If so, may I direct your attention to the October 1st edition of the New York Times‘ “Room for Debate,” in which sometime Unlikely contributor Dr. Ellen Brown and seven other clever analysts discuss the possibility of public banking for individuals in the US. Check it out, and look for more on public banking and Ellen Brown in Unlikely soon!
by: Lindsey Thomas
When the protagonist in Bud Smith’s short story “Scout” feeds his girlfriend’s “new puppy” a goat in the middle of the woods, I was hooked.
When I was working as an editor at Red Fez, this story stood out among the endless stream of submissions pertaining to hunting, bar fights, and sexual conquest, and the poetry written by Bukowski cultists/whatever awful style of poetry is created when a suicide note is cut up and sliced with erotica/excerpts of Led Zeppelin songs. Bud has an absurd sense of humor with a wide appeal based on pop culture, the plight of working people, strip mall culture and American decay.
Not too long after I read “Scout,” it appeared in Or Something Like That. This collection of short stories contains some of my other favorite Bud Smith stories. One of these is titled “Broadsword.” It’s about a D&D Master who loses his prized weapon and is compelled to carry around a scalding cup of coffee to throw in someone’s face in case he feels threatened. Mid-crisis, his mother rolls to the top of the stairs and says “Lets go get some soda, buy two get two free.” After he questions whether or not this is a healthy idea, she replies, “They already took my legs, I’d hate to live a life without carbonation.”
“Everything” is about a college student whose employment assignments sometimes include working as a clown or a princess to entertain children at birthday parties. Her father says he’s worried about her because “clowns usually become alcoholics.” She worries about diseases she could possibly contract from biting children or the injuries caused by boys on BMX bikes, who violently attack while she’s waving at cars and dressed in a giant cowboy helmet. Everything stops when the head is removed and they realize they are beating up a girl. At that moment, she considers the card in her pocket that says “Temptations.” After she is paid to wear a Cinderella costume at a child’s birthday, a kid’s mom tells her that she has great tits and asks: “Have you ever considered stripping?”
An unemployed man tries to make some extra money during the holidays by selling Christmas trees in his neighborhood in the story “Arboles de Navidad.” He doesn’t realize that one of the challenges of the business will include a homeless person who will steal trees and sell them for a fraction of the price across the street.
Although Or Something Like That is hilarious and very engaging, it is self-published and someone with a scrutinizing editorial eye will notice some rough patches. Bud’s strength doesn’t come from an MFA in creative writing or isolating himself in a Vermont cabin in to write an overbearing opus; but from his eye for the ridiculous details of everyday life.
by: Frankie Metro
“I was constantly on the move. But the most striking difference between me and other kids my age was that I simply didn’t have parents. I tried to avoid the subject.”
I suppose this was around the time that The Terrifying Terrific Tantalizing Tall Tale of Tommy Twice by Nathan Leslie (Atticus Books 2012) became somewhat relevant and engaging for me.
Growing up in a nuclear family of anglo-saxon persuasion, I often felt that the only distance I could really put between myself and them was the completely obvious. In many ways, there was this inundated sense of comfortability in the rural settings of Willowtown Hill, (http://aroundguides.com/29352328) acres of wilderness and cultural seclusion; which is something the narrative voice of the story knows all too well himself.
“Gaga raised me near the very top of Pike’s Peak. Not the famous Pike’s Peak. It was a different, less impressive one…”
“Usually I couldn’t see the chasm. I couldn’t see down the mountain. The fog was an omnipresent blanket, seemingly containing a personality of its own…”
Fate feels more like a running gag than a theme in Leslie’s depiction of the vicarious orphan. With only a faded photograph of his parents, more or less a luxury for common adoption scenarios, the only real decisions Tommy can seem to make on his own are those forced on him.
“But what I remember about Gaga were her hands. Not only were her hands the size of oven mitts, they were rough, gnarly calloused, affixed with yellowed fingernails that she ripped off with her teeth and stored in a clear mason jar in her bathroom. Gaga’s hands pushed me, prodded me, guided me, grasped me, protected me. Gaga’s hands were everywhere.”
Unhidden, Gaga’s strong hands represent the overbearance of a viable excuse. It’s also been observed that when a person’s hands are hidden, they are perceived as being less than sincere/trustworthy:
Aside from any psychosexual significance in the story, the latent development of Tommy’s relations is dependent on what he perceives as negligent vs attentive care. While dealing with numerous relatives, aunts with electra complexes, sadist cousins drunk on moonshine in caves, and every possible incarnation of a male role model conceivable in this story, Tommy Twice’s character leaves little room for divulgence from your worst/cliche expectations for a boy coming into adulthood so far from home.
“My last trip in my grandmother’s blue boat of a car was the one we took down into Spencer. I thought she would just drop me at the bus station with a wad of cash and let me figure out how to get to Aunt Tess’s house on my own, but instead Gaga took me by the hand and walked me up to the greasy counter. Then she bought the ticket. That was it for goodbyes.”
When I first approached this book, I immediately thought of Augusten Burrough’s Running With Scissors, something I had read for the first time while incarcerated back in 2009. Specifically what stood out to me about that book was the deep paranoia I felt reading it in a 16 man cell full of illiterate C/o’s, non-supporters, and shoplifters. I even made light of the similarities between Burrough’s take on adoptive parents and the description of Twice’s family in the author’s press release. However, such as is exuded by wonderfully spirited and mysterious dramatis personae like Aunt Tess, there is something left to be said about the refreshing qualities of everything hidden in plain view.
“The Steps to Cleaning Tess’s Hair:
1. Emptying her hair of everything it possessed. This took three combs (each three feet in length with teeth the size of cucumbers), a shovel, and a rake.”
“4. Undoing Tess’s hair. Usually it was kept in a huge nest like mound, but before we could help her wash her hair, we had to untie it…
Tess told us not to be afraid to use our teeth. I was tempted to use a knife or scissors, but I knew if I did that my days with my aunt would be numbered..”
“6. We brought gallons of shampoo… but before we could apply that to Aunt Tess’s hair, we had to let the hair soak. During the soaking process, the animals in Tess’s hair either sank or swam. On this particular day we saw insects, worms, spiders, mice, another kitten, and two baby birds scuttle and thrash in the water, then drown.”
Although it can be rather redundant in some portions, the constant progression of the title character’s coping mechanisms alongside his recollections of silent and true love, Misery (“a big small town surrounded by soybean fields”,) and willing strangers, Nathan Leslie’s superficial depictions of scenery and environment may cause a reader to debate whether attaching oneself to easily recognizable themes is more engaging; versus acclimating yourself with the uncanny and queer elements of an author’s attempt at perceptional control.
An especially sore spot for me was the Choose Your Own Ending finale after Tommy’s estranged time on Bear Lake Island. Five endings in total that ranged from rushed copouts and an unsure narrative quality that peaked in the first and 2nd scenarios, completely nonsensical and unbelievable whitewash, alliterated blue collar meanderings, transient, self-assured bliss, and self admitted lies.
Although not necessarily a remarkable adventure, Nathan Leslie’s book did provide a moducum of entertainment value, which in the end was well worth the numerous hours I spent on the toilet reading it.
And that’s OK! Thanks to the magic of videotape and YouTubes, there’s a new issue of Unlikely Stories: Episode IV, featuring:
Volume Three of Love Has Been Liquidated, John Bryan’s continuing and spiraling choose-your-own-adventure A Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, even role-playing prose poem. Now with dinosaurs!
&UNLIKELY, a 65-minute recording of our show at the Mercury Café in Denver, Colorado, starring Yuriy Tarnawsky, j/j hastain, Tom Bradley, Jeffrey Spahr-Summers, Lindsey Thomas and Frankie Metro
Marthe Reed and j/j hastain performing from their new Unlikely Book, pleth, at the Innisfree Poetry Bookstore and Café in Boulder, Colorado
Tom Bradley reading from his new Unlikely collaboration with David Aronson, We’ll See Who Seduces Whom, at Innisfree
and selections from pleth and We’ll See Who Seduces Whom, now available from Unlikely Books!
Come meet Unlikely staffers Frankie Metro and Lindsey Thomas and former Unlikely staffer Jeffrey Spahr-Summers! Come hear great performances by Yuriy Tarnawsky, j/j hastain, Tom Bradley, and Marthe Reed! And come check out our brand-new Unlikely Books: pleth by j/j hastain and Marthe Reed and We’ll See Who Seduces Whom by David Aronson and Tom Bradley!
As for me, I fly in on Wednesday, and will be wearing pants all the way through Sunday! But I will have a good time anyway if I get to meet you there! If you’re really nice, I’ll show you what I’ve been working on: a stanza of “This Wasted Land” by Marc Vincenz and Tom Bradley, converted into an Android app! I even promise not to wiggle my eyebrows at you while you look at it on my phone!
See you somewhere,