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  • The Lineman
  • Jill McCorkle (bio)

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[End Page 20]

i am a lineman for the county.

It’s true, and there was a time when Pam laughed when I said that, but now she just smirks and turns away; now she monitors the time I spend with Amanda and counts the days until the divorce comes through. Whenever I pick Amanda up for dinner, a wave of teenage cologne and strange hair colors in the cab of my truck, there’s yet another pasteboard box or torn grocery bag Pam has left on the steps with some of my belongings—old shaving cream, T-shirts, junk mail. She says she can’t bear to see me. We once had an old retriever mix named Teeny who, when caught spread-eagle [End Page 21] on the living room sofa, stared into the far corner as if we couldn’t see her plump body because she couldn’t see us. We laughed at it then. Even Pam, who was not a dog person and got angry about her shedding in the living room, had laughed and marveled at Teeny’s sweet passive attempt to make us disappear.

“Pulling a Teeny,” I almost said the other day when I arrived early and caught her off-guard, my mother’s old jewelry box and a shirt I hadn’t worn in over a decade in her hand. The last time I tried to make light of her ignoring my presence, she said I repulsed her. Somehow she has managed to take her affair and turn herself into the victim. It’s not easy to cross those things up but she has become a pro. I almost said that, but then thought better because Amanda was standing right there—fourteen and so easy for me to lose right about now. Her hair had a bright blue streak that day, like in the comic books, and her boots looked like the ones I wear on the job.

the lines are still important, I had told Pam when it was clear she’d lost interest in everything about me. The lines aren’t what’s eating everybody up with cancer.

I love that song “Wichita Lineman” and have since the first time I heard Glen Campbell singing it in 1968 when I was only twelve years old. I read in an interview where the guy who wrote the song saw somebody out in Oklahoma way up a pole working all by himself and said it was “the picture of loneliness.” That phrase the picture of loneliness has stuck with me all these years, coming to mind when I see a certain look cross a person’s face, the look my mama often had when she thought no one was watching her. I loved the song “Galveston” too, and always pictured my sister—or who I thought was my sister—there on some deserted beach waiting for her sweetheart to return. And now look at Glen, would you. Glen and my mama are riding on the same old dementia bus—destination unknown.

my parents were really my grandparents but I didn’t know that until around when I heard “Wichita Lineman” for the first time. Kids had teased me about how old they were, especially at school events when my mama showed up and everybody assumed she was my grandma. My mother, my real mother, was my long lost “sister” they rarely talked about. I only have brief blurred memories of her—long dark hair that hung to her waist, fringe jacket and purse. She had a chain she had made of chewing gum wrappers— Teaberry, Clove—and it trailed around the mirror over her dresser.

I learned the truth the same day my Dad said he’d washed his hands of her. He wasn’t the easiest person to live with before, but afterward he was no more than a ghost. My first wife, Linda, who was my childhood sweetheart [End Page 22] and best friend, was there to witness this. She was the only person I talked about it with, and I talked about it for the next twelve years...


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