Wednesday, August 27, 2008
  Polistra's dream, 7

Part 7 of Polistra's Dream.

Read Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 and Part 5 and Part 6 first.

Ponca, July 1939. Arcade Hotel.

Fran and Polistra are relaxing.


Fran: Okay, we'll see what we can do. Bye.


Polistra: What was that about?

Fran: One of my church friends. Remember my paperboy Jimmy?

Pol: Sure. The boy with the soapbox car.

Fran: Well, the lady said Jimmy's older sister Lodine isn't feeling well, could use some cheering up. I'm up against a deadline on this article ... could you drive over there and bring them some food and stuff? Pick out a few cans of soup and stew, maybe some tea and sugar and bread.

Pol: Of course. I'll take the picnic basket, make it seem like an outing.


Fran: Jimmy's family is a bit of a project for our church, I guess you'd say. They had a farm at Red Rock; when the soil blew away in '35, the father went to California for work and disappeared. Then the mother pretty much fell apart. She does a little sewing and a lot of drinking. I've seen her coming out of rooms in the Arcade. I suppose she was, ah, 'conferring' with some of the visiting oilmen. The upshot is, Jimmy and Lodine take care of each other, without any help from the mother.


Pol: Sounds like a messy situation. Okay, I'm ready to go.

Fran: They live at 1308 South 13th in Dixie Hill. And listen, so you won't be surprised, Lodine is an odd-looking girl. I mean really odd-looking, but sharp as a tack and an amazingly hard worker. Keeps that shack spic and span, keeps Jimmy clean and fed. She's adopted, and I think you'll know where she's from. In fact, I think you and she will get along just fine.

Pol: What? What do you mean?

Fran: Now get along; I really need to finish this piece, and I'll leave it up to you and Lodine to have a good chat. It will cheer her up to know... well, go on with you.




Pol: There's Jimmy. Wait. Measles? That's worse than "not feeling well"....



Jimmy: Hello, Miss Lister. I'm glad to see you, ma'am, but we're under a quantine. We can't have any visitors inside.

Pol: Don't worry, I've already had measles, so I'm immune.


Jimmy: Please, ma'am, my sister is real sick. I don't know what to do.



Pol: Good afternoon, Lodine.

Jimmy: I don't think she can talk right now, ma'am. She's sort of half-asleep or something.



Pol: Oh lord, she's burning up. She's not gonna ... Okay, I'm not supposed to do this, but ... Jimmy, is that a Bible?

Jimmy: Yes ma'am.

Pol: Hold onto it and pray. Ready, set.....


Pol: Go.



Lodine: What happened? I think I was ill, but now it's all gone. Who are you?


Pol: I'm Polistra, a friend of Miss Fran. She heard you were feeling poorly, so I came over to cheer you up. Here's some food and stuff.

Lodine: Well then, we've got some work to do. James, put the table back in order. Miss P, could you sort of make the bed?


Lodine: Oh goodness, goodness! There's real English tea in here. Haven't had proper tea since... I'll boil up some water if the stove is still warm. Yes, it is. Thank you, James, for keeping the coal going.


Lodine: There, now we're almost done. Much better, don't you think, Miss P?

Pol: Yes, but should you be working so hard immediately after...

Lodine: Nonsense, nonsense, activity is the best way to recover. And
there's nothing like a neat and clean house to keep us healthy.


Lodine: James, you may go out now and deliver the evening papers. I truly appreciate your watching over me, but you probably need some fresh air, eh?

Jimmy: Yes, sis. I'm a little late on collections, so I'll get going.


Pol: James?

Lodine: I know everyone calls him Jimmy, but I'm convinced that we need to maintain a higher level of dignity. Dignity and organization: the best way to make it through poverty, and the best way to make it out of poverty.

Pol: You've got it. That's a deep truth, but not many folks know it.

Lodine: No, no, it's common knowledge. I learned it from the colored ladies who live around here.

Pol: Well, it's not common knowledge where I come from.

Lodine: You mean "when" you come from?

Pol: Yes.

Lodine: You're from the future, aren't you?

Pol: Yes. Did Fran tell you?

Lodine: Not quite, but I could put together the inferences. Have people forgotten the basics of common sense in your era?

Pol: Yes, to some extent. We haven't forgotten the value of hard work, but we've somehow replaced dignity and organization by intelligence and book learning. We tell everyone that the best way to get out of poverty is to get a college degree.

Lodine: That's ridiculous, and it will especially harm the colored people, won't it?

Pol: Yes. It will and it did.

Continued in Part 8 here.



= = = = =

Much later footnote, Aug 2017: The 1940 Census wasn't available when I wrote this. I happened to be looking through the Census pages today (ED 36-36), and noticed that my guesswork fiction was exactly right. The 1300 block of South 13th was white, and all the surrounding blocks were colored.
 


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Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.

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