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.
Nobody in the office knows for sure if fat, ugly Larry Leibovitch really did see this coming. To hear him tell it, Larry was prescient— claims to have noticed the pattern years ago. A raft of celebrity divorces here. Dropping enrollment there. Shitty TV shows getting canceled due to a dwindling supply of brides to humiliate. And a new girlfriend, Larry’s first, inexplicably willing and eager to kiss his fat face. “I knew right then that something strange was going on,” he once told an interviewer from the Hugo Daily. “It wasn’t just out there. What they lost … we were getting it.”
Most of us suspect it was just a combination of luck and laziness. Three years ago, when Larry slapped “Oklahoma is for Lovers” on the banner of the TravelOK website, it wasn’t nothing but a headache. Jackasses from the Virginia Tourism Authority were ceasing and desisting us by the end of the day. Much as we wished Larry’d shown a little more creativity in his sloganeering, we didn’t like being told what to do, so we decided to fight it. But in the time it took to get to a judge, the world changed. Larry’s slogan became manifestly true.
Everywhere but here, people fell hard out of love. Babies and weddings and awkward first dates straight up stopped happening. By the time the President got kicked out—we watched him live on the south lawn, the former first lady on the balcony hurling down suits and wingtips and heavy ethnic bric-a-brac shed by visiting dignitaries—it could hardly be called a watershed moment. “I told you,” Larry said the following day, as he passed out his wedding invitations. “What did I tell you?”
No one knows why or how it happened—like God himself pulled a plug somewhere near Tulsa, all that love flowing inward like spring melt. Blessed as we are with this bounty, it’s hard to not feel sorry for anybody who doesn’t live here. It’s hard to see their betrayed, empty, forlorn faces on TV. And even though we caught the winning end of this deal, we all wish things would go back to the way they were. Even those of us with the most to lose, like fat, ugly Larry Leibovitch. He loves everybody enough to know that nobody deserves this.
This story was originally published in Imaginary Oklahoma: 46 Acclaimed Fiction Writers Envision Life in the 46th State.