In Issue 34 of Passages North, Karin C. Davidson introduces us to Tulsa, in her story “We Are Here Because of a Horse,” by writing that “Tulsa by night shines like a shattered gold watch.” I’ve arrived in Tulsa much the way her narrator and his wife approach the city here—late at night after traveling all day—and my first impression wasn’t as considered or fair. (Both times I was there I was overwhelmed by the strange combination of exhaustion and excess energy that comes after sitting in a car for ten hours.)
In fiction, the temptation exists to describe place and location as readers might imagine sight unseen. Many American readers (especially those of us hanging out on the east coast) think of mid-sized, fly-over cities as lacking aesthetic charm, grace, and ingenuity. It’s easy to rely on existing assumptions, and a lesser writer might be tempted to write this city, unfamiliar to the narrator, as a plain place, a means to an end, especially since Sam and his wife are here for one purpose—to pick up a horse.