Cadiz, Missouri by Robert Long Foreman

29 Jun

Visiting us this month at Vouched is Robert Stapleton, founding editor of Booth. His work has appeared with Word Riot, Everyday Genius, and elsewhere. He teaches at Butler University.

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The new issue of Agni (#75) arrived in my mailbox last month, and my favorite story from it is Robert Long Foreman’s “Cadiz, Missouri.” Foreman spins an unconventional tale–often the best kind–that impresses the reader with the creeping idea that you’re lost on a map until you crest a random hill and arrive, instantly, at ground zero.

There’s little direct tension here. And yet, I couldn’t put the story down. Here’s the deal: Karen, our narrator, has just relocated with Charlie from Boston to small town Missouri, a region haunted by tornadoes and cave crickets. Karen says:

I try not to complain too much to Charlie; he was equally reluctant to relocate for his work. Mostly I confine my grievances to conversations with my sister Anne, who is sympathetic enough from her end of the line. She has the luxury of sympathy, living back in Boston in the house where we were raised. She has yet to visit.

When a twister levels the neighboring town of Cadiz, Karen gets weird: “Having seen nothing of interest in Cadiz when I was there in person, now—through my TV and computer screen—I could not take my eyes off the place.” Cadiz refugees infiltrate their neighborhood, but Karen declines the community organizer who asks about harboring these newly homeless because “accepting a refugee would be like adopting a child. We wouldn’t know we’d gotten a psychopath until it was too late.”

The story gets a little weirder when Karen replaces her daily walks with virtual tours:

Touring Cadiz on Google was like traveling one week back in time. According to Google, the courthouse was still standing. The hospital was whole, the trees had their leaves and weren’t broken in half, and although the sandwich shops were missing, they hadn’t been there before the tornado either.

Foreman’s “Cadiz, Missouri” gathers force like a brewing storm. Ultimately, it’s a story about regional identity and alienation and in Karen, Foreman has cast a slightly demented narrator that speaks for anyone who has ever nursed a bruise from feeling out of place.

One Response to “Cadiz, Missouri by Robert Long Foreman”

  1. akinbowale June 30, 2012 at 4:43 am #

    Reblogged this on BookRepublic.

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