THE JOHN DILLINGER CAPITAL OF AMERICA
Richard Brautigan was like the John Dillinger of poetry, robbing from the rich, giving to the poor:
Mooresville, Indiana, is the town that John Dillinger came from, and the town has a John Dillinger Museum. You can go in and look around.
Some towns are known as the peach capital of America or the cherry capital or the oyster capital, and there’s always a festival and the photograph of a pretty girl in a bathing suit.
Mooresville, Indiana, is the John Dillinger capital of America.
Recently a man moved there with his wife, and he discovered hundreds of rats in his basement. They were huge, slow moving child-eyed rats.
When his wife had to visit some of her relatives for a few days, the man went out and bought a .38 revolver and a lot of ammunition. Then he went down to the basement where the rats were, and he started shooting them. It didn’t bother the rats at all. They acted as if it were a movie and started eating their dead companions for popcorn.
The man walked over to a rat that was busy eating a friend and placed the pistol against the rat’s head. The rat didn’t move and continued eating away. When the hammer clicked back, the rat paused between bites and looked out of the corner of its eye. First at the pistol and then at the man. It was a kind of friendly look as if to say, “When my mother was young she sang like Deanna Durbin.”
The man pulled the trigger.
He had no sense of humor.
There’s always a single feature, a double feature and an eternal feature playing at the Great Theater in Mooresville, Indiana: the John Dillinger capital of America.
A friend of the poet, Keith Abbot, says, “Over the nineteen years I knew Brautigan, I never heard him refer to any people of the Northwest by name—not his sister, mother, father or stepfathers, not his girlfriends or teachers… The effect was ghostly, as if Brautigan’s past had faded into a kind of surrealist museum whose holdings were indicated only by chalk outlines. He once recalled his abandonment in a Montana hotel by his mother when he was nine or ten and he mentioned to me that he had met his biological father twice, once in a barbershop and once in a hotel room. Each time his father gave him some money to go see a movie.”
Perhaps you felt bad when she said that thing to you. She could have told it to someone else: Somebody who was more familiar with her problems.
That is my name.
Or it was a game that you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting at a chair near the window.
That is my name.