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Garth Brooks

I danced with a girl for the first time in the eighth grade, with Brook DeBardeleben. It was the Halloween Party at The Hut on the far side of The Lake, that Indian Springs hosted for the youngest and tenderest class. She was one of the girls who was actually shorter than me, but I really didn’t know what to do, where to put my hands, how to move my feet—no one was really moving, just kind of rocking a little. The song was Garth Brooks’ “The Dance.”

When we were all seniors we went to this huge party in Atlanta and I passed her by the pool and she was totally naked—I made the mistake of going back out there later and she was getting fucked in the pool. It stood out as the saddest, most disappointing truth for the direction of everything—away from innocence—and soon enough, even that night seems like some innocent mistake of a youthful world that has long since disintegrated.

Garth Brooks is pretty much off the radio. I went through a Kenny Chesney phase and all the girls went for Taylor Swift. A real tragedy. Maybe the world is marching toward death and Taylor Swift is here to remind us to long for Mozarts past. Or maybe it’s just the earth’s senior party in Atlanta and we’re all still innocent. But I don’t see how any of this could get too much worse.

When the last girl left me I listened to that new Luke Bryan song a hundred times. Yes, someone else was calling her “baby”; I was reduced to one of those fat misogynists that hates all women because of their mother or some girl from high school or God-knows-what. I glimpsed youth, but kept on marching.

The first time I met her we talked about how neither of us had felt that kind of all out love you feel in high school. Her first love turned out to be gay. Mine turned out to be a slut. Maybe I am really one of those guys that hates women. But this girl, Casey Cather had a boyfriend all along and finally she told me. But we both felt that way we hadn’t believed we could, since dances by lakes and driving through fields with strawberry wine rolling under the seat. I wonder if Brook hadn’t done that in the pool, if everything would’ve just stayed where it was.


Norton MacKay is the author of The Admirers, a collection of short stories, and The First Short Story: Henry Chaucer’s ‘The Knight’s Tale.’ He formerly served as Editor-In-Chief for Aura, the literary arts magazine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.


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