By Fred OwensWe pay careful attention to national and global affairs at Frog Hospital. If anything important happens, we will let you know.
"You don’t know America ‘til you go to Texas and you don’t know Texas ‘til you go to Mexico, so that’s what we did."
I might make that the opening line of the book, if it makes any sense.
We say that the Revolution and the Civil War were the defining events of American history. But the case might be made for the battle of the Alamo and the victory in that war which defined the boundary.
The Roche Family was only dimly aware of those facts.
They were a group of hippie hooligans who camped along the Rio Grande River in 1973, physically contemplating the nature of boundaries. Like Rico, one of the main characters, said, "Wow, one side is Mexico and the other side is Texas ..... wow ..... I don't know.... it doesn't look like much of a river to me."
The book doesn't start in Texas however. It starts at a mental hospital near New York City.
"Tom Blethen sat at the edge of his bed reading a letter from his Aunt Mary. He lived in the men’s dormitory at Rockland State Hospital in New York. He was a psychiatric aide and they rented quarters to staff members who wanted to live on the grounds.Tom was about ready to give up this job."
Tom did quit the job, then he hitchhiked to Texas and joined the gang.
This story is hardly original. It seems like a remake of the Wild Bunch starring William Holden and Ernest Borgnine, where a gang of aging outlaws try to make one last big score, so they ride down to Mexico and get in a shoot out and they all get killed. Bang, Bang.
No Bang Bang in this short novel, Push the Bus. The gang made it down as far as Michoacan when they ....... but read the book and find out yourself.
I contacted three old friends from high school. They weren't exactly friends, they were just guys in my class for four years and we got along well but otherwise we never hung out after school.
There was Mike and Jack -- they edited the school yearbook -- and there was Phil who edited the school newspaper.
We were all in double A, where they put the smartest kids. Mike and Jack and Phil had school figured out and I didn't. I set the senior class record for consecutive days in detention, but they smiled and got honors and recognition.
The thing is they were never mean to me, they never rubbed it in or mocked me. They just kind of looked at me like -- Dude, don't let all this bother you, you're just throwing up obstacles in your own path. But I ignored those signals. I fought. What for? I don't know.
That was in 1964. Now I'm thinking to write a story about high school, only all the high school movies are like Rebel Without a Cause because all the misfits drifted out to Hollywood and became screen writers. I didn't want to write that story although it's true and it's what I did.
Instead I decided I wanted to write the story of Mike and Jack and Phil. Not just their high school years but their entire lives. Like how did it work out. This is a good idea, but there's a huge problem with this kind of story. Mike and Jack and Phil need to agree to some intensive interviewing, about their lives, their work, and their families. I kept dreaming up questions that I wanted to ask them.
Of course you know what happened. They did offer me cordial greetings when I contacted them and they wished me well with my life, but no, they did not care to become involved in my literary ambitions. They begged off. They declined.
No interviews. No questionnaires. No phone calls. Just "nice to hear from you , Fred. Be well. Let's have lunch some time."
Well, I can hardly take this personally. they just didn't think it would be any fun.
So do I give up?
I looked up the school's alumni association. It's a private Catholic school -- actively raising funds from prosperous alumni. They never got a penny from me, but they keep trying.
I found this notice in the alumni news:
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