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.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand you people. First, you put his pants on. Then you take them off, and then you put them back on. What kind of nudist camp is this?

Anonymous said...

To the above nudie anon.: What number of sunblock are you drinking?

Anonymous said...

Age 19? Maybe James Joyce ain't got nuthin on y'all after all. Nice skirt.

cindy said...

Michelle,
I can just picture it, you in that crowd of pretentious men. You must have learned more than you'll ever need to know right there! That's another beautiful photo of you, regardless of Anon ravings.
xo;
Cindy C.

Cheri said...

My experience at the Mystic Curio goes far back to high school.. my last trip there the fat man who sits behind the counter asked me if my friend was my husband and all I could do was laugh. They charge too much for a Tarot reading when I can just do it myself. ;D

Anonymous said...

Today's 2nd double-header quote: You can leave your hat on. You can leave your hat on. You can leave your hat on.--JC; They don't know what love is. I know what love is.--Etta James(same song as JC, her version).

Anonymous said...

Wise young Ed from Pakistan says, "Those feminists, they are so funny. They should read Kate Chopin's 'Story of an Hour.'"

R's Musings said...

Hey M,
I agree with Cindy; that experience must have taught you a lot about dealing with men. I had a similar experience, myself. Maybe it'll be the next post on my blog! Cheers, R

P.S. Mr. AP is doing what a lot of professors do--stir the pot to see what boils over, which definitely has it's uses, if you're into a little self-reflection. :)

R's Musings said...

Kate Chopin was a wonderful writer! Loved "Story of An Hour" and "The Awakening." She clearly expressed the frustration of women living in a patriarchal society. Scandalous in her time.

Albuquerque, NM said...

I love that you included an excerpt from that early story. It's very funny, and evidence, if anyone needed any, of your brilliant trajectory.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Hey Michelle,
Turns out my stupid hobby is blogging. I make no apologies. And I'm told not to get chatty. --Jim

John Ricci said...

Dear Michelle,

Lovely post and you look beautiful, as always, and that dress is something. Wow. I've become an avid fan of writers and poets now, or at least of one. Your story sounds enchanting. I'd wondered what happened to Natalie Wood, may she rest in peace.

Bravo!

Anonymous said...

Today's literary definition: "Irony is the mode of perception in which at least two views of the same thing exist simultaneously: one is limited;the other(s), less limited."--anonymous

Anonymous said...

"The Story of an Hour" has nothing to do with patriarchy. It has everything to irony. It drips with irony.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to wish you a nice weekend, Michelle. Since its an extra long one, have an extra nice one. Give froggy a big, young kiss. Right on the lips. Leave lots of lipstick.

Anonymous said...

Today's quote: Turn on, tune in, drop out. But just remember, you'll lose your place in line.--Timothy Leary

R's Musings said...

"Story of an Hour"--I agree w/the irony, but you don't see the subtle undertones, AP; you're not a woman, and one that has been married for awhile, I might add.

Sheila said...

Michelle,
I have tried to break into writing things that aren't about killing, death or violence.... but none of it seems to work... maybe i'm just a mystery/thriller writer...or just a bad one.

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