Marie Potoczny lives in Richmond, Virginia. Her stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Apalachee Review, Gargoyle, and many other fine places of words. In 2011 Marie won the Virginia Commission for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction.

How Our Town Got Its New Name and Some Other Stuff That Happened

posted Dec 18, 2012

The first thing they did after the Towers fell was leave a dead goat spinning on the merry-go-round with a sign around its neck that said, "Suck It Terrorists!" Our nerves were already pretty raw having watched, over and over, the planes flying into the skyscrapers and then those people jumping out of windows from a hundred floors up. I mean you could just hardly believe it. We took down the "Welcome to New Mecca, IA" sign, we were gonna do it anyway, but maybe the goat sped things up, and unanimously voted to change the name of our town to something a little more patriotic.




It was the least we could do at a time like this to show our support and everything, but mainly we did it to prove we weren't Muslim. Because we're not. We're white, and Christian, and we like American football on Sundays like everybody else.

The next day, however, an early-morning jogger discovered the square's fountain full of chicken feces, and a letter duct-taped to the front door of City Hall that accused our town of being an Al-Qaeda hub. It said no matter how many times we changed our town's name, we'd never be able to get the stink of treason and foreign-sympathy off us. We don't need to repeat the letter verbatim, let's just say they also had a lot of colorful and depraved things they thought about doing to our moms.

We knew right away who sent it. The chicken poop pointed directly to Alma, the next town over where the chicken processing plant was the main employer. And we were not going to take that kind of treatment, not from a bunch of poultry jockeys.

We floated around a lot of different ideas for payback: throwing rocks at their windows, dumping wet concrete into their flatbed trucks. Ultimately we decided to meet one kind of excrement with another, and settled on a midnight, covert operation of creeping across the city limits and peeing into their local water supply.

Though, we must not have been thinking straight because of all the blood we'd been donating to the Red Cross to help out the people in New York and D.C. And well, you know, it turned out nobody even needed any blood; if a person was alive inside those Towers when the buildings collapsed, the only thing left to identify that person was a foot or some skin or teeth, but more likely just a scraping of DNA clinging to some twisted metal. All those emergency beds in the New York hospitals sat empty, and our blood, which we should have been using to oxygenate our brains, and form a better plan against Alma, sat in a freezer at a collecting station somewhere in the Mid-west.

So we were at the well, Alma's well, peeing. All the men had their dicks out. The women squatted. People were laughing, snickering. There hadn't been a lot to laugh about lately. And it felt really good—to be doing something—especially after having watched all that TV. How could we have known the citizens of Alma had stockpiled so many military-grade weapons? One minute Randy Peppers was shaking his wang dry, and then Wham-O! Little pieces of Randy raining down on us like a hailstorm. Some of us still had a full bladder; we'd drunk a lot of liquid in preparation for the mission. We screamed and peed ourselves running all the way back to Rumsfeld.

After a while the shock wears off. Where does it go? I don't know. But you look at enough pictures of missing people since September 11 and you start to become numb, lose perspective. You want somebody to pay. Alma wanted us to pay. We wanted Alma to pay. So we made Ping pay. The Hunan Palace sat right in between our two municipalities and we convinced ourselves Ping was on Alma's side because where did he get the chicken for his delicious Kung Pow?

By this time we were watching a lot of military invasions in sandy places like Iraq and Afghanistan on the TV. We were using phrases like, "Embrace the Suck," and "Hooah" even when we were at work at the concrete factory, or at home with our families, as in, "Dinner's ready." "Hooah, Mom!"

Did we first learn about the new military torture techniques and want someone to try them on, or did we already have Ping in custody and thought, "Now that's a good idea." Tomato. Tah-mat-o. What we can say for sure is we found a lot of pictures of Melva Brunwald doing naked backbends with a tied-up Ping in a way we are not sure where he ends and she begins. It made the rest of us a little squeamish, but we let it slide because things happen in times of duress; everyone knows that.

In the end, however, it was all for nothing. We found out Ping wasn't working for Alma, that he got his chicken from a distributor on the East Coast, and we had to let him go. We watched him limp away in a direction opposite the Hunan Palace and now his lawyer keeps sending us these distracting legal notices.

Even while things with Ping were hot and heavy, however, we had not lost sight of revenge on Alma for the dead goat, and the chicken feces, and Randy Peppers, and for starting all this, and generally just for being dicks. We turned all the energy we normally used in setting up the Annual Festival of Cement Pouring Days into digging tunnels underneath Alma. We dug the tunnels, jumped out, squirted the bastards in the eyes with pepper spray, and while they were writhing around on the ground holding their faces, we kicked 'em in the balls. If it fazed them at all, it was only for, like, a second because they responded by sending snipers to pick us off going into and coming out of the bowling alley or the Chat-n-Chew.

And that's where we are now. Slugging each other in the shoulders back and forth, so to speak. The last person from Alma we caught within our border had a funny accent and smelled like weird meat. His training was pretty good so we figure they must have some secret camps where they take a lot of pledges with flames held to their palms. It's hard to beat people like that cause they'll do anything, you know. Really sick stuff.