Struggling Not to Suck in a Mennonite Town

I grew up in the same town as noted Mennonite writer Miriam Toews. I love her books. She’s a fantastic writer. But is that it for Steinbach? Is greatness limited? Are generations of future Steinbachers condemned to mediocrity because our town has already produced one the greats of Canadian literature? I explore this admittedly paranoid and irrational line of thought in this short story for Potluck Magazine.

Excerpt From “Pie Charts” by Andrew J. Bergman

“The odds are against us,” Randall says. “The way I figure it, a town our size is allowed one famous writer, two professional hockey players, and one disgraced politician…and we’ve already had all of those.”

He pours me a glass of home-brewed stout that he says has been aging for the past year in fine Kentucky whiskey barrels. “It’s got civet beans in it. You know those monkeys in Bali that digest coffee?”

I sniff at the black sludge, but don’t say much. I’m a writer, so I listen instead—listen and drink beer. Randall’s always trying strange things with the beer. He used to mix in maple syrup or the tips of spruce trees, while lately it’s been coffee beans chewed by monkeys and coffee beans chewed by koalas and coffee beans chewed by cocker spaniels; he even smoked one beer in his uncle’s shack while the carcass of a deer hung nearby.

Every Friday evening I show him my writing and he makes me try his new recipes. What had started as band practice ten years ago when we were still in high school had devolved into this weekly ritual of small town loathing. When we realized we’d never be The Ramones, Randall gave up drums, I gave up singing, and now every Friday evening after a few beverages I listen as Randall whines and moans about the lack of opportunities this place presents. He even has a chart.

“You see this? There are eight thousand people in our town and we’ve already produced one famous writer. I mean, statistically speaking, there’s no way another writer with any degree of notability can come out of here for at least another hundred years.”

I remind him that the local museum is full of books by hometown writers. Life on the Farm: Adventures of a Mennonite by Anna R. Berg. From Molotchna to Manitoba: The Lord Leads by Cornelius B. Friesen. Our town has plenty of published writers, I tell him.

Read the rest of the story here at Potluck Magazine.

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