Friday Fiction: Jessica Ch 20 “Robbing the Future”

Thank you for visiting BCM’s Friday Fiction.  A new chapter will be posted every Friday.

Chapter 20 – Robbing the Future

Jimmy’s confession to me put me into shock. We sat on that blanket by the lake late into the night. Jimmy’s words had flown out and he couldn’t take them back. And now they circled around and around my head, making me dizzy with disbelief. We spent hours talking, Jimmy explaining, me asking questions, trying to understand and then finally we were silent. There was no great answer waiting for us at the end of all those words and we sat exhausted on the blanket.

Jimmy didn’t want to go home. I couldn’t bring him home with me. So we sat. Separate. I didn’t know how to comfort him, but Jimmy was the one who kept the space between us. He looked hurt and spent and yet I desperately, selfishly wanted to know how we, Jimmy and I, would fare through this crisis. Thoughts of my crumbling future with Jimmy were making me shake.

At midnight we got into the truck. I closed my door and leaned my head back.

“Come here, Jes.” Jimmy’s voice. It was low and sweet and weak and needy and it stirred within me a deep feeling that I could not understand. In a brief span I both longed to put his head in my lap and stroke the hair on his head, like a baby and then all I wanted was for him to comfort me, to tell me it would all be alright.

I slid over to Jimmy. He spread the blanket on us and we leaned back and listened to the sounds by the lake. I woke at dawn to Jimmy gently kissing my face.

“We’d better go,” he said. And he turned the key and started his truck. I looked at the clock on the dashboard and knew I would be late for work for the first time.

Stu’s car was missing from the driveway when we got to Jimmy’s house. Thank God, I thought. I wondered where Stu would be this early.

“I’m sorry you’re going to be late for work, Jes,” Jimmy apologized.

“It’s okay. I can call the diner,” I answered.

“You want something before you go home?” Our words were ordinary, but they were a comfort. They were pulling us back into a normal rhythm. I was exhausted, but Jimmy’s voice, so silent for so many hours, was giving me a new energy.

“Let me make you something,” he offered. “I can make you some tea and some toast.” Sweet Jimmy. He knew I hated coffee. He knew I always had tea and toast in the mornings. I thought that this small understanding between us, and other things like this might hold us together, might help pull us through.

I called the diner at 5:45 and told them I was sick. Jimmy made me breakfast and we sat in his kitchen, trading small, comforting words.

“Where’s your dad?” I asked quietly.

“He’s probably upstairs sleeping off a night at the Green Jug,” answered Jimmy. I had seen his father’s car in the driveway, but Gene’s was missing.

“Do you think Stu and Gene are out together?” I asked.

“Well it’s too early to be building decks. I don’t want to know where they are, but I figure they are out organizing some of the shit we stole last week.”

I suddenly thought of the rocks and I knew this was the time to ask. “Jimmy, do those stacked rocks have anything to do with the robberies?”

Jimmy looked at me and his eyes were red and bitter. “Yeah, that was Stu’s dumbass idea. They’re a signal to our contact that we’ve finished a job. When he sees the rocks he knows to get ready for us to bring the stuff to him. Then he puts a stack of rocks in front of his house to tell us it’s all clear. I don’t know how he came up with the idea and why he insists on it. I think he gets some kind of thrill out of making signals with those stupid rocks. He looks like an idiot out there stacking them up.”

“Jimmy, I noticed those rocks months ago and tried to ask Stu about them and he blew me off. You did too, Jimmy. And I’ve seen the same kind of rocks at a house on 401, when my mom had to drive me to work. And one time I saw a guy driving in a beat-up car with duct tape on the mirror and then I saw that same car in that driveway. Is that where you’ve been taking the stuff you stole and who is that creepy guy?”

Jimmy had held nothing back, I thought, that whole night and I was grateful to him for that. I was beginning to see things more clearly. But Jimmy looked at me funny and then he looked away.

“You’re right about what you saw, Jes. That is the guy we know and that’s where we’ve been taking the stuff.” Then Jimmy stopped.

“Well who is he?” I asked again.

“Oh, he’s just some guy, Jes.”

Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Nancy Krusoe – Author Info

Nancy Krusoe pren-z.org
Nancy Krusoe
pren-z.org

Nancy Krusoe is an American author who was born and raised in Georgia. She wrote the story “Landscape and Dream” as a student in a Theory of Fiction class in the creative writing program at California State University. Her work has appeared in Magazine, The Santa Monica Review, American Writing, and The Georgia Review. I found this information in The Best American Short Stories 1994. I was unable to find much additional information about Krusoe, but I did find the following:

A book called Hens, Cows, Canoes/Wallpaper, co-authored by Krusoe and Lisa Bloomfield, was published in 2008, but is currently out of print.

A 2009 book of drawings, Doubting Thomas, uses Krusoe’s text from a novel-in-progress, Cellophane.

I also found a recent short story, “Fences and Fabrications” published on Phren-Z, an online literary magazine in Santa Cruz, California.

Be sure to check out my review of “Landscape and Dream”.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

America America by Ethan Canin

America AmericaAmerica America
by
Ethan Canin

Rating:
3 book marks

In 1971, Henry Bonwiller is near the front of the race to become the next Democratic nominee for president of the United States, and a young Corey Sifter is there to witness his rise and ultimate fall, as an aide to the money and power behind the campaign, Liam Metarey. America America is a coming-of-age story set inside a political drama in which Corey, the hard working teenage son of a tradesman in the upstate New York town of Saline, is taken under Metarey’s wing. Saline is a fictional town in which the Metarey family has built, controlled and nourished for generations – its fortune built from the family’s business in mining, lumber, oil, transportation and banking. But the Metareys have also taken good care Saline’s people and the feeling of security of having a town benefactor is built into the lives of everyone who lives in there.

The story spans thirty years, with a great deal of jumping back and forth between story lines. The book’s main story revolves around Corey, who becomes an errand boy, driver and helper during Bonwiller’s campaign. Corey is thrilled to be around the excitement of a presidential campaign. He sees and hears a great deal and, as a scandal emerges, Corey realizes he has played a part in the cover-up. Did he choose to look the other way or was Liam Metarey protecting him?

Secondary stories focus on Corey’s present-day life as a newspaper man with grown daughters and his questions about and feelings of regret over how he was involved in a scandal that changed many lives. An additional section presents Corey as a college student, just a little bit removed from the events that alter him.

Canin details Bonwiller’s campaign strategy as he makes his way through the primaries, going up against Muskie, McGovern, Wallace and the rest, with a longer-term view of how Bonwiller will campaign against Richard Nixon. Corey loves the excitement of press conferences, speeches and campaigning events which are headquartered at Metarey’s mansion in Saline. He’s a great observer and keeps his mouth shut, earning Metarey’s trust.

This book is full of Corey’s reflections, who has a bit of a self-important attitude, a characteristic that takes away from the book’s appeal. It’s also a long book, 458 pages, and full of these musings. But the story is very readable, despite its length. Some details hang, some are tied up. Some characters disappear completely, particularly Corey’s college girlfriend. Other sections are a little bit boring, especially near the end, as Corey’s elderly father takes up reading, with frequent references to philosophers and great works. In addition, the heavy liberal message is hard to miss.

On a personal note, I had to laugh at his mention of Colgate University, in Hamilton, NY, where Corey’s college-age daughter is a student. On a visit to town, he describes the “main avenue of businesses, where the cafés and clothing stores and antiques shops were doing a brisk commerce and students and families and groups of businessmen in suits with cellphones out were filling up most of the narrow sidewalk.” Anyone who’s walked the streets of this small rural town knows how silly this description sounds! But that’s the writer’s choice to add color, I suppose.

All in all, despite being a little slow at times, a good summer read. Details about what really happened are not completely revealed until the end, giving the book momentum, and reader motivation.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

 

Thom Jones – Author Info

Thom Jones hubpages.com
Thom Jones
hubpages.com

Thom Jones is an American writer of short stories.  His principal works are The Pugilist at Rest – Stories (1993), Cold Snap – Stories (1995), and Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine – Stories (1999).

Here is a short biography from eNotes.com.

Biographical Information

Jones was born on January 26, 1945, in Aurora, Illinois. His father was a professional fighter, which seems to have had a large influence on Jones’s life. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University in Washington in 1970 and an M.F.A. from the University of Iowa in 1973. Prior to attending the University of Washington, Jones married Sally Williams, to whom he is still married. He also served in the Marine Corps, where he had an amateur career as a boxer. However, his boxing and military career ended when he received a brain injury in the ring, which resulted in his suffering from epilepsy. Although Jones received his M.F.A. in 1973, he didn’t work steadily as a writer for quite some time; instead, he worked as a janitor in a school where his wife was the librarian. The Pugilist at Rest (1993), although his first book, immediately gained him a reputation as an excellent writer. He has since published two more collections of short stories and has taught at the program that helped produce him, the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Iowa.”

Be sure to visit my review of “Cold Snap”, an excellent short story.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Ethan Canin – Author Info

writersworkshop.uiowa.edu
writersworkshop.uiowa.edu

Ethan Canin is an American writer and physician. He attended Stanford University, the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop and then Harvard University, where he earned a medical degree. In 1998, Canin gave up his medical profession to concentrate on writing, his true passion. He is now F. Wendell Miller Professor of English at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and is the author of six books, including the 2008 New York Times best seller, America, America.

In 2008, “The Year of Getting to Know Us” was adapted into a movie of the same name, starring Tom Arnold, Sharon Stone, Jimmy Fallon and Lucy Liu.

For more information about Canin, check out his website at ethancanin.com.

You can find additional information on Wikipedia and Canin’s Author Page on Amazon.

And be sure to visit my review of “The Year of Getting to Know Us” and my preview of America America.

America America

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

Friday Fiction: Jessica Ch 19 “Taking More”

Thank you for visiting BCM’s Friday Fiction.  A new chapter will be posted every Friday.

Chapter 19 – Taking More

I started to see Jimmy’s truck missing from his driveway more often in the mornings, usually only a few hours after I’d left him late in the night and I wondered where it was that he was going, why he would need to leave the still-warm bed we had shared, the one I had just left. Was he waiting for me to leave on those nights? Was he jumping up right after he heard me back out the driveway? It bothered me that Jimmy was doing something that I didn’t know about and I struggled to think of a way that I could ask him without making him mad. I didn’t think it was right that he was doing something that was in the middle of the night but I was afraid to ask because I worried that Jimmy was going off to see someone besides me.

I didn’t like thinking that Jimmy might also be involved with someone else. When I’d drive by and see that he was gone from his house, I could almost feel myself falling from the view of our future, where I was perched and only waiting for Jimmy to give me the sign by joining me. I had been working so hard towards this goal and I felt a queasy mix of worry and fear, wondering if once again I would be left alone.

I thought of Mom. What exactly did she do that was good to cope when Dad and then Stevie left? Besides cleaning the house and getting a job, what had gone inside Mom to direct her through the emptiness? I suddenly felt ashamed when I realized that I had always thought Mom was weak. She cowered, I remembered, she cried, she withdrew around me and Stevie and then just around me. Then she became fixed on keeping me from going the wrong way or from leaving her.

But Mom, I realized, was doing what she could do to make it. She had no one to lean on. She found a way, despite my scorn. I started to understand that Mom had a good job after all, that we lived in a nice house. I knew Dad still sent us money, but I wondered how much. I realized Mom was working harder than Dad to support us because she was here doing the job and he was just sending a check.

I wondered if she was happy. We never talked about our happiness. We existed together but I had done my best to avoid Mom. I tried to brush off a feeling of guilt and I wondered what Mom was doing at that moment, what she was thinking.

I hadn’t told Jimmy about Stu. I was afraid of his reaction. Maybe he would think I had asked for it. I still thought I could handle Stu, as uncomfortable as I was around him. He had only kissed me after all and I talked myself into believing that I was the reason he stopped. I could handle Stu.

Jimmy and I took a ride to the lake one night after work. It was one of those early summer nights when the sun’s warmth pulls everyone outdoors and strangers, when they catch each other’s eyes, share the unspoken happiness that comes with the carefree feeling of getting something good out of a work day. We drove out there in Jimmy’s truck, blanket and a six-pack in the back.

The sun was close to setting and I spread the blanket at the edge of the water. We sat and Jimmy handed me a beer. Jimmy was the one who suggested we go to the lake that night. I was glad to get out of my house, and glad to have Jimmy to myself, without worrying that Stu would be around.

“It’s nice here tonight, isn’t it, Jimmy?” I asked.

“Yup,” he answered and before he had even finished his first beer, he was grabbing the next and opening it. I was quiet. I figured he was still trying to shake off his day. I sat and sipped my beer and looked out on the lake which was quiet, with a glass-like stillness.

“Jes,” he started. The voice that I loved had a strange tone to it and it startled me. I wasn’t sure I knew it. I was afraid to look at him. I wondered how the tone of Jimmy’s voice, one word spoken, my name, in fact, how this alone could create a panic in me, with no warning. I got the courage to look at him and when I turned I saw that his eyes were wet and glassy.

“Jimmy, what is it?” I asked. I didn’t know what was coming. I didn’t know what to do to brace myself for what would come next.

“Jes, I’m in trouble and I don’t know what to do.”

“What do you mean, Jimmy? What is it?” It was suddenly worse not knowing. “What kind of trouble, Jimmy?”

“I’m in way over my head and I don’t even know how to begin to tell you. I don’t even know if I should tell you because I’m afraid you will hate me if you know, but I can’t keep it all in anymore.”

I couldn’t stand it. “Jimmy, what is it? Tell me what it is.” I was sure he was going to tell me that he was leaving, that there was another girl, that she was pregnant.

Jimmy started his story in a babbling, unorganized confession. He swore to me that he didn’t know he was going to get as deep into things as Stu. He only wanted a little extra cash. He didn’t think what he was doing was so wrong, but now everything was going so wrong. And he didn’t know how to pull out of it. And Stu was putting on the pressure to do more.

“Do more what?” I yelled. I was starting to get scared.

“Oh Jes. We are deep into layers upon layers of burglaries, of stealing computers and other crap and unloading it for cash. At first I thought it would be just one time, but Stu, he’s such a greedy shit, he said it was so easy the first time we should just keep going. I didn’t know what to say because he was right, it had been so easy and it was quick and we all got pockets full of cash. How can you say no to that? It’s not like we were hurting anyone, we were just taking stuff and making a profit so we could get ahead in the world. That’s how Stu put it.”

I had been expecting such a completely different story that I didn’t know how to react to Jimmy’s confession. My head was spinning, half with relief that I wasn’t losing him and half with the cloudy confusion of trying to understand his complicated story in such a short period of time. His rambling had just spilled out and was hard to follow and I was just beginning to put the facts together.

“Jimmy, you have to get out of this. Just tell Stu you want to stop. Tell him you’re out.”

“Jes, it’s not that easy. You don’t know Stu very well. He’s my brother, but he’s a real bastard if he doesn’t get what he wants. And Gene, he’s got Gene right under his thumb and he’s barely seventeen. Says he’s teaching him the deck business but that’s all a bunch of bullshit. He’s got Gene working for him making decks, sure, but he’s teaching him how to steal on the side. Me and Stu, we’ve never gotten along and I thought I had gotten out of his reach by doing my own thing and my job at _____________ has been a good one. I thought I could break away from him. Ever since Mom died, Dad hasn’t been right, he’s been helpless in fact and he’s pretty much left us to take care of ourselves. And Stu stepped up as he always puts it, but all he’s ever done was order us around.”

“Jimmy, then how the hell did you get pulled into this in the first place?” I asked.

“I’m so stupid sometimes, I don’t know when to shut up. I had come home from work one day and I was so excited because my boss was getting ready to send me to one of his corporate customers, to work there for two weeks and do a bunch of repairs on-site. I was bragging, I guess, trying to show Stu that I had a job that was making some money. I didn’t notice Stu’s face when I first started telling him about my new assignment, but by the time I had finished talking, he had a hungry look in his eyes and he looked like was working a plan out in his head. At first I thought he was thinking about something besides my bragging, but then he started to tell me what a great job I was doing. He was really buttering me up, I guess, telling me how important I was. At first I thought he was just being sarcastic, telling me for the thousandth time how inferior I was, but he actually sounded sincere and I was so fucking excited about my job that I kept on talking about how I would be going there starting the next Monday, how it was a real swank office, full of fancy computer equipment and, Jes, I didn’t realize that Stu was making up a plan to steal that equipment right out of the office where I was getting my first important assignment at work.”

“Well before that night was over, Stu had me agree to make an inventory of what was there, which offices had the best stuff, and told me to figure out the best way to get in there after hours. He told me we could make a shit-load of cash from just this one job, that he’d already pulled a few other burglaries like this and with Gene and me helping him out we’d be able to get a good profit from just one job.”

“I had told him I was afraid of getting caught and losing my own job, but Stu started being real nice to me and acting like he had changed his mind about me, telling me I wasn’t the stupid little brother that he’d always said I was and that we had to pull ourselves out of our shit-hole house since Dad wasn’t good for anything anymore except drinking to escape to some other place.”

“And Jes, it was easy, just like Stu said it was going to be. We didn’t take too much at first. We took a couple things to test out our plan and then we went back three more times so it wouldn’t look like a huge robbery, like maybe a bitter employee was sneaking stuff home piece by piece after work, not us. And we didn’t do it until a month after my assignment there, but I had been lucky enough to steal a key-card, the kind that disarms the alarm when you enter the building.”

“Oh Jes, I don’t know what to do. I’m so deep into this and I don’t want to be. And I’m fucking scared of Stu. I told him a few weeks ago I just wanted to work at my own job, that I wanted to get out of this other crap and he actually slapped me across the face and told me I’d better shut up and do what he said.”

I was astonished at what I was hearing. I sat there on the blanket and felt Jimmy’s panic. I looked at him and said, “Jimmy, you’ve got to move out of there, now.”

Thank you for reading – all comments are welcome.

© All rights reserved.  All material on this blog is the property of Book Club Mom. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

 

 

What’s up next? America America by Ethan Canin

America America
America America
by
Ethan Canin

I recently enjoyed reading the short story, “The Year of Getting to Know Us” and wanted to read something else by Canin. I found his latest book, America America (2008), at the library and started it this morning. The book takes place during the Nixon era in the 1970s and is about Henry Bonwiller, a powerful senator from New York who is running for president of the United States. The narrator, Corey Sifter, rises from a working-class family to become his aide, and then, in a mix of loyalty, politics, love, sex and all the accompanying questions of truth and morality, the story gets complicated.

I’m looking forward to reading more!

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!