I haven’t had time to write short stories recently. With a seventh novel on the way to publication, and an eighth in an ongoing state of repair, I’ve been excising episodes from the latter manuscript. It’s hard to remove items that are amusing but unnecessary. It occurred to me that I could turn them into short stories.
Back home, life on the farm had never been laidback. John Denver didn’t grow up in Alabama.
Mickey Statler lived in fear of winding up like his old man. He could feel the inevitability creeping up, drawing him inexorably toward his fate. He had always believed in free will. He was the master of his fate, not some legacy that lived on in the blood of the souls that followed.
As he sat on the patio of his fourth-floor apartment, Mickey pondered the sudden job loss, the collapse of his profession, the destruction of his security, and the realization of how frail it had always been.
Mickey was depressed. Not clinically depressed. Depressed for a damned good reason.
Naturally, he thought of his father, his symbol of wasted promise.
Mickey remembered a sweltering Saturday, Daddy charging into the house to find him curled up on a couch, watching the Atlanta Braves on The Superstation.
Daddy was hung over and resentful it was not he sitting in his easy chair, a bottle of vodka and another of grapefruit juice at his side, not watching some ballgame but something manly, something like Rock Hudson in Giant.
“Well, I’ll be goddamned,” his father bellowed, red-faced and sweaty. “We got a hog loose, rummaging through some woman’s garden on 208. The hole they squeezed under gotta be patched. The Appaloosa’s in foal. Ain’t nothing been fed. What are you doing? Sitting on your goddamned ass watching a goddamned baseball game.”
“I like things that are goddamned, Daddy,” he said, because he was fed up and couldn’t wait to get out of this man’s house.
“Burl Ives!” Mickey laughed at the memory of his mother’s incredulous exclamation. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer had been on TV. Burl had sung “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas,” and Daddy had been drinking, and somehow it all got intertwined.
Then Mickey’s thoughts zipped ahead a decade or so, when Mickey was covering preps in Burlington and drove all the way home for some reason, possibly his brother’s bachelor party, and walked into that house to find Daddy sitting on the same couch, now frayed and dirty, leaning forward, bottle of cheap vodka, no glass, on the table named for coffee. Ten o’clock in the morning.
CNN was playing the same clips over and over. BREAKING NEWS! Rock Hudson Suffering from AIDS.
Mickey sat down on the loveseat. Didn’t say a word. His eyes spoke. Soooo, Pop … what’s … the … deal?
Aging, older, now consumed in his alcoholism, father looked at son, eyes rolling, seeing the great Rock Hudson as the end of the world as he knew it.
“Back when me and your mama was datin’, I thought Rock Hudson was the biggest hero ever was. Come to find out, he was a goddamned faggot!” Harvey Statler’s whole body convulsed in anger. “Goddamn! Goddamn! Goddamn!”
Somehow it had become a pleasant memory. He laughed now, to himself, still having failed to find a viable alternative to Let’s Make a Deal.
Twenty more years had passed. His father was listed as a casualty of colon cancer. Mickey knew he had really drunk himself to death, the same as his father before him.
No one in the family seemed capable of getting over things. Everyone had surrendered to one habit, one vice, one substance, one woman, or another. Mickey had already outlived his father, so he had that going for him.
Prosperity was a lover, not a mate. Its pleasures were fleeting. The rain never stopped. The sun never shone. The weight of the world was no heavier than a pink slip. It cut like a knife.
If you’d like me to mail you a signed copy of Lightning in a Bottle, or any of my other novels, you can find my address and instructions at montedutton.com. (montedutton.com/blog/merchandise)
I’ve written six novels and a collection of short stories. I’ve also written a number of books about sports, mostly about NASCAR. You can find most of them here.
The Kindle versions of my books, where available, can be found above. Links below are to print editions.
Lightning in a Bottle is the story of Barrie Jarman, the hope of stock car racing’s future. Barrie, a 18-year-old from Spartanburg, South Carolina, is both typical of his generation and a throwback to the sport’s glory days.
Cowboys Come Home is a modern western. Two World War II heroes come home from the Pacific to Texas.
I’ve written a crime novel about the corrosive effects of patronage and the rise and fall of a powerful politician and his dysfunctional family, Forgive Us Our Trespasses.
I’ve written about what happens to a football coach when he loses everything, Crazy of Natural Causes. It’s a fable of life’s absurdity.
I’ve written a tale of the Sixties in the South, centered on school integration and a high school football team, The Intangibles.
I’ve written a rollicking yarn about the feds trying to track down and manipulate a national hero who just happens to be a pot-smoking songwriter, The Audacity of Dope.
I’ve written a collection of 11 short stories, all derived from songs I wrote, Longer Songs.
Signed copies of Lightning in a Bottle are on sale at Emma Jane’s (see ad above). Signed copies of all my fiction are also on sale at L&L Office Supply in uptown Clinton, South Carolina.
Follow me on Twitter @montedutton, @hmdutton (about writing), and/or @wastedpilgrim (more opinionated and irreverent). I’m on Facebook (Monte.Dutton), Instagram (TUG50), and Google-Plus (MonteDuttonWriter).