Saturday, October 22, 2011

This is Where the Road Ends

As I’ve no doubt mentioned, the writing group I’m a part of, Snutch Labs, has a book coming out soon entitled Tales from the Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station.  With pre-ordering ending in a little over a week ($6 off if you pre-order), I thought I’d share some thoughts on one of the stories and give you an excerpt.

What you’ll find below is the opening section of John Mantooth’s entry, “This Is Where the Road Ends.”  I know a lot of writers by now, but only a couple of them have real voice.  John is one of them (and I hate him for it).  It also plays a large part in why John's about to have his first collection of stories, Shoebox Train Wreck,  coming out with ChiZine Publications soon.   I mean, just read that second paragraph and try not to get jealous.  I'm not going to “tie the [story] to a chair with rope and torture a confession out of it” as Billy Collins says, and attempt  to explain to you why I love John’s writing so much.  Just read an example of it below (that second paragraph is a real beaut).  You’ll understand.

And when you’re finished and want more, head here to buy Tales from the Yellow Rose Diner and Fill Station.  You’ll get the rest of this story, and six other fine stories as well.


“This is Where the Road Ends” by John Mantooth

Jonas hit the kid on a warm fall afternoon, the sun flattening out over the horizon in a spectacular crush of gold. Sometimes, especially late at night when the house was quiet and he’d gone out to look at the stars, he almost convinced himself it was that sun, not the seven beers he’d had over lunch with Bryant Keith that had caused the accident.

The worst part was that Jonas had been expecting him, bracing for him even. How many times had he made the turn by the Mitchell farm and seen the fat little kid trudging home from his bus stop? Dozens, at least. Probably more. The kid had always had the common sense to stay on the left, out of harm’s way because even a fat little kid knew the turn was as blind as Stevie Wonder. Sometimes, he’d even wave, but most days he’d just huff and puff his way on past, like the little kid that could, trying to make it home from his bus stop in time for a glass of milk and a bagful of cookies before the reruns on channel eleven started at four. Once Jonas saw him on his knees, investigating a dog carcass. It was the only time he didn’t look comical, like the little fat kid you see in the movies that doesn’t run because he waddles, the kid that got all the bad genes and all the bad luck. But even then, poised above the dead dog like a prayerful Buddha, he had been on the left side of the road.

The day Jonas hit him, he was on the right.

Jonas tried to brake, but all that did was give the kid time to look up from watching his feet. Their eyes locked for a long second and then there was a sound like you hear when somebody sits on your hood and the sheet metal pops. Then the kid was airborne, and somehow one of the boy’s feet got snagged on Jonas’s side mirror, and his body twisted violently before the foot was wrenched free. Jonas felt his seatbelt lock as the car came to a hard, tread-burning stop.

What followed was silence. This was the moment that could still make Jonas a blubbering idiot. He could think about all of it now, all of it except that one moment when he had to actually make himself get out of the car. Make himself see what was left of the kid.

When he did get out, he was blank. Can the mind ever be completely blank? At that moment, climbing out of the car, his was. It was as if his brain was in the process of rebooting itself, of clearing the old memory, deleting programs that would no longer be relevant, and getting ready to adapt to a new operating system, one that came with viruses and malware, and an impossibly steep learning curve.

After the blankness, when his mind started working again, the only thing he could think was it isn’t real. There is not dead boy on the road. There is not an impending 911 call.

He was lying just off the side of the road, a lump of breathing flesh. His sweatshirt had gotten twisted around his neck and his bare belly was exposed. Jonas watched it heaving for a full twenty seconds before he realized what this meant.

1 comment:

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