Like fellow Midwesterner and incredible essayist Sonya Huber, I loathe the harmful writing advice of “show don’t tell.” Yet, I am also a writer born and raised in the Show Me State. While Missouri is steeped in Southern front-porch storytelling, the Middle West’s characteristic pragmatism, understatement, and complicated* past and present are perpetual in our prose. We want it both ways: to show and to tell, to be Southern and Midwestern. Ultimately, there’s a certain resilience and toughness Missouri essayists must harbor because we can’t assume you, dear reader, share our points of reference or understand why we stay or live in this place, however long. Ultimately, though, describing what others do not know or have the words for makes for wilder, more inventive stories. The Missouri essayists in this project share the very Midwestern joys and terror of what it’s like to be in a state with “no particular place to go.” What constrains and releases us may surprise you.
Missourians: we'd love to have more essays riffing and rumbling on the #Midwessay! Contact me at michaella.thornton at gmail and I'll be happy to include your thoughts and insights in this project.
* And by “complicated,” I mean openly racist, homophobic, transphobic, sexist, ableist, xenophobic, and more. We have a lot to unpack and improve on here.
There is a Place in Independence, Missouri, Called the Foxhole
& I remember being seventeen years old & too young to get in but they let me in anyway because I knew someone, a young man I’d met at a video store who had no business hanging out with high school girls but I went with him anyway because I liked music & the prospect of booze & I didn’t want to be at home & I remember being seventeen years old, & these bands playing, weird bands with mandolins & accordions & keyboards & all kinds of guitars, & lanky white guys of indeterminate age in flannels or pleather or ripped denim & these guys had warbly voices & they screamed about their ex-girlfriends who they claimed were crazy, who they said broke their hearts, these heartbreakers immortalized in their lyrics & I remember reeling drunk & puking in the backyard & the burn in my throat, Bud Light with some shots of Everclear in the mix, & on my way back in the sliding glass door a man I didn’t know complimented my shorts which were probably too short in retrospect but it was the middle of July & I was seventeen years old & I remember telling my foster parents I was staying the night at a friend’s house & walking the next block over & getting into the video store boy’s car which smelled like smoke & was full of fast food wrappers & reminding myself, convincing myself this would make me cool, this would make me happy, & I didn’t want to be at home & I remember waking up hungover in my shorts on a couch I didn’t recognize the next day & thinking how the Foxhole was just a house, just somebody’s basement we’d somehow decided to call something else.
inspired by fellow Midwesterner Hanif Abdurraqib
Amanda Hadlock is an MFA candidate at Florida State University. Until six months ago, she lived her entire life in Missouri. She received her Master of Arts in English from Missouri State University, where she also worked as the Graduate Assistant for Moon City Press. Her nonfiction, fiction, and graphic narrative work has appeared in journals such as Hobart, Wigleaf, New Limestone Review, The Florida Review, The Lindenwood Review, and others.