We continue today with the story behind the story on the eighth piece of short fiction from my upcoming collection, Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure. To read previous installments, go here.
Backstory: Long after I wrote about Ross Newbry as an adult, I came back to him, this time as an adolescent. Since family relationships seem to be the vein of fiction that I most eagerly mine, I wanted to explore the question of how the reverberations of childhood can mark us and influence our actions as adults. The result was this piece of short fiction, set in the early ’80s in Miles City, Montana. It’s another father-son story — an area that has been well-trod in my first two novels — but this one tacks a much different course.
Here’s an excerpt:
“That’s not much of a story,” the boy said, scooping the last bite of ice cream into his mouth.
“I just figured you’d want to hear it,” Dwight said, a bit too quickly, and he winced as he realized that he’d let the boy know he’d been wounded.
“No, you said it was too good a story to waste,” Ross said, staring at him. “It wasn’t good at all. It sucked.”
Dwight tugged at the napkin on the table, straightening it.
“What are you so angry about, Ross?”
“I’m not angry. I’m really glad you and Mom had a great day. That’s so awesome. Didn’t really stop you from leaving us, though, did it? You’re here, she’s at home, she doesn’t want me, I’m here, I don’t want to be with you. It really worked out for me, didn’t it?”
Dwight clasped his hands in front of him. “Ross—”
“Ross, about me and your momma—”
“Shut up!” The boy threw back his chair, crashing it against the stained-wood wall of Dwight’s trailer. He ran to his room, shaking the doublewide again with a slammed door.
For a long time, Dwight stared into his bowl, waiting for his heart to thump with less urgency. When he finally scooped out some of the melted vanilla, the sound of his spoon clinking against the bowl reverberated in a house that had gone silent.
(Copyright © 2012 Craig Lancaster)
Trivia: Jim Quillen, the violent father at the center of my novel The Summer Son, is in the heart of this story, too. It’s a few years on from the breach between Jim and the narrator of the novel, his son Mitch. Jim’s appearance was in no way planned, but I have to say, he fit perfectly into this story, and it was good to see him again.
Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure will be officially released on Dec. 6, 2011.
I’m thrilled to be able to announce that my third book, QUANTUM PHYSICS AND THE ART OF DEPARTURE, will be released on December 6th, 2011.
The book is a collection of ten short stories — some previously published, some not — that fall under the broad heading of family drama. It’s not a novel-in-short-stories (as seems to be popular these days) or a group linked by a singular time and place (ditto). Like my two novels, 600 HOURS OF EDWARD and THE SUMMER SON, the settings are largely Montana, but the themes could play out anywhere. If there’s a unifying idea to the book, it is one that explores the concept of separation–whether it’s from burdens, ideas, fears, beliefs, places or people.
Here’s a quick look at the stories:
SOMEBODY HAS TO LOSE: A championship basketball coach gets caught between his team, the rabid partisans in his town, and the disparate desires of his family.
THIS IS BUTTE. YOU HAVE TEN MINUTES: Consigned to a late-night bus ride, a traveling salesman shares space with a coterie of oddballs and lost souls, and one mysterious woman. (This previously appeared in e-book form as the title story in a three-story bundle.)
ALYSSA ALIGHTS: A teenage runaway finds herself in an unlikely alliance with a self-styled street vigilante. (This also appeared in the aforementioned e-book.)
STAR OF THE NORTH: A prison inmate who has been stripped of everything except his sense of self-righteousness takes a young arrival under his wing. (Also appeared in the aforementioned e-book.)
CRUELTY TO ANIMALS: Two mismatched lovers try to hold together a long-distance relationship. (Previously appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Montana Quarterly.)
QUANTUM PHYSICS AND THE ART OF DEPARTURE: A husband and wife realize they are on opposite sides of their desires.
THE PAPER WEIGHT: A longtime journalist faces a worrisome new reality–and learns some new tricks–when he’s busted down to an entry-level job.
SHE’S GONE: A boy is shunted off to the father he barely knows, a man who has plenty of his own problems.
SAD TOMATO: A LOVE STORY: You’ll just have to read it.
COMFORT AND JOY: A young man who has lost his father to a tragic accident finds a friend he never would have expected in an old man who lives next door. (This was previously published as a standalone e-book last December as a fundraiser for Feed America. More on that in a second.)
Now, while the book will not be officially released until December 6th, I’m offering early copies for sale through this site.
Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure will be officially released on Dec. 6, 2011. However, you can get an advance signed copy now for $14 (plus shipping).
One last note: As the final story, “Comfort and Joy,” takes up roughly 10 percent of the book, I will be contributing 10 percent of all net proceeds from the sale of this book to Feed America and its effort to eradicate hunger in the U.S. I said last December, when I intially published the story, that its earnings would go to food charities in perpetuity, and so it will be.
Thanks for reading!
This will be blessedly short. It’s 2:05 a.m. as I begin it, and I’m exhausted:
Really Cool News, At Least To Me, Part 1: A poem of mine has been published by The Montucky Review, a new literary journal. It’s called Eastward Ho, and I wrote it about five years ago. Sometime back, I posted it on Facebook, and a friend of mine — a true poet named John Wall — suggested some revisions, which I finally made last weekend, right before I submitted it.
As I write poetry about as often as Boston releases an album — and to far less satisfying results — I wouldn’t expect to see this feat duplicated any time soon.
Really Cool News, At Least To Me, Part 2: The short-story collection that I’ve been bleating about (now renamed She’s Gone) is done, done, done, done. That’s why I’m up at such an insane hour. I’ll be sending it along to my publisher this week.
Pointless News, To Everybody: Because I don’t waste enough time online, I have a new social-media presence. Check it out (or look at the ghastly screen grab above).
I know this feature is supposed to focus on things that are happening, well, away from here, but if you haven’t checked out Jim Thomsen’s piece on the band Sniff ‘n’ The Tears (directly below this post), you really are missing out on something special. If you haven’t checked out the first video, for the band’s hit song “Driver’s Seat,” please do. If you don’t like it, please see a doctor, as you’re probably dead.
Jim will be back next Monday with Part 2, an interview with Sniff’s lead singer and songwriter, Paul Roberts. It’s not to be missed.