Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Passages: How to Describe Small-Town America

In Subversion, J.P. Choquette describes small-town Vermont in exact, down-to-earth language that makes for the equivalents of good, sharp, cleanly-framed photographs:

Snuffy's is a greasy spoon on the corner of Lake and Main Street. It's old and boasts a 50s inspired interior. But unlike kitschy diners that have popped up in recent years with a vintage vibe, Snuffy's is authentic. The same red leatherette booths cradle the same chrome tables that served patrons a generation ago. There's an official soda fountain made of Vermont granite that takes up an entire wall of the diner. The place still has original black and white checkerboard floor, cracked and stained in places.


The trailer park is neat and tidy, small strips of lawn blocking off equal rectangles between mobile homes. One sports a few faded flamingos tipping over near a spent garden. Another, a wishing well painted dark gray and made from what looks like reclaimed wood pallets. Patty's trailer is the second from the last on the left and is completely bare of personality, an older brown model that sports concrete steps and cream curtains drawn in every window.


The gas station is brick and looks like thousands of other gas stations in thousands of small towns across the country. Six pumps on three islands, a trash can in between with a pocket built in for a window washing brush, Signs in the window boast sale prices on beer and gallons of milk. A lone man, head bent, stands near the store's entrance scratching lottery tickets and cursing under his breath as I approach the door.


I pull into the lot of the motel minutes later. The place is a typical low-budget accommodation: slate blue with gray shutters, the paint faded and chipped when illuminated in the car's light beams. Twenty units running along the front of the building, each featuring a pair of cheap white chairs out front and empty pots which in the summer must bloom with some hardy flower. The area is neglected and ugly, from the potholed gravel driveway to the nearby and equally run-down cottage with a neon sign flashing "office."

Subversion: A Tayt Waters Mystery

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