Here at Truman State, the students have a special term we use to talk about the people that are not students. When used in this particular context, the word townie refers to a native of Kirksville who is at least one of the following:
1. Frightening in appearance due to an unruly beard or lack of teeth
2. Linguistically underdeveloped and intellectually challenged
3. Addicted to and or dealing methamphetamine or another controlled substance
4. The owner of one or more large pick-up trucks
5. Fond of revving the engines of said pick-up trucks
6. Extremely conservative
7. Unemployed and living off government benefits
8. Loud, volatile, and profane (especially between 12:00-4:00 am)
9. Racist and or sexist
10. As annoying as they are scary
After having enough of dorm food and malfunctioning fire alarms, four girls and I rented a house for our junior year. Two stories, five bedrooms, and two full bathrooms. Over the summer my Mom, sister and I repainted my bedroom. I came up with a color scheme of white, turquoise, and well-oiled teak wood. I sanded, painted, and finished my bedroom furniture myself. The place looked like the inside of a spa resort when we were done with it. It slanted a bit, but we put Styrofoam stabilizers under the dressers and let that be that.
415 is located about a mile north of campus, a few blocks up from the Square. It is also surrounded by townies.
The neighbors live in a two-story house that must at one time been painted white. Now the paint is an intricate, crackling, gray mosaic clinging to the planks of warped wood. The windows are dark, blocked by blankets.
The front entrance, framed by four beams whose job it is to hold up an extended portion of the roof over the patio, leans severely to the left. The whole thing gives the impression of a very poorly planned Jenga tower.
Under the patio sits a large sofa. Gray and squashy, probably close to becoming the world’s first water-couch. The man on the sofa is a snowbird who has traded sitting stonily in front of the undulating waves of the ocean for sitting stonily in front of an undulating brick street in the armpit of the Midwest.
While he sits—stoically liquefying the couch—the other occupants move around him like insects in a time-lapse video of the rainforest floor.
One man drives his Ford through the patchwork lawn of weeds and dirt, bowling with the trashcans. He uses the truck as a stereo to share his music with the entire neighborhood.
The blankets over the windows shift. More emerge from inside, bare-chested and blinking in the sunlight. Silver cans glint in their hands.
A middle-aged woman, rarely seen out in the open, peers around the side of the house. She grasps the corner of the wall with the fingers of both hands and moves her head just enough to see into the yard. Her eyes are huge. She is a Tarsier clinging to the branches of the canopy. Watching. Waiting.
A teen in baggy pajama pants and a plume of violently pink feathers in her hair shouts all the swear words she knows into the speakers of her cell phone.
A man with a long gray beard stands in the middle of the yard, swaying on his feet. Left and right, left and right, for hours.
I come back from classes just in time to fully appreciate the man in overalls revving his engine. They have a dog named “Puppy” who’s always running away. They shout for him over the engine noise. Trashcans go down in the yard as the couch cushions sink a fraction lower.
There’s a definite divide between us and them, the townies versus the Truman students. I lock my doors and avoid eye-contact, thinking nothing would happen as long as I kept my distance. But maybe Puppy always knew better. He had the right idea all along.