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MALE OF THE SPECIES/A/e* Minât THREATS WERE COMING from everywhere—voices on the answering machine, vicious notes under the car wipers. There was a brick on the bathroom floor, shards of glass from the broken window and a sheet of paper creased under a rubber band. Bern in Hell! was scribbled in purple chalk on our front step. They say that in Indiana you can't chuck a stone without hitting a backboard. In BrazU, ragged soccer balls wobble through every dusty field. Tm sure there are cíúldren in Saskatchewan who curl up at night clutching their favorite hockey sticks. And we, too, here in the smaU towns of West Texas, have our own obsession—one my naive Yankee husband thought was smaUer than dignity and honor, one he thought could be overcome by reason and farsightedness—high school footbaU. Hands are raised into the Friday night sky in former pastures of West Texas. The fans chant in reverie, almost speaking in tongues as the teams take the field. This is the church of the end-around, the hitch-and-go, the flea-flicker. A fumble is a sin; so is a missed tackle. Thou shalt not clip. Thou shalt not covet thy opponent's helmet. Thou shalt not use thy coach's name in vain. Etc., etc. My husband, a decent man from Baraboo, Wisconsin, just doesn't get it. Where he's from, cows sway in the fog and rivers are brown, sluggish things. Fathers and mothers take their cíúldren to churches with cold pews and flaskless preachers who rarely look up from the pulpit. Since moving down here after coUege, he has been an outcast. "He sticks out like a diamond in a goat's ass," my father once commented. But my husband doesn't seem to mind. Always a loner, he has never felt the need to socialize; he is fulfiUed sitting on the banks of the Concho, yanking a jig through the current with Bradley, our sixteen-year-old boy, pointing out the gray-headed junco, revealing the hidden spots in catalpa blossoms. He gets his fill by exposing the adolescents at Ambrose High to the inner workings ofnature. "Science, ladies and gentleman," he'd announce at the beginning of every year, "is not about proving, or even theorizing. Science is the overturning of mushy debris, the uncovering of mystery, only to welcome the mysterious again and again. Science is an unending epic poem, fuU of adventure and enigma." Those students who didn't think he was crazy actually bought his particular brand of preaching. And the parents didn't seem to mind, The Missouri Review · 65 since he told the kids that science and God are not incompatible. For fifteen years he'd buUt an impressive career for hirnseU, decorating his tiny office with certificates and awards. But how quickly the community turned on him. One night, Sheriff Owen McCord appeared at our kitchen door, standing under the porch Ught, his pointy face exaggerated by shadow. Matthew was glad the strong arm of the law had finally come over to offer its support. Owen, without so much as a smile, asked him to step outside to talk. It didn't look good, but Td learned long ago to let men swerve through their own peculiar curves. And so I washed up the dishes and waited. A few minutes passed, and then Matthew rushed in, locking the door behind him. His shirt was ripped at the coUar, his hair mussed. I said, "What the heU did he do to you?" As the phone rang, he said, "Forget about it," and tromped out of the kitchen. "Honey?" I said, picking up the phone. "Hey," a young man's voice rasped. "Are you a faggot? Huh? Is that what you are?" I slammed the receiver down and followed Matthew up the stairs and into our bedroom. He was bucking around in the closet, more rankled than I had ever seen him. Hangers scraped along the cedar rods. Shoeboxes tumbled to the floor. "Honey," I said, "what happened?" He emerged from the closet with a rifle in one hand and a pistol in...


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