I’ve lived in a number of small towns in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and I’m here to tell ya: The rumors are true, particularly in Wisconsin, where unsuspecting tourists are turned into jerky and their clothes sold at thrift stores.
I moved to Wisconsin Rapids in the early ‘90s. Fresh out of school and clutching my newly earned Fabulous Court Reporting Skillz Degree, I found myself doing per diem work in central Wisconsin.
One thing I had noticed in my move from Minneapolis to Wisconsin Rapids was the change in societal attitude. Minneapolis is a rather liberal town, an open town. I missed that. Wisconsin Rapids – and forgive me, perhaps it has changed since I lived there? – was full, according to what I was seeing in the courts and in the bars, of domestic violence, child abuse, drunk driving, and rape.
I did not fit in. It may have been the fact that I wore skirts and heels. It may have been that I did not have a mullet. It may have been the lipstick and mascara; but I heard, more than once, “You’re not from around here, are you?”
Other than the police officer who stalked me for the last half of the year I was there, I had made only one friend. Angel, her name was; and I was invited one night to her house for a night of drinking and games. I was very much into games at the time: Trivial Pursuit, Pictionary, Yahtzee. I hadn’t been out since moving there and was really looking forward to meeting some people.
I was lonely.
I dressed up, in the fashion of the day, put on my big gold hoops and my lipstick and walked the six blocks to her house.
I knocked on the door; and from the looks of things, they had started without me.
The party, it appeared, would consist of me, Angel, and her husband.
Angel was a quiet, heavy young woman with an unfortunate perm. Her husband was quite attractive and should’ve been more fun to talk to, but there was something in the way he looked at me that put me on guard.
“Wow,” he says. “You look great. Doesn't she look great, Ang?”
“Thanks,” I say.
He nudges Angel, an elbow to the ribs, and she nods.
One gets the impression that they feel this is subtle.
She takes my arm. “Let me show you around the place,” she hiccups.
It is a two-bedroom duplex, and honestly, you can see it all from the doorway. Nevertheless, we look in on the baby, already asleep; give a passing nod to the dining room/living room; and end up sitting on the foot of the bed in the master bedroom. We sit next to each other and she reaches out and touches my hair. At this point in my life, it hangs just short of my waist, and it's not unusual that she would do this.
“We got a friend in porn movies,” she blurts.
“Yeah?” I had tried watching porn once but came away from it thinking “well, who can't do that?” and never gave it another thought. Not my thing. “That’s weird.”
“We knew her in high school. She went to Chicago and next thing you know we see her in a porno!”
“Well don’t that beat all,” I say flatly. The direction of this conversation is getting on my nerves.
Angel redirects. “How long you been in Rapids?”
I sigh. “Four months,” I say. “It’s a tough town to break into. Very insular. This is the first time I’ve been out in a long time.”
“Yeah?” she says. “So hey, can I ask you something?”
“You know anything about threesomes?”
My heart stops momentarily as the distant wail of sirens is heard. The squat, fur-hatted ancestors in my head sit upright and reach for their weapons. “What?”
“You know: threesomes. Sex?”
I frown, angry. Four months in the house, four months with no friends, no boyfriend, no phone calls, three TV stations, no VCR, and I finally get invited to a party and it’s me, a court employee I've had lunch with twice, and her husband.
“My husband,” she prattles on, “thinks you’re cute. I mean, we figure, you being from the big city and all…”
Did she --? Did she really just say you being from the big city and all? Hey! Who’s the gal with a friend in the porn industry?
There is a pause as my brain slides, like a large, coddled egg, from one edge of my skull to the other.
I get my bearings.
“I think," I say quietly, "that if you’re really interested in such a thing that your best course of action would be to place an ad in an independent newspaper and see who answers.”
Suddenly I am tired.
I stand up. “I totally forgot that I have company coming tonight, but I have to go.” I don’t turn around as I walk through the bedroom door and into the hallway. I speak over my shoulder to her. “I’ll see you next time I’m in the courthouse.”
I never did get the hang of Central Wisconsin.
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