February 8, 2015 Leave a comment
I mentioned at the outset of these blogs about the story collection that I almost titled them “Trailer Park Stories.” Interestingly enough, there are only two stories in the collection set in trailer parks. “Hands on the Wheel” is the second one.
As you can see (if you’ve been reading these blogs the last few weeks), I’m not always sure how a story will end. Often, I have to move in with a character for a while. I might have some specific scenes in mind and I generally have a sense of how I want to start a story. All those things may change before all is said and done but once I start writing I have the basic story arc in mind. Of course, characters sometimes hijack those initial plans, but we all have to start somewhere.
When I started “Hands on the Wheel,” I knew the story would end with the narrator outside a bar in his dad’s old truck looking at his hands on the steering wheel. I knew his dad would already be dead and that the narrator was in the process of making a decision about his life after encountering an old friend from the trailer park of his youth. This is only one of two stories that ended exactly as I thought they might when I started the story.
I told someone the other day that each story has little bits and pieces that I like. In “Love is Not a Dirty Word,” there’s a scene where the narrator stops in front of an antique store that I think is pretty slick. In “Coitus,” I think there’s a funny moment involving a mobile Bill’s crazy ex-girlfriend leaves on his door knob, and as big a jerk as Nathan Dumbrowski might be (he should have died–sorry bastard that he is) there’s a quote in there from Nietzsche that I think works pretty well.
“Hands” also has one of my favorite sentences. There’s nothing special about the wording, but each time I read the sentence within the context of the story, there’s something about the sadness that pervades the story at that particular moment.
I’ll willingly admit that you (should you read the book) might not have that same reaction. Words and sentences work like that, though. Each of us brings our own historical and contextual baggage into our confrontation with language that our reactions vary. That moment speaks to me for some reason.
Hopefully, if you read the book, you might find one or two of those sentences, also.
Hands on the Wheel
I first met Jolly when I was 15. My dad wasn’t real happy when we started running together, but he never said anything—not directly anyway. Jolly is one of the many things I’ve realized over the years my dad got right.
I was sitting in a bar outside of Abilene, watching the Dallas news when the story broke. Police had found three black men, two shot and one stabbed, at a southside carwash/laundrymat. Early speculation was a drug deal gone bad, and the lead suspect was Jolly Henderson. The news showed a grainy surveillance photo on one side of the screen with a black and white mug shot on the other. I was working as a framer for one of those build them quick home companies, and my hands were cut and calloused in ways that would disappoint my father but afforded me some measure of respect in a place like this. It was 9:30 and I was hot, tired, and normally able to ignore the bad news that invariably signaled the end of another day.
“I been knowing Jolly for about five years now.” The guy on t.v. was a large, toothy man with a scraggly looking beard. He looked like that actor who always plays the fat biker—he’s mean and tough but too ugly to have any lines. There were good reasons to keep him silent.
“His name was sort of ironical, if you know what I mean. I’ve not ever seen the man smile.” The guy was enjoying his five minutes of fame. “Hell, he was just flat out a mean as a snake, if you ask me.” He looked behind him toward the run-down shotgun house. “Still, I never figured him for nothing like this.”
(If you want to know a little more about Jolly, or try to guess the sentence I like so much, click on the link above to buy the book.)