THE DRIVES, Matthew Brown

by Matthew Brown  

He used to take a trip each Thursday with his dad, after school and work, 
along country roads from Midland to Saginaw, Michigan. For therapy sessions

for Asperger's Syndrome. Few in the professions seemed to know what it was. 
This was only a few years after frontal lobotomies on strange kids came to a stop. 

Therapy, which began in the fourth grade, supplied the missing stages of 
development: he crawled along the floor, pushing his hands into the carpet, 

because his mother had kept him in a playpen too much; he never got in the 
requisite crawling. At least there were the drives, through descending light of 

evening, Nat King Cole's polished mahogany voice on “Nature Boy;” Al Hirt
blowing “Java,” on WJR, Detroit: Great Voice of the Great Lakes. Golden Tower 

of the Fisher Building. Grassy roadside lined with elms and maples before they 
made it four lanes. A trailer half-nestled in a woodlot, and he thought of the Atnips, 

who cleaned the church. Dad had said they lived in a trailer. One maple in the 
cemetery fired bloodier than the others those autumns. It was almost back in 

Roethke's day, when Saginaw was wild. Maybe even his greenhouses—where
“delicate slips keep coaxing up water,” where “small cells bulge”—were still 

standing. Roethke then was still a name you could hear in ads for flowers. Each 
trip, they'd pass by a certain barn. Beside it, an elm that grew through a hollow elm. 

A Moses, burning bush sort of thing, maybe, but with silence instead of a voice. 
And that sight held him, when Dad rolled by on the crooked turn of Shattuck road 

off M-47, past an old lodge and a sycamore, by the Tittabawassee, at Shattuckville, 
when it was country. He asked his dad, Pull off the road a minute, please. In order 

to see the sight of the tree within. That time so far into the middle of a century.

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