Friday, June 30, 2006
The Little Book of Killing
My first published short story was in a teeny-tiny anthology of stories all involving people killing other people. The leader of an informal group of undergrads who got together to drink coffee and talk about writing and smoke cigarettes (mostly smoke cigarettes) had decided to put this splendid collection together and by some act of God, got it published by an equally teeny-tiny press. I submitted a little piece of cheer to this enterprise titled "Ain't No Life, Nowhere." (many apologies to Jimi Hendrix for blatant title-stealing) My story, topping out at two pages, involved a Vietnam vet whose wife had left him so he sat on a lawnchair with his murdered son rotting inside his house. As he sits, he talks to the dead boy (he shot him two days ago in a fit of post-traumatic stress breakdown), telling him about how awful women are and how proud he was of him as a son. This droning monologue is punctuated by thrilling details written in the tone of stage directions including such bon mots including "grit had permeated his every orifice." What can I say? I was nineteen! Jesus, hold my hand. I never thought it would get accepted, but it did. The writing group were all men older than me, and I served as their little girl mascot, which seemed like an honor in itself, but to be in "The Little Book of Killin'" -- my God, could there be a bigger thrill?
The only other women who ever came to meetings were girlfriends, two of which I recognized from descriptions of their long and slow deaths detailed in excruciating prose in the anthology. One died of rat poison, another of strangulation. How would they respond to this sort of homage? The girls seemed to me to be exotic creatures in large part because of their indifference to writing. They already had the air of bored wives, putting up with their husbands' stupid hobbies. Many years later, I see what they saw -- a bunch of chain-smoking douchebags (myself included in this assessment, even though I didn't smoke), one who even wore a pea coat (this was Texas and even in the coldest months not exactly a necessity) all chattering for hours on a caffeine high. After the anthology was published, the group died, as groups do. Everything has a half-life. I missed it, of course, but like I wrote in that first story, when you don't have anyone to talk to, you talk to God which works just fine, but that also means you have to bring the cigarettes and coffee.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I am almost ready to confess that it is not some awful understanding that has carried me here." Denis Johnson, "Now"
More country songs for drinking involving drinking:
(with much thanks to Jodi who suggested the Travis Tritt!)
"The Bottle Let Me Down" Merle Haggard
"The Whiskey Ain't Working" Travis Tritt
"Whiskey River, Take My Mind" Willie Nelson
"Merry Christmas From the Family" Robert Early Keen
Benedictions and Maledictions
As to Wichita-Lineman's question about Natalie Wood's death -- I suspect foul play, but the most interesting detail about the whole drowning death is that from the time she was a child, Natalie W. had a terrible fear of water, especially dark water, and never learned to swim because of it. She must have had an internal prescience about how she would die.
As to Sheila's question about the store that has runes -- It's Mystic Curio, located at Sixteen Mile and Harper. They have great jewelry as well -- much of my snake jewelry has come from there.