Deal Me In Lite, Week 5: “Where Will You Go When Your Skin Cannot Contain You?” by William Gay
This week’s story comes to us courtesy of the three of clubs and The Best American Short Stories 2007. The luck of the draw is sending me back again and again to this volume – not that I’m complaining, mind you, but I AM really eager to get to the Growing Up in the South collection. Oh well, it will happen eventually.
I picked this story for my list out of the table of contents because the title was incredibly intriguing. The story was intriguing, as well – it’s one of those stories where the author sets the scene immediately using vivid language and imagery. The reader knows something awful is going to happen in this story because of the word choices the author makes from the get-go:
The Jeepster drove westward into a sun that had gone down the sky so fast it left a fiery wake like a comet. Light pooled above the horizon like blood and red light hammered off the hood of the SUV he was driving. He put on his sunglasses. In the failing day the light was falling almost horizontally and the highway glittered like some virtual highway in a fairy tale or nightmare.
I don’t know about you, but I vote for the nightmare, with language like that.
On the outskirts of Ackerman’s Field the neon of a Texaco station bled into the dusk like a virulent stain. Night was falling like some disease he was in the act of catching. At the pumps he filled the SUV up and watched the traffic accomplish itself in a kind of wonder. Everyone should have been frozen in whatever attitude they’d held when the hammer fell on Aimee and they should hold that attitude forever. He felt like a plague set upon the world to cauterize and cleanse it.
The story is told completely from the point of view of “the Jeepster” whose girlfriend, Aimee, left him for an older man, Escue. Eventually, however, she comes back, claiming Escue is crazy and has begun beating her. Escue eventually tracks her down and shoots both her and himself. This sends the Jeepster over the edge, and he sets off on a mission supposedly to retrieve Aimee’s car, the car she was murdered in, but soon it turns into a much more sinister and gruesome mission when her family refuses to let him pay his last respects to her at the funeral home.
Did you get the impression that this is not a happy story? It’s not, with a shocking ending and no redemption for any of the characters. The author also uses the interesting technique where all the dialogue is presented without quotation marks. It’s oddly effective in this story, but I can’t put my finger on exactly why. I think it serves to kind of “flatten out” the pace and events of the story, so that when the reader gets to the climax, it becomes just that much more disturbing. Has anyone else encountered this technique? Any ideas on why authors use it sometimes?