“Amphetamine Twitch” a short story by Frank Bill

Note: I’ll still be publishing a weekly wrap-up post for the Deal Me In 2014 Short Story Challenge this Sunday, with links to any new posts (since the last wrap-up) by the participants. Here’s my second story, though…

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Story #2 – “Amphetamine Twitch” by Frank Bill

This week I drew the two of spades for my Deal Me In Short Story Reading Challenge. Deuces are “wild” so I had no story assigned to this card. Spades are my suit for “darker stories” so I thought I’d try one from the acclaimed collection “Crimes in Southern Indiana” by Frank Bill. (Read the Goodreads capsule on this book at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/10713935-crimes-in-southern-indiana?from_search=true ) Oh, and I live in Indiana too. Central Indiana, though. :-) I searched the contents and settled on this one based on title only. Like millions of others, last year I got caught up in the amazing AMC series, “Breaking Bad,” whose main character (if you’ve been living under a rock) Walter White “breaks bad” and becomes a methamphetamine cook. So, I opened my book to page 162 and started reading…

The first two sentences grab the reader instantly and paint a vivid picture: “Alejandro’s knuckles sprayed backdoor glass across kitchen tile. His fingers twisted red on the doorknob and deadbolt.” Pretty vivid imagery, huh? Alejandro is addicted to crystal meth but, as chance has it, his latest victims are the family of a member of law enforcement, detective Mitchell, who later blames himself for not being home when the break-in occurred. Heap this on top of his already soured outlook on what life “in these parts” had come to in the past few years when “…everything had become tense. Meth had scourged the land. Made working-class folk less human. More criminal,” and you have a character ready to exact some brutal revenge.

“Hollywood” has always seemed to make the drug trade somewhat glamorous, and of course it doesn’t always show the bottom line impact to normal people. Breaking Bad was for the most part like that. With the exception of a few interludes where Jesse was running his own private house full of drug-stupor-ed friends, we don’t see the countless working class people that formed the base of Walter White’s towering pyramid of cash. In this story, we do see a scene of those at the bottom when Alejandro is “holed up with a new crop of illegals in a one-bedroom shack. Men with frayed ends and raisin features plastered like the dead from a battlefield across the room.”

No punches are pulled in this story. The realities are harsh and violent, which makes it a hard story to like, but what’s not hard is appreciating the gritty and powerful writing. My only problem with it was that, in my opinion, the plot of this particular story itself didn’t seem up to the level of the writing. It’s a relatively basic story of revenge but not much more. Still, I’ll be reading the rest of the stories in the book at some point.

What short stories did YOU read this week? Had you heard of this author before? (I hadn’t until a couple months ago) Were you also a fan of Breaking Bad?

Below: Bryan Cranston would never have made that kind of money as Jerry’s dentist on “Seinfeld” would he?

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4 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    January 12, 2014 at 10:12 am

    Hi Jay! A Wild Card right off the bat! I’m one of the few people who have not watched Breaking Bad. I have thought several times about watching it on Netflix but haven’t gotten around to it. I’ve heard good things about it.

    Your collection sounds interesting especially the local aspect of it. I look forward to hearing about more of the stories.
    -Dale

    • Jay said,

      January 12, 2014 at 10:18 am

      Hi Dale,

      You should probably read it too. You may actually be, technically, closer to “Southern Indiana” than I am! :-) I was a little disappointed I drew a wild card so early, but the decision to leave myself in the hands of Fate regarding the order has already been made…

      I was late getting on the Breaking Badwagon (I just now came up with that neologism) but enjoyed the ride. Though often quite violent, it was a very well-done and intelligent series. And that home stretch of the final episodes -Wow!
      -Jay

  2. January 13, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    I’ve heard great things about this book and I am indeed a lover of Breaking Bad. Louis Theroux has a good doc about a crystal meth city (I think you can watch on youtube).

    • Jay said,

      January 14, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Hi AFP,

      Thanks for the tip on Theroux. I was sad when Breaking Bad was over, but thought they at least wrapped up the series nicely. (& my team in a local pub trivia league have renamed ourselves “Breaking Nerd” to honor the series – and yes, we write the name in the “periodic table font” format on our scoresheets too :-) )

      I’ll probably read the rest of the stories in this book sooner rather than later. I wanted to read more immediately after I finished this one.

      -Jay


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