When I was a kid, I lived in one of those towns. Big enough to have some entertainment, and quite a few restaurants, and isolated enough that as far as it went, there was no driving to a bigger city just for fun. Bowling alleys, a small summer carnival, and a sadly misshapen swimming pool. Enough to keep people happy.
Or at least, quiet.
If somebody went to a big city, there was a reason.
9 times out of 10, it was because the local hospital ran out of options, and the choice was Denver or death. Well, I know. Some people did take a while to think about that one.
But that 10th time? Well, that was interesting.
If you went to Denver, and you weren’t dying, there was probably a good story about it, and if little girls were very good, and very quiet, and looked like they weren’t paying attention, they could probably hear that story. And why not? Everyone else already had.
We had a family friend who went to Denver regularly. She wasn’t dying any time soon, but she had M.S. and she saw an acupuncturist. (If you’re reading that right, you heard it in the same voice you’d use for “She sacrificed chickens.”) An acupuncturist! And I wasn’t even allowed to get my ears pierced.
My mother asked her about it, once. I remember sitting and listening while she described the general idea of acupuncture, and showed us the black dots the acupuncturist drew on her skin, so that her husband could keep up her treatments at home.
They did a demonstration for us. He took out a long, skinny needle and a glass tube, and tapped that needle right into a black dot on her leg. Sure enough, the muscle–which she couldn’t use, herself–twitched. Yup. That was it. A twitch.
Hope, more than anything else.
The other thing you could do in Denver was get an abortion.
I didn’t find out about that one–or abortions in general–until I was eleven or twelve, and a friend’s mother… her recently divorced, and even more recently pregnant mother… went to Denver.
Her father–my friend’s grandfather–made the appointment. He was the one to drive her to Denver. And in all honesty, he was also pretty much the one to bully her into thinking about it.
No one needed to know.
Except, of course, that she was still pregnant when she got back from Denver. Tough to hide that. Even tougher to hide a ten pound baby boy.
Oh, the humanity! The thought of that five hour drive to Denver with him and then the five hour drive back, when there wasn’t any abortion, and just being trapped in the car all. the.way. back. Ugh.