Let me tell you about this city. For starters, it is called Wanda. There is no ‘ville’ or ‘burg’ designating it a city. Wanda defines itself by its existence. Just, Wanda. It’s outside of what is now called Coal Country, and so a lot of what goes by the term architecture here is really meant as an homage to the mountains that had been pulled down for a few hundred years.

 

For all that, there never was a throughway that came by town. The closest thing was Country Highway number 17 that, if you stood on the tallest point near the South edge, you could see in the distance its asphalt steaming in summer rains.

 

All towns have their oddities, whether it is having the “World’s Largest Corn Cob,” that Big Foot had been spotted there, or that it was the birthplace of baseball. As it happened, Wanda’s peculiarity was far more mundane. The fact of the matter was, no one had ever lived there. Or, at least, no human had.

 

That had never stopped the city from feeling lived in though. Nor did it stop those who did live there from doing all the same things that any city would. They had Mayoral elections, their school board was full of local elites, and the diner in town served what many considered to be the best coffee in the entire world. In fact, the city paper was known for its exquisite puns – if one allows that a pun could ever be exquisite.

 

In fact, this past year there was a fairly heated discussion of whether or not to shutter the paper, with some saying that readership was down and its importance had declined. Others were of the position that it was the heart of what was really a small community, and served the role of helping to organize life. Let me tell you, it was a heated debate; some squirrels had a particularly nasty take on the Editor-in-Chief’s history of apoliticalness. Their being a moss-covered stone was not a consideration for the squirrels it seemed.

 

Wanda is like any other small city in the middle country. With its foibles and its folksiness, and always with some joy to be found in each other. For all the struggles they have with each other, more often than not they struggle together for a better community and for the next generation. They’re no different than anyone else really. Tsimbo the Mayor welcomes all visitors with open branches, and, if I might make a suggestion, you really need to try the homemade nut butter sandwich – vegan and gluten free.

 

They may not have a catchy slogan like Michigan or Las Vegas, but Wanda may well be the friendliest and most inviting place around. Come and see for yourself.

 

Frank G. Karioris (he/they/him/them) is a writer and educator based in Pittsburgh whose writing addresses issues of friendship, masculinity, and gender. Their work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Journal, Collective Unrest, Maudlin House, Sooth Swarm Journal, and Crêpe & Penn amongst others. They are a regular contributor to Headline Poetry & Press.