Dallasite by Brian Mihok

Editor Matty Byloos, Fiction, August 30th, 2011

"She smiled to herself a lot as if something was always pleasing her...."

dallasite brian mihok


Rebecca dreamed of visiting Dallas. Her parents thought it a strange destination for an eleven year-old. It’s in the north, isn’t it? her mother said to her father. I thought it was more in the middle, he said.

Surely all girls strove for excellence and achieved success in Dallas. Surely they weren’t beholden to the pitfalls of this place. This troubling and backwater city of Roger’s Falls. Here a girl was not even allowed to play baseball with her brother on his Little League team. Her own brother! Here a girl was taught to be pretty and sweet but told no, no, no when she asked to possess pretty things. This contradiction fueled a constant flame of indignation that, as Rebecca liked to think, prevented a girl from acting as sweet as she ought to.

This place. This lesser of lessers. She had to get out.

Rebecca did a report on Dallas. Dallas has 1.2 million people. The city is 385 beautiful square miles. The demonym for Dallas is Dallasite, as in Rebecca so yearned to become a Dallasite. It was founded in 1841, though before that the area had been inhabited by Native Americans known as the Caddo. Rebecca wondered what the Caddo were like. She assumed they were an adaptable and brilliant people for settling on such a blessed plain, and she wondered where they might reside today. The lesson in her history book mentioned that they left the area but it did not say how, why, or when. She thought they would be happy to know what an amazing place had become of their land.

Rebecca grew up and married a man named Daniel. Daniel was an account manager. In his spare time he built things in the garage with a table saw and drill press. He was originally from Roger’s Falls but they met in Seattle at college. After graduation they moved to Olympia where they both found jobs. Rebecca was a media consultant. They both worked long hours and sometimes they didn’t speak for days at a time because of their schedules. On the weekends Daniel only wanted to relax in the garage designing unintentionally experimental furniture.

One day a potential client contacted Rebecca and asked to have a face-to-face. The client lived in Dallas. Something about Dallas seemed familiar to Rebecca, as if she’d been there long ago. She remembered a report she wrote as a girl. She told Daniel about her childhood longing for Dallas. Here’s your chance, he said and drank from a glass of scotch and went back to the garage.

She packed more than she needed. She kept thinking just in case, just in case. She was calm on the flight, which took four hours, but as she walked through the concourse she couldn’t stop smiling. It felt the same as a time in college, before she had met Daniel, when she won an election to be president of her residence hall. She ran unopposed but even so, when the ballots were counted, she couldn’t stop smiling and thinking, I really won.

The client took her to dinner at a restaurant downtown. He said he would get a table and asked if she would wait at the bar. The place was crowded and she quickly lost sight of him as he elbowed his way to the hostess. She went to the bar and ordered a whiskey sour. Nearest to her was a burly man breathing deeply into a light beer. Beyond him was a pair of young women giggling to each other. At the end of the bar was a little girl. She seemed to be alone. She wore a blue dress with white dots and was staring up at a television.

The girl was Rebecca when she was eleven. Rebecca went down to talk to her.

Hello? Rebecca said to her younger self.

The girl smiled a fake smile.

You mind if I sit here?

The girl said nothing and Rebecca sat down.

What are you watching? she asked.

It appears to be a baseball game, the girl said.

Oh, do you like baseball?

I like it well enough, the girl said, but it’s a bit of a long story.

Are you here alone? Rebecca said.

Are you? the girl said still looking at the television.

The bartender came and asked them if they wanted anything else. Rebecca finished her drink and ordered another. The girl didn’t want anything. The client made his way back through the hungry bodies.

It’s a mad house, but we have a spot near the kitchen, he said.

Rebecca got up and took her fresh drink. Are you going to stay here? she said to her younger self but the girl just raised her eyebrows.

The rest of the evening Rebecca was distracted. After dinner she said she didn’t feel well and excused herself. In her hotel room she put on the television mostly for noise. She thought about calling Daniel. Damn him, she thought and put her phone back on the nightstand. She resolved to divorce Daniel when she got home. This wasn’t the first time it had crossed her mind. She could start over in Dallas. Redefine herself.

A local show about building cars came on. The host said today they were going to rebuild a 1957 F-100. They showed a before photo and then, briefly, an after photo as a teaser. Rebecca wondered what in the heck you do with a 1957 F-100 once you rebuilt it. The men working on the truck didn’t appear to be having a good time. They kept yelling at each other. Then she wondered if Daniel had a good time in the garage building all that furniture, and if he didn’t, what was the point of spending all his time out there. She shut off the television and put the remote next to her phone. She went to the window and looked at the city, amber in its night light. The glow reached up and disintegrated somewhere above. The sky was pale, as though it was missing.

In the morning Rebecca used the express checkout envelope and took the airport shuttle. At her gate she saw the red scrolling marquees for El Paso, Mobile, Boise. For a moment, while the jet engines waxed, and overhead a man’s voice warned of unattended baggage, all the destinations in the galaxy were reduced to a straight line on a graph in a fifth grader’s textbook. Rebecca was plotting coordinates for unknown places, but the moment passed.

When she got home Olympia was still Olympia. The garage was full of laundry. A bowl of milk she had left in the sink was now only a cloudy bath for a spoon and some forks. Daniel was indifferent about the laundry. When Rebecca explained that Dallas was different than she thought it would be, he shrugged the way he did when something wasn’t important to him.

I saw a TV show about building the perfect chair, she said. Think you’ll ever build something like that?

Daniel was sweating a little though he figured it was from the heat of the early summer. He shrugged again, this time confused.

You want me to build you a chair? he said.

Have you ever even given a thought to Dallas? she said. He stared at her thinking about Dallas but, having no thoughts on it, went back to the garage.

Daniel went to bed that night wondering about what a perfect chair might be. When he awoke Rebecca was gone. She left a note on the counter that said she went to watch kids play baseball on the fields at the rec center. He used to think Rebecca was a sorceress. When they first met he would often watch her sit at the window and do latch hook. She smiled to herself a lot as if something was always pleasing her. Not much was pleasing to Daniel and this made her mystical to him. Then it hit Daniel that he had also written an essay on Dallas when he was in fifth grade. Remembering it was like finding a pair of lost scissors in the bottom of a junk drawer. For a second he understood his wife and she was not magical, nor had she lost any magic.

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brian mihokBrian Mihok’s work has appeared in Hobart, Tarpaulin Sky, Necessary Fiction, TRNSFR and elsewhere. He’s the co-editor of the literary magazine matchbook, a journal of indeterminate prose, and you can find more about him at his official blog, Brian Mihok dot com.


Matty Byloos

Matty Byloos is Co-Publisher and a Contributing Editor for NAILED. He was born 7 days after his older twin brother, Kevin Byloos. He is the author of 2 books, including the novel in stories, ROPE ('14 SDP), and the collection of short stories, Don't Smell the Floss ('09 Write Bloody Books).