I’ve known these people all of my life, and still what happened here in Madena frightens
me. I’ll tell you everything, even the parts that might be – there, already: I’ve hardly begun and
I’m already lying – I’ll try not to skip anything, not even the parts that were my fault.
Union Street splits downtown like a red brick artery splitting two halves of a brain. The
western sphere where Theo and Natalie lived as kids sidles up to the railroad station and the
tracks connecting New York City and points south with Albany and points north. The eastern
half slopes down from Union, where the four or five blocks of original houses, once grand, the
industrialists’ and the bankers, are now all duplexes and multi-family rentals; Theo came to live
in one of these with his wife, who soon left, and his adopted daughter, Persephone. Then, sloping
down more steeply, are the subdivisions and cul de sacs with newer streets and fresher houses,
where Natalie, now married with a son, lives next door to me, Celeste, the woman with the
The big, old-fashioned St. Mark’s Catholic Church with its tall, tall steeple hovers high
above Union. Beneath it, their thrift store, where young girls and my aide Agnes like to shop.
Next is the movie theater, closed for years, Catch Me if You Can still on the marquis, the m and f
and second c missing; and the hardware store with wooden floors and dusty bins of nails and
duct tape and fading boxes of small appliances like coffee pots that everybody can buy cheaper
at Wal-Mart north of town, although Eddie and his son still put watering cans and wheelbarrows
out on the sidewalk in the summer, and shovels and bags of salt in the winter, always hopeful;
then, the bridal shop; Sally, the proprietor, never needs one of the dresses she sells, but it it’s not
hard to imagine her trying them on alone, at night, after locking the front door.
Next is the post office, with the famous fading mural of the town in its industrial heyday,
and the creaky A&P with aisles barely big enough for the new double wide carts, and always
smelling like years and years of overripe fruit. Beyond that, Mr. Harricomb the lawyer’s office,
and the Greek pizzeria, where kids go to buy thick slices for a couple dollars. Across the street,
on the eastern side, a gas station, full serve, the old high school, set back, all stately and brick
and more grand than anything else on the street, now set up for senior citizens, and there’s a free
clinic, and the town’s rec department where kids come to sign up for Little League. Next, a scrap
of a park with a memorial statue for some war, the deli, the florist, green and delicious regardless
of the season; the barber, the bakery, and Delphi’s Video, Theo’s place, the last of its kind in the
Hudson Valley, nearly the last in all of New York State. I’ve always been a faithful customer.
Just north of the old school and the gas station, around the corner, heading west uphill,
are smaller, shabbier shops: the tarot card reader, the shoe repair, and Billie’s tattoo parlor. And
on the outskirts, a circle of handsome old factory buildings, mostly empty now.
As all stories do, this one started decades before the events in this book. But the moment
after which nothing was the same came eighteen years ago.