was in the right place. We were all disgusted with the way things were going in the world and we didn’t have a war to protest. We’d picked a few good symbolic targets and it was important that we kept our focus. New draft registration requirements were a natch; gender expectations and sexuality were easy; U.S. influences in Nicaragua and El Salvador were important to us but getting kind of cliché. So we’d sort of unofficially been seeking a new major target for a while. Consumer technology was boring in those days. And there was nothing more obvious yet seemingly immune to physical protest than the television. So, stark naked or not, a public demolition of a bunch of TVs was pretty exciting.
Janie took my observation about mixed messages as a compliment – which, in retrospect, it was. I really felt that the sight of her nude would render any subsequent act confusing to those of us performing the act as well as the media and any onlookers.
She finally did one of her partial backtracks. Her version of backtracking here was to admit there might be a problem with exposed femininity – meaning the lower, more private extremities. But she still wanted to hold the action with her shirt off. That was good enough for the moment.
“An implosion is a beautiful thing,” Janie finally said. “Have you ever seen someone battering a large, chunky vacuum tube? My brother Eddie threw a TV out our third story window one time. We watched it crash onto the driveway and the screen fractured into a spider web pattern. The sound of an implosion is like the sound a cow makes when it’s clubbed before butchering.
Janie was beyond turning back. No one said a thing as the implications of her unswerving will settled in. We were listening to Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” You start a conversation. You can’t even finish it. You’re talking a lot. But you’re not saying anything. When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed. Say something once. Why say it again?
“If a TV’s plugged in, it can be dangerous can’t it?” I asked. “I mean, smashing it?”
Janie liked me most of the guys in the house because I had no problem when she openly directed her disdain at me.
“A cathode-ray tube is vacuum-pumped with as much as 10,000 pounds of pressure,” she told us. “Electrical engineers respect the shit out of them. Living rooms throughout America are equipped with a one point five cubic foot vacuum that can blow the heads off of every member of the family.
“The tube is usually composed of leaded glass more than two inches thick at its face. Sometimes when they break they explode in shards the size of a baby’s hand. Sometimes they suck in, and if the back of the tube isn’t well-made, the glass shoots backwards down the neck where the whole unit is hooked into the phosphor gun. You get a purple-blue explosion as the glass passes through the charged capacitor and soft metal anode contacts.”
She went on to tell us that because of the many ways TVs are manufactured, tube implosions are totally unpredictable. To do it right, you needed to stand above the things while you swung your hammer.