We continue today with the story behind the story on the second piece of short fiction from my upcoming collection, Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure. To read previous installments, go here.
THIS IS BUTTE. YOU HAVE TEN MINUTES.
Backstory: This story, which is just a hair under 5,000 words, was inspired directly by a bus trip I took last fall from Billings to Missoula for the Montana Festival of the Book. I didn’t want to drive for a few reasons: First, I didn’t expect to need my car much during my weekend away, which proved to be true. Second, I wanted to travel as inexpensively as possible. Third, I didn’t have my car, because my wife was using it as she moved out of our home and we rode up to the brink of divorce. I’m not saying that flippantly; it was a horrible time in our lives, and as I’m wont to do, I was particularly attuned to inspiration in that crisis state. I found plenty of it on a Greyhound bus.
Here’s an excerpt:
Thirty-seven miles short of the mark, the Corolla belched forth a metallic grumble and died.
“Threw a rod,” the tow truck driver told him nearly an hour later, when he finally arrived and crawled under the nose of the car for a look-see. “Son of a bitch went right through the pan.”
“Oh, hell,” the man with the BlackBerry said as he relayed the news home in a text message. “I just had the oil changed this morning.”
“Yep,” the tow truck driver said, “and there it is.” He pointed back down I-94 a piece at the last dying cough of oil. “You get it done at one of those in-and-out joints?”
“I seen this happen a lot. Those guys there don’t take much care.”
“Bloody hell,” the man with the BlackBerry said. “How long to fix it?”
The tow truck driver whistled. “Long time. Expensive.”
The man with the BlackBerry rode the rest of the way in the cab of the tow truck, batting back her electronic invective (How could you not know you were leaking oil? How dumb are you?) with apologies and attempts at placation. In between, he attached a name to the tow truck driver, who hadn’t offered one.
Jeff Hobbs. 37 years old. On his third marriage. Works the graveyard shift at the refinery in addition to driving the tow truck. Former football star. Oh, and there’s this: He’s gay.
(Copyright © 2012 Craig Lancaster)
Trivia: The title of this story — This Is Butte. You Have Ten Minutes — comes directly from the mouth of the driver on my ride from Billings to Missoula. After hearing it, I promptly fell back asleep, so I never had a chance to put her on the clock once we arrived at the Butte depot.
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!