Where is Paula K. Gover??
Tom Kakonis, author of Double Down and Shadow Counter writes that “Once in a very great while there comes along a writer that sees straight to the bottom of the human heart. Flannery O’Connor was one such, Paula K. Gover is another. And it’s by no means a reach to mention them in the same breath.”
A couple months back, I’d starting watching what I said about Gene to my mother, even though there hadn’t been much to say at that point. And while there still wasn’t much to talk about, she didn’t have any qualms about bringing up his name. She worked the topic of Gene into our chitchat through leading questions or in the guise of an afterthought, saying “Is that old truck of Gene’s still running?” or “I suppose you’ll be eating supper with Gene.”
More often than not, I could predict her line of inquiry, or at least figure out in which direction she was trying to lead me. Yet during one of those rare moments when I’d allowed her to discuss Gene at all, I’d been surprised to hear her referring to him as “undereducated.” I was even more surprised by how quickly I demanded an explanation. “What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, irritated that I’d taken the bait.
“Undereducated,” she clarified with a smile, “As opposed to uneducated,” and she insisted he was full of promise, especially in light of my hiatus from dating. “Rebecca, after all’s said and done,” she encouraged, “what does it matter at Gene’s age that he’s started going just a wee bit bald, and he’s so tall, why, a person barely notices what’s on top.” Being tall was at the top of her list of qualifying characteristics for men, following the requisite university degree: height, money, hair, good hygiene, in that order, with bonus points for men who presented a dark-eyed and black-haired Latino appearance, sometimes extending to well-defined Italian features and olive skin.
As for me, I’ve learned to value tender hearts. He had one, I told her, but my mother and I clearly barter in different markets. “Now, a strong heart,” she stated when I was still stuck between deciding about seeing Gene at all. “A strong heart,” she’d repeated. “Now that’s something even I’d like to run into.”