The OK End of Funny Town by Mark Polanzak
English | 2020 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 3.2 MB
A fastidious pet robot with a knack for knitting. A soporific giant pitching camp in the middle of a city. A mysterious mime whose upcoming performance has the whole town on edge.
The stories in Mark Polanzak’s BOA Short Fiction Prize-winning The OK End of Funny Town stitch fantastic situations into the drab fabric of everyday life. Polanzak delights in stretching every boundary he encounters, from the new focus on practical learning at the New Community School, to the ever-changing tastes of diners in search of the next big trend in local cuisine.
Wondrous yet familiar, The OK End of Funny Town excavates the layers between our collective obsession with passing fads and our secret yearning for lasting connection.
The surprisingly few eyewitness reports stated that the giant walked, more or less, up Main Street from the west, stepping on the pavement and sometimes in patches of trees in parks and backyards, just before dawn. He stopped in the square, choosing to sit in the brick courtyard of the city hall, and leaned back against the big stone church, blocking off traffic on Elm and Putnam. Authorities discovered that he had successfully avoided stomping on parked cars and most of the city’s infrastructure, but that many swing sets, water fountains, jungle gyms, basketball hoops, grills, and gardens had been “smooshed.” No one knew if any birds or squirrels, likely sleeping in the parks and backyards, had been flattened.
The giant was still sitting in the square in the morning. A crisp and blue Monday morning in September. We found police cruisers and fire trucks parked with lights flashing in a two-block radius of the giant. Residents of the buildings within the zone were evacuated. Businesses were cleared and shuttered. There wasn’t a TV or radio station broadcasting anything but news of the giant. Live footage from a helicopter aired endlessly. The giant was taller than the city hall, the stone church, and the apartment buildings, even while sitting. Few of us saw him erect. He wore baggy tattered brown pants drawn by a red rope, an ill-fitting faded green shirt, and no shoes. He was human. He had human feet. Human hands. A brown satchel was strapped around his torso. He occasionally reached into the satchel to remove handfuls of giant berries and something else that crunched and echoed throughout town. He had long, stringy blond hair that fell on either side of his face, down to his shoulders—except in back, where a few strands had been pulled and tied up with a giant red band. No one had heard him speak. No one, as far as we knew, had attempted to communicate.
Since the giant seemed to have purposefully avoided crushing our homes and cars and had made no indication that he wanted to hurt us, we did not panic. Even the flashing lights and sirens did not inspire anxiety. The newscasts were not fear-driven. The reporters were curious. It wasn’t an emergency to anyone. It was awestriking. Eventually, the sirens were silenced. The flashers were shut off. You could hear laughter in the streets. When he reached for more food, there were gasps of joy. Children were held on shoulders to have a look.
The mayor, around three o’clock that first day, was raised up on a cherry picker and handed a megaphone. He said to the giant, “Hello.” The whole town was silent, awaiting a response. When, after a minute had passed and the giant had reached for another handful of food, the mayor repeated himself, adding his name, title, the name of our city, and a welcome message. To our great delight, the giant finally acknowledged the mayor, turning to him and emanating a ground-shaking three-syllable reply. But we could not understand. He was not an English speaker.
Professors from the language department of the university listened to the recording, determining that it was not something they had ever heard before. Linguistic anthropologists then went to work on the recording. They were not sure either. Verbal communication was placed on hold.