Even Roadways by Ken Poyner

We’ve told Lannie that the city will fill the potholes on the street in front of his house.  He needs to admit it is the city’s responsibility – but his comeback is that it can take months before the city gets to it.  All that time swinging the car around the hole, trying to remember in the dark where it is, watching it yawn ever wider.

And then, he says, they always go overkill:  a big six-wheeled asphalt truck, two men with square-mouthed shovels, warm asphalt dropped into a barrow, swirled until the men are happy with the smell and thickness of it.  Then into the hole, a tamp, and gone.  Lannie holds that he can get a couple of bags of fill, go out with his home-grade wheelbarrow and a common trowel, and fill all the holes along his stretch of road-front in half an hour.

He describes it with pride – as though, instead of being taken advantage of by the city, he has come up with some citizen-involvement idea to optimize city services.

Let him believe what he believes.

I suspect in some ways Lannie assumes he is at fault.  It seems the stretch of road in front of his house does develop more potholes than the macadam fronting his neighbors’ homes.  Could be the underfill, could be the design of the ground water, could be a special thinness right there of the cap.

Whatever it is, it would not be Lannie’s fault.  It would have been the omission of some city engineer or city planner.  Not Lannie.  Some bureaucrat.

While we might think Lannie’s obsession is a bit insane, nonetheless it does not seem harmful, and it keeps the errant-when-idle Lannie busy.  And the neighborhood has learned to put the eccentricity to some use.  Most of the neighbors around his place, when a pothole forms in front of their home, one night when Lannie’s lights are out, will skulk down to the pavement, gather the pothole between themselves and some like-minded assistant or assistants– perhaps even using a dolly, or rigging with many neighbors a blanket lift –and haul it down to Lannie’s stretch of road, pack it into some pristine stretch of, up until then, solid pavement for Lannie to find the next morning.  A new pothole. A wonder that there are so many, and all right there in front of Lannie’s place.

On his way to pick up the paper, Lannie will likely spy the new hole, shake his head, walk down to the serendipitous cave-in, wonder why the city can’t lay survivable roads. Chances are that, if he has his coffee with him, he will stand in his robe, drink the cup half dry before he thinks to go back in, tell his wife about the find.

After breakfast, he will head into the hardware store where he always buys his pothole fill.  The store’s staff looks forward to seeing him.  He has a sense of purpose, gladdened good credit.  Supplies in firm hands, he will straggle straight back and set, with a hum and the aurora of a man who knows what he is doing, happily to work.

  Most of us think we do good by moving the potholes to him.  As a next step, perhaps, we can simply leave them in front of our own houses and convince Lannie to adopt the entire street.  A man that conscientious can be bent sometimes in many profitable, unrecognizable ways.

Ken Poyner’s collections of brief fictions, “Constant Animals”, “Avenging Cartography”, “The Revenge of the House Hurlers”, “Engaging Cattle”; and poetry, ”The Book of Robot” and “Victims of a Failed Civics”, available through links at www.barkingmoosepress.com.  His wife is a world-class powerlifter, and the family consists of cats and betta fish.

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