After Richard Hugo
Right in the heart of Iowa lies a small town of 10,344 people. Tulips and Dutch fronts line the streets, but the townspeople only go outdoors if the weather is exceptional for their taste, and never on Sunday unless it is to relax and honor the Sabbath. Everybody goes to church because there are 26 churches in the small town. I tried mowing my lawn on a Sunday once and I received strange looks from my neighbors. It was as if I had just killed their firstborn child. Everything is closed on “the Lord’s day” except for the grocery store, gas stations, and restaurants.
The annual picnic, also known as “Tulip Time”, happens the first full weekend in May when the weather is finally alright. People from all over the world attend, but it is mostly locals as they venture out of their houses after being kept inside during a long, harsh winter full of snow and ice to see the beautiful Tulips (hopefully) in full bloom. There is a ton of food, parades, people in costumes, dancing, singing, street scrubbing..the whole works. Tulip Time is always a huge success but it is the only fun people have all year.
This town is strange and sad. The weekly newspaper, the Town Crier, has an excellent gossip column but little or no news from outside the city. “Central College sets lowest price increase in decades.” “Pella Police Report- The Pella Police Department engaged in the following activities during the week of February 26, 2017 to March 04, 2017: Calls for Service-138, Traffic Citations-10, Traffic Warnings-58, Parking Tickets-43, Arrests-8, Charges-9, Warrant Services-1.” “Pella Regional Health Center delivers 539 babies.”
Everybody knows everything about everyone. People stay married forever. There is no such thing as divorce. Widows and widowers never remarry. The town whores are kind to everyone but each other. They hide together in the shadows, afraid of being excommunicated by the locals for not following God’s Word because they have slept with more than one man. These men, however, live peacefully with their wives while also having affairs behind closed doors. Even when their secrets become common knowledge and the rumors spread around the small town like wildfire, nobody divorces. Everyone just does “as Jesus did” and turns the other cheek. But instead of acknowledging what is happening, they pretend as if it simply does not exist at all, covering their eyes and ears but leaving their mouths open to make sure all of their friends and family know about the most recent scandal.
This small town in Iowa appears perfect to outsiders, but once you are within you find out it’s just a deception. I have lived in Pella my entire life, and I should have left long ago but I couldn’t. This was my home, this was my life.