Fragments in Search of a Narrative

Draft in a Time of Typewriters

(Editor’s Note: Robert Caro instructs us to turn every page when writing biography. I don’t remember writing these fragments found in a folder with multiple typewritten drafts of each. Today they make me groan a bit. They are fiction with one foot in reality).

Fragment 1 – Jan. 9, 1980

Father was a union man. He forged implements of the modern farmer at the J.I. Case plant in Bettendorf, Iowa. He was a proud man, proud of his family and heritage; he stood with both feet on the ground.

The union offered him a job as chief steward once. He took it for a while, but ultimately declined it. He went back to school to get out of the plant and be his own boss, to establish himself.

He graduated in 1968, but death in the form of a 1959 Ford struck him as he walked out of the plant after his shift.

Those were hard years, but Jim Peterson was convinced his father knew who he was, and where he was going.

Fragment 2 – 1974

Danny Dziabas shut the door of his upstairs apartment and began walking to the sound of night creatures chirping near the house.Walking under the starlight of Orion rising. Walking from his apartment on Walling Court, near where Bix Beiderbecke had lived. Walking toward Locust Street where revving of car engines and laughter of young people muffled the night sounds. Where headlights and streetlights dimmed the rising hunter. Danny Dziabas walked to the Deep Rock Station and placed a call while a Corvette and a G.T.O. lined up at the intersection for a drag race.

As he finished his call, the traffic light changed to green and the two cars squealed away from the corner.In hot air, smelling of burnt rubber, Danny Dziabas began walking, away from the noise and light of Locust Street toward his nearly empty apartment on Walling Court near where Bix Beiderbecke had lived.

Fragment 3 – Dec. 25, 1974

When the time came Danny began looking up his friends. The first was Milton Murphy who was in possession of Danny’s books and record albums.

Danny and Milton had played together in a band called the Milton Murphy Moose Manglers. It lasted about nine months. Just as they were about to collect their pay from a party on a farm near the Wapsi River, a band mate carried the P.A. head 100 yards and threw it over the bluff into the river, ending both the evening and the band.

Remembering this and other episodes in the Manglers’ history, Danny questioned the sanity of leaving his possessions in Milton’s care in the first place. He knew it would be alright when he heard the dull beat of the base coming through the floor above the entrance hall.

Fragment 4 – Iowa City, 1973-4

In act of simultaneous co-creation Danny Dziabas skied the snow-covered slopes of Washington Street, mountainous mathematics to the left, his just crashed 1965 Volkswagen cavernous time away and in a ditch. Pirouetting on Madison Street, his toe reveals a greenery hidden by newly fallen snow.