Institute History


Shimmer is a story about the friendship between two boys and the discovery of beauty and freedom in an atmosphere of unrelenting brutality.

1955, the state juvenile home in Tama/Toledo, Iowa, the residence for children from broken families. Razor straps hang from the walls, beatings are dealt out by bullets and supervisors. Richard Matheson, a huge teenager with hands full of big dicks, who lords it over the cottage and his side kick Tony Kemmler who eggs him on. Evy, a fat faced, black-haired grinner who moves his belly like a silent barge through the halls and the rooms, ready to deliver his infamous head clap. Mr. White, a short , fast, lean manic depressive, mean as mosquito meat. And Mr. Kibby, a stupefied looking man, a Methodist from Muskateen who runs Lock Up with Jesus. There are no visible walls, no fences around Tama County Juvenile Home, only the eyes and ears of the patrons and matrons who run it.

Gary and Spacy meet in the midst of all this and begin a friendship that finally leads them to freedom. Captain Spacy is just about to turn 16. Gary is a year younger. both are odd balls. Captain Spacy is a gangly loner who dreams of going into space. Gary Welch is short , cocky, sandy haired with a big honker of a nose. He's a philosopher phenomenologist obsessed with what things are and the way things happen. Gary teaches Spacy how to swear using a game of catch. They make up fantasies about alien worlds co-existing with ours. Together they develop a philosophy. The universe is alive, the wind moving through the trees, the reflection of light on water, the rising of smoke. Everything that happens is just a language being passed from one dimension to the next. Everything we do is a part of that language. They call the language Shimmer.

When Spacy comes to Gary's rescue and winds up in Lock Up, he hatches a plan of escape. The Dairy is the place search parties gather when they hunt for runaways and it's where they return after they catch them. If the boys hide in the barn they'll be able to watch the parties go out and come back. When the searchers return to the cottages , Gary and Spacy can take off. Everything goes as planned. The hunting party returns, empty handed. They go down the hill back to the Home leaving Gary and Spacy alone and free to make their escape, or so they think. They begin running down the road when a pair of head lights appear. It's Mr. White, coming after them. They try to shake him but he's there at every turn. In desperation they begin running down the empty highway, their thumbs up. Out of the night another pair of head lights appear. It's a Chevy Bel Air convertible. A guy in Levis, motorcycle jacket , and duck tail and all picks them up and leaves Mr. White in the dust. He takes them to Marshalltown. After a night of dodging cops and getting lost, they miraculously reach their destination, 144 South Van Burn, Spacy's mother place. They watch the sun rise. They are shimmering.


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