by Aimee Bender

Imaginary Oklahoma is an ongoing project in which some of today’s most important and influential writers combine with artists to provide a fictional take on this place we call home. Through a wide variety of voices, styles and literary devices, these works prove that “Oklahoma” is much more than a place, it’s an idea.

Oklahoma, shaped with a pan handle and a deep pan, the piece of the U.S. puzzle that I always liked to pick up early and tuck right into Texas. Oklahoma, below the Kansas of Dorothy lore and the one they wrote a song for: I bet half the residents love that musical and feel acknowledged by it and the other half resent it because the song is so damn catchy and they do not like it in their head while the wind does its actual sweeping down the plain. That same wind is a pain in the ass for crops and animals alike. That same wind drives dust into the corners of eyes and down throats. At the corner store, Sadie works at a scuffed counter selling water and snacks and beer and gas to drivers who do not want to stop there. She is not in the friendly or homey area of Oklahoma. She is in smalltown transitional highway Oklahoma. She resembles the landscape with a windblown look to her skin and the pale blue eyes of certain skies in springtime. Enough already, she thinks. It is time for a new musical. It is called Tulsa. It does not rhyme with much of anything, but it’s a mantra in her head: Tulsa, Tulsa. Full in the back of the throat, and unsentimental.

Aimee Bender is the author of four books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998), which was an NY Times Notable Book, An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000), which was an L.A. Times pick of the year, Willful Creatures (2005), which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year, and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010), which recently won the SCIBA award for best fiction, and an Alex Award.