In my younger days, I visited my uncle and aunt in eastern Tennessee where I developed a life-long fetish for glowing abdomens. Some dudes are leg guys; others, arm guys. Some are small-of-the-back guys and others like Jim Harrison are bubble-butted beauty guys.
I’m an abdomen guy all the way. I love me a good tummy.
But check your titillation at the door, please. I’m talking lightning bugs, the second greatest insect to grace the Midwest and the Appalachia.
At my uncle and aunt’s, I spent the evenings doing every conceivable little-boy experiment with this wonderful literary bug.
Like Lenny in Of Mice and Men, I petted and squeezed them to death, till my fingers and palms were aglow and cheeks mottled with phosphorescence.
I collected hundreds of them in a jar and shook them, casting a soft glow in the dark corner of a garden.
I smacked them clean out of the air with a big plastic baseball bat, as though I were swinging for the fences. Little carcasses streaked the air like fireworks in July. After my swinging frenzy was over, the bat resembled a swollen light saber. A cross between Babe Ruth and Yoda. And just about as handsome.
Years later on a Kentucky plantation, I fell in love with a tall, skinny dark-haired girl for an entirely sensible reason. A curtain of fireflies billowed behind her. In the fields, a great mystical sheet pulsed and throbbed with light. “I love you,” I said, with a tenderness bordering on a groin ache.
Like all great memories, they’re often triggered by incidental things, in this case, a title by Harrison: The Woman Lit by Fireflies. Who can resist thumbing through a collection of novellas with a title like that?
Not this abdomen guy.