Monthly Archives: October 2007

William Gay, "Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You?"

When Aimee dies, Leonard becomes the crazed, unreasonable Jeepster.

(from The Best American Short Stories 2007)

The Jeepster couldn’t keep still. For forty-eight hours he’d been steady on the move and no place worked for long. He’d think of somewhere to be and go there and almost immediately suck the life from it, he could feel it charring around him. He felt he was on fire and running with upraised arms into a stiff cold wind, but instead of cooling him the wind just fanned the flames. His last so-called friend had faded on him and demanded to be left by the roadside with his thumb in the air.
The Jeepster drove westward into a sun that had gone down the sky so fast it left a fiery wake like a comet. Light pooled above the horizon like blood and red light hammered off the hood of the SUV he was driving. He put on his sunglasses. In the failing day the light was falling almost horizontally and the highway glittered like some virtual highway in a fairy tale or nightmare.

Okay, see, this story is crazy. It’s got a higher similes-per-sentence ratio than any hip-hop song, more confused images than any rational human reader could possibly comprehend on a first read, and yet it works, kind of. There are moments when “Where Will You Go…” feels over written and/or under-edited, but it’s hard to argue with the overall picture. The plot is gripping, and grippingly arranged. The mood is thick and hazy, and the images are Mountain Goats-esque in their scope. Any writing teacher will tell you that writing a psychopath is too easy, but Gay doesn’t make it seem that way. Constructing The Jeepster and putting him through the wringer seems to be a grueling, strenuous process. Ultimately that’s what makes this story pay off.
Read the first bit of it

Benjamin Percy, "When the Bear Came"

A man pits himself against a bear that terrorizes a small town.

(from American Short Fiction, Summer 2007)

My father taught me how to kill things. How to break apart a rifle and run a brush through its cavities. How to fire a bullet uphill and down. How to rub bitterbrush all over my clothes to camouflage my scent. All sort of hairy information I tucked away in my mind like socks in a drawer.

Hell yes. This is sort of a monster story, except I’m not gonna sit here and villify the bear, it’s just being a bear. No, it’s sort of like the old sci-fi movies: But who is the reeeeal monster in this story? Awesome. This could be some alternate reality Pinckney Benedict story, where the world at first seems to be only as small as a tiny, rural town but turns out to be even smaller, with just a guy and a beast.

Jonathan Messinger, "One Valve Opens"

A high school slam poet grows up.

(from Hiding Out) He grabs a pen from a drawer below the kitchen counter and draws an “X” on the back of his hand. It is to remind him to beat Willie for this dance tomorrow.

That’s sort of what happens, I mean, growing up is a process of course, but this is the story of a talented writer coming into his own. It’s about as sharp a portrayal of such a thing as I’ve ever read. Just so astute and understanding of disenfranchisement and young politics.