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Illustration by Derrick Dent.

Magazine | Imaginary Oklahoma

Of All Places

• By

Posted 08.12.11

His mother said it was Oklahoma that was making him nuts, blaming the whole state when the only place he ever went was to work, which was 4.3 miles away, meaning that he actually inhabited a very small part of Oklahoma, certainly not enough of the state for it, collectively, to be blamed for making him nuts. Still, it was true that he had gone through his life, thirty-four years, not being nuts and then he had moved to Oklahoma and suddenly he was. He told his mother that maybe what had made him nuts was not Oklahoma but everything leading up to Oklahoma, his wife telling him that she might be in love with one of her students, though his wife taught eleventh graders, and his mother calling every two seconds to see whether he’d left her yet. “Maybe it’s you making me nuts,” he told his mother, and she said, “Don’t be silly.”

“Of all places,” his mother had said when he told her he was moving to Oklahoma, and he thought that the same could be said of the state she lived in, which was New Jersey. When he moved to New Mexico, where he met the wife who was now in love with a sixteen-year-old, everyone said, “Lucky you,” people who had never even been to New Mexico, and when he’d moved to Minnesota, everyone said, “It’s cold,” as though he had no idea, but when he announced that he was moving to Oklahoma, people either said “Oklahoma?,” like a question, or they began belting out the song from the musical, though most of them knew only the first word, which was “Oklahoma,” singing it like it was a sentence on a rollercoaster, or a canoe gliding quietly down a river and then dropping straight over the edge of a waterfall.

 


Lori Ostlund’s first collection of stories, The Bigness of the World, received the 2008 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the California Book Award for First Fiction, and the Edmund White Debut Fiction Award, and was a Lambda finalist and a 2009 The Story Prize Notable Book. Stories from the collection have appeared in the Best American Short Stories, The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Georgia Review, among other publications. She was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and a fellowship to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She lives in San Francisco but is currently the Kenan Visiting Writer at UNC-Chapel Hill.


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