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Land of Lakes Mankato, Minnesota, June 1999 Land o f Lakes, Dennis had written in his little black journal, and then: The stillness of a lake A lesser kind of doom The act of standing still Seems stuck in muck and gloom, This water will not slake. The physicist will say, Of work, there has been none If nothing has been moved Stagnation’s “do” is done No lake has sprayed or played. I want water that runs That’s living in its splash An age of weeds and silt Has clotted in this . . . oh . . . 170 171 “Oh,” he had written, and then said out loud, “forget it,” and left the thing unfinished. Dennis Bacchus’s recitation of occasional blues had evolved into lyric, and he had attempted, lately, to write for himself a series of water songs, because he loved water, and missed water, and how could that be in the land of ten thousand lakes? Minnesota was nothing like the Pacific Northwest , where he was from. It was buggier, for one thing. Things had not really improved in Minneapolis, and Father Fitzgerald, seeing his assistant siphon off parishioners, continued to limit Dennis’s role in the church. He was attached to Saint Matthias and its community in name only, and had instead pitched himself at teaching, where he had impressed his department chair and the students (except, of course, the blondtipped boy, who never showed himself again). Dennis had tried, he really had, to make this inland empire a home, but he was rebuffed at every stroke. He mustered courage and decided to take his prescriptions to a mom and pop pharmacy in the neighborhood rather than the impersonal chain that was admittedly closer to the rectory. He would support the independents. He felt bold and good about himself, walking along the street in the late afternoon with three separate slips of paper with three separate prescriptions scrawled on them. It was the hour of the day when the gang scratchiti show up best on the plate glass of shop windows. He made a point of looking at himself in the reflection. Dennis had successfully handed over all the duties of vanity to others—Jay the barber gave him the twelve-dollar haircut he thought best suited Dennis; the optometrist suggested a pair of passable, nondesigner glasses; on mail-order clothing calls, Dennis would ask the woman taking his order what she thought was the best color for the pants he requested. The one last act of vanity was love of life, for in essence , the flow of pills could never be cut off, or the cottonmouth venom that had been for a couple of years held at bay might regain the strength to strike and kill—Dennis’s life was held in his own hands. But the pharmacy, dusty, full of loose tiles and the acrid tang of leaky rubbing alcohol bottles, customerless and sour, brought down his buoyancy. The pharmacist was an old man who lived in the neighborhood, a member of Saint Matthias. Dennis could not be invisible in here. He was very nervous. What would the man think of him, of a religious man with HIV? Would he ask probing questions? Gossip? Dennis practiced answers, scenarios: No, they were tasteless and had no side effects. Yes, it was sometimes scary to think how close he’d been to death. No, he wasn’t ashamed. Yes, he was a representative of the church. Probably, he was a man of the church because of the pills. No, it wasn’t just that. Yes, he was celibate now. No, he didn’t miss it. The pharmacist, however, took Dennis’s slips and was unimpressed. Like the apothecary in Shakespeare, 172 173 he was not a dim angel but earthly, merely an acolyte, one of the many who were supposed to be watchers— the taxi drivers, the notary publics, the night guards— too bored with the sameness of aberration, who had stopped watching. Heartlessly, the man reached up onto a shelf and pulled down three bottles, typed labels, and dropped it all into a bag. “Can I just call in with refills?” Dennis asked, putting his pills into his coat pocket. “No, I don’t keep this stuff on hand regularly. You’ll have to give me a week’s notice.” After that, Dennis returned , probably unnoticed, to the convenience and anonymity of the chain drugstore. Jimmy didn’t get in touch with Dennis...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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