Friday, May 8, 2009

Joy, KS - Population: Unknown

My name is Nathan Harlan and I am 35 years old. Ten years ago I left Joy for a period of several days and as far as I can tell I'm the only one who ever has. I'm not saying I'm different, or special, but I guess in relation to other folks who live here I have a small advantage when it comes to worldly matters. Joy is a small town in western Kansas where the weather tends to lean hard in either direction no matter what the season. I was born on the second night of a week long blizzard that cost my mother three toes due to frostbite and the loss of circulation my long incubation imposed on her lower extremities. Her labor was long and my brother was too distracted by tending to the miracle of life to tend the miracle of fire. Stoking two on the same occasion is a chore for any man, but John's 12 years with his gender makes it all the more impressive I came to know mine at all.

Joy is, by all measurable accounts, outside the path of any trade route - agriculture or otherwise. The soil sustains itself fair enough when crops are changed out, but two seasons of the same seed is a dangerous gamble. Put it this way - I wouldn't play those odds, but I'd bet if you knew the stakes you wouldn't either.

Trees line the horizon clean around us. They're laid in thick throughout - cypress and bogs to one side of the sun's arc; cottonwood and dry shrubs on the other. A wall of pines glow like hot arrows at dawn and a spruce forest replies in kind at dusk. I will say, when I look around and all sides seem even matched, I feel most adjusted. The woods harbor a certain wicked character - no secret to anyone in Joy. Folks don't have much reason to leave Centerland; besides the five large crop fields, our staples are all clustered there.

The storehouse is dead centered with the church, ale house, and elder hall - spaced equal measures from it and each other. Behind the elder hall is the stone house; four high stone walls and rumors is all a man of Joy can know for sure about it. I will say I believe a considerable portion of oddities - fortunes, misfortunes and general strangeness - is tied to those walls. Seems to me the more interest a fellow takes in the subject, the more likely he becomes a rumor himself. I'd rather not put my thoughts to those sorts of things. Not anymore at least...