>In Post-Katrina New Orleans, life is a mess for everyone. Walter Hobbes gets just one day a week with his daughter Louise since his breakup with Betsy. Their divorce, it seems, was Betsy’s doing, after she fell in love with Mitch. Still, Walter is blamed by Louise (not to mention Mitch’s ex-wife Hasty). All of that seems pretty standard domestic stuff and not very interesting. But Louise, who is white, has a black schoolmate who is about to leave New Orleans to move with her family to Kenosha, Wisconsin (a cold place, we’re told several times). Walter goes into Wal-Mart to buy a card for Louise to give to Ginny, but he knows he won’t be able to satisfy Louise so he barely tries. It’s cold in Wal-Mart, and inside Walter’s SUV – like Kenosha. She hates the card, they fight, she rips it up, the divorce is mentioned. But the farewell with Ginny goes well, Walter gets a close-up look at the devastation and meets Ginny’s father, a UPS man grateful for his promotion and transfer. They’re cordial, but have little to say. As they drive away from the 9th Ward, Louise’s anger has cooled, her resentment redirected. And then we get to the point of the story, which all along has been about the mess and devastation and leaving it behind.
“And for an instant, then, Walter experienced a sensation of something about to happen around him. It wasn’t clear what. But a sensation of impendment. Neither good nor bad. Though it also occurred to him that if he could just pause in his thinking now, not follow his thoughts any further, just breathe, then this sensation would in all likelihood develop into nothing bad.”
In other words, things will get better if we let them. Is that true? And is that what the story says?
March 3, 2008: “Leaving for Kenosha” by Richard Ford