Sunday, April 26, 2015

Deal Me In, Week 17: "The Prophet from Jupiter" by Tony Earley

This week the King of Diamonds took me back to The Best American Short Stories 1994 volume for a story by Tony Earley, originally published in Harper's Magazine.

(Image of the King of Diamonds from the WhiteKnuckle Cards website)

I read this story as my first item in Dewey's Readathon yesterday. It was a captivating story, full of images and quirky characters, and while I don't feel like I got everything out of the story that was there, I enjoyed it very much.

The story is narrated by an unnamed main character, the dam-keeper of a dam in a sleepy little North Carolina resort town called Lake Glen. The dam is an elaborate affair, complete with a generator which supplies the town with more electricity than it can ever use. The dam-keeper's job is to monitor water levels and make sure they are appropriate both for the generator, the dam, and for the residents who recreationally use the lake created by the dam.

The dam-keeper thus becomes a town historian of sorts -- being on the job 24/7, he sees and hears everything. And there's a lot that goes on in this town. It even has its "ghosts" of a sort, since the lake encompasses another town that was flooded when the dam was built.

It has nothing to do with this story, but there's a famous submerged town in Lake Resia, Italy -- all that can be seen now is the bell tower of the church.

The title of the story comes from one of the characters, a former realtor named Archie Simpson who lived in Jupiter, Florida before moving to Lake Glen. He's a prophet because he claims God told him so -- he's the One True Prophet who will lead Christians in the last days. In a sense, the events of this story give the reader a certain sense that some of the characters are living through their own "last days" -- the dam-keeper's wife has left him for the new police chief, the dam-keeper is being replaced by a guy named Randy who is the assistant dam-keeper -- everything seems to be falling apart in a way.

This was an intriguing story because there was so much going on in it. It was also a little confusing because the narrative was not at all straightforward. The narrator keeps jumping back and forth between current events and the events of the past (which, of course, have shaped and informed the current events). It's one of those stories where things come out bit by bit, and by the end of the story the reader has a complete picture of what is really going on. Although it can be confusing, this is one of my favorite kinds of stories because it's most like real life.

The Deal Me In short story challenge is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

1 comment:

  1. This story sounds intriguing. I have never read anything by Tony Earley. Your Dewey Readathon reading is impressive!