Return of the Alien

        "The whole world, without a native home Is nothing but a prison of larger room."
—Abraham Cowley

His father used to say that the country was good; it was only the people that made it intolerable. Now his father's son was headed up to that north country, where he had not lived for 40 years. He had been back, several times over the years, fishing for trout on the Brule River or trolling for walleye on the Chippewa Flowage. He had visited the desolate city of his birth several times, and once or twice looked up old neighbors or called a school chum, but most of the neighbors were dead, and the chums were off making new lives in the Twins.

No one stayed if he could help it. Once, when he was about ten years old, his mother's brother, a Coast Guard officer, had come to spend a few days.

"My God, Mary, how can you stand this burg?" he asked his sister at the end of the first day. "There's nothing here, and the people . . . " and his uncle went on to talk of the places he had lived—Japan, New Orleans, San Francisco.

Up to that point, he had thought of Superior as one of those cities like Rome or Paris that were known all over the world. With a population of 32,000, Superior covered almost as much ground as Chicago and had the second-largest train yard in the United States. She also had the largest grain elevator, longest...

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