And here I thought I was going to be the only person in town NOT at the track last Sunday…


Where was I instead? The Library of course! The Central Branch of the IMCPL (Indianapolis Marion County Public Library) hosted an event at 3:30 featuring a few authors reading their works from the recently published “Mythic Indy” anthology of short stories. This anthology – as you might guess from the title – is a collection of fabricated myths about Indianapolis (my home town). I was also pleased to learn that this event was intended to be the first of a series featuring the stories and authors in this anthology.  The profits for sales of this book go to a local non-profit, “Second Story,” which hosts writing camps for young students and helps those who might be ‘intimidated’ by the written word.

Better attended than most local “readings” I’ve been too, this one was held in the Library’s Sexton East Reading Room and, perhaps not coincidentally, the Central Library was featured prominently in one of the stories – in particular an outdoor sculpture that lay just beyond the wall behind the lectern. In fact, though Indy is a pretty large city, all the stories featured in this event were set within walking distance – a fact I made use of afterward, as you’ll see from some of my photos if you read on…

(above: top Clint Smith reads to the crowd (photo courtesy of Corey Dalton), bottom(photos by me) from left to right, Maggie Wheeler, Austin Wilson, and Hugh Vandivier take their turns at the mic)

Of the four authors, first up was Clint Smith, who shared his story “The Fall of Tomlinson Hall; or The Ballad of the Butcher’s Cart.” The story ‘mythologically’ explains the demise of Indianapolis’s storied “Tomlinson Hall” (see photos of plaque and arch below, underneath the photo of Corey Dalton introducing one of the authors). Smith and Gills are two cooks at downtown Indy’s Columbia Club (NOT a fictional place) who find an odd, insufficiently hidden key and use it to enter a portal in the club’s cellar that leads down even further. The two off-duty cooks’ explorations reminded me vaguely of H.P. Lovecraft’s story “The Statement of Randolph Carter” – although the title character of that story had the prudence to wait “above ground” while his buddy Harley Warren explored below.

tomlinson

(below – from Wikipedia: The Columbia Club in downtown Indianapolis.  I’ve only been inside a few times – for lunches, or training seminars and even once to “party” with some of my then employer’s corporate visitors from North Carolina.  Always reminded me of the fictional “Heritage Club” in the movie “Trading Places”:-) )

Next up was Maggie Wheeler, whose story was “How Market Square Arena Killed Elvis.” In this new myth, it turns out that Indy’s old Market Square Arena (the site of Elvis Presley’s final concert in 1977) was actually constructed on the site of a Native American burial ground. While preparing for the show,”The King” notices an “anomaly” in the wall of his dressing room, which turns out to be a human bone from this burial ground. Coveting it as a potential item of jewelry, he extracts the artifact from the wall, carting it back to Graceland where it amusingly discovers how hard it is to haunt someone who is more often than not “under the influence.” There was an ample amount of humor in this story too, and the reading brought laughter from the audience at a couple points.

(above: the plaque commemorating Elvis’s last concert (photo from elvisinfo.net). I looked for it on my post-reading photo shoot, but think it may be temporarily relocated during the latest construction on the site that is now ongoing (below).)

Next was a longer story – “thinmanlittlebird” by Austin Wilson. This one detailed a mythical origin of the two unusual statues/sculptures (called “little bird” and “thin man”) that flank the south entrance of the library. The author’s enthusiasm during his reading and about the event was contagious. This tale was also the “deepest” of the four, featuring “extraterrestrial muses,” inspiring – and inspired by – the arts of our humble human race. This is one I’ll probably read again. Some of the Extraterrestrials’ thoughts regarding art:

“It is beautiful. The universe. It behaves in some ways because it cannot do other. Cannot. However,” and the man held up a hand, his humpy finger extended, “it behaves in others … in ways because we direct. Reacts.”

(below: the “thin man” (left) and “little bird” (right) sculptures exist in reality, only Wilson’s story is fictional. Well, I assume it is…)

Lastly, we listened to Hugh Vandivier read his story “The Zero Point” – one of a couple “name origin” entries in the anthology. Told to the narrator by another patron at Indy’s “literarily iconic” Red Key Tavern, it explains how Washington Street got its name. Hint: it’s not how one would assume…

All in all, quite a fun event, and I look forward to the others in the series!

Read an Indianapolis Star article with more about this anthology at http://www.indystar.com/story/entertainment/2015/11/04/mythic-indy-looking-beyond-legends/75169948/

Or in Nuvo: (Indy’s “Alternative Voice”) http://m.nuvo.net/indianapolis/all-of-the-myths-about-indy-you-have-never-heard-of/Content?oid=3996215

Better yet, support a good cause and buy a copy of “Mythic Indy” for yourself!

I’ve blogged before about a couple other entries in this anthology, “The Man on the Monon” and “The Gods of Indianapolis.” I’ve also previously featured a story by Clint Smith, “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell.”

“Missing Athena” by Josh Green – Story 14 of Deal Me IN 2016

The Card: ♦4♦ Four of Diamonds

The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “contemporary Indiana authors”

The Selection: “Missing Athena” from the short story collection, “Dirtyville Rhapsodies” which I own an ecopy of and which I heard of via Melissa’s excellent blog, Avid Readers Musings. See her review of this collection here.  I picked this story because, as a Classics Minor back in my college days, I’m a sucker for any reference to the classical myths.:-)

The Author: Now based in Atlanta, Josh Green spent enough time in Indiana to write for both the Indianapolis Monthly magzine and the Indianapolis Star newspaper. I first heard of him at a book club meeting at Bookmamas Bookstore, where author Robert Rebein – also a creative writing professor – mentioned him as one of his former students whose work I should check out. You can find him online at http://joshrgreen.com

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in thislegacy project seal of approval 2 year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

Missing Athena

The Athena of this story is not the one we know from mythology. She is/was (a distinction of some importance in the story) the wife to one – and mother to the other – of the two characters in this story. We meet Hank Obelisk (love that name) and his son Joe while on a flight returning from Hank’s home town of Chicago to Atlanta, where he relocated to years ago after meeting and marrying the title character. He was a strapping young big-city fireman and she an upwardly mobile young professional. We learn of their life view a few flashbacks, after the dialog between Hank and Joe reveals that she is no longer with them, e.g. when flying over Georgia’s “black-green carpet of rolling hills and pines—down where his wife must be, somewhere.”

Frank’s relationship with Joe is the highlight of the story. Joe is a “precocious seven-year-old and only child, stores each word (of Frank’s) as undisputable fact.” Young Joe is a nervous flyer, though, and the early parts of the story detail Frank’s efforts to reassure him that “this landing” will be a good one, unlike the “last time,” which is the source of Joe’s anxiety. After the interplay between Frank and Joe, we learn via flashbacks of how Frank and Athena met and what may have become of her after her disappearance/abduction. Several times on the plane flight, father corrects son when the latter talks about Athena in the past tense. Frank hopes against hope that maybe she is still alive, been if deep down he knows she isn’t.

So at its core the story is a tragedy and maybe a chronicle of coping. The author compares Joe’s getting sick on the plane to the times he got sick shortly after His mom’s disappearance, when he got similarly ill. That nausea, though, “came from constant microwave pizzas, soda, and Twinkies—a clueless father’s specialty.” Toward the end of the story we are handed the following exchange.

“Look at that sunset,” Hank said one evening. “It’s like red sheets, ripped off the city and pulled out west.” Joe cocked his head, his eyes in philosophical squint. “I bet mom liked sunsets.” “ Likes ,” said Hank. “She likes them.

How sad.

I’ve come to enjoy the writing of Josh Green and suspect this won’t be the last of his stories that I share with the “citizens” of Bibliophilopolis.

Posts at Bibliophilopolis about other stories from Dirtville Rhapsodies:

Axis of Symmerty and The Delusional Mr. Necessary

Athena – the Goddess, that is – has graced my bookshelf for many years. Ever since Mom & Dad picked up the little statuette below on a trip to Greece about fifteen years ago.

image

 

 

Booth Takington’s “A Reward of Merit” story #13 of 2016 Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♣A♣ Ace of clubs

The Suit: For 2016, ♣♣♣Clubs♣♣♣ is my suit for “legendary” Indiana authors”.

The Selection: “A Reward of Merit” contained in “The Collected Short Stories of Booth Tarkingon” which I own as a kindle version. I picked this story from that collection because I was intrigued by the title.

The Author: Booth Tarkington of Indianapolis – one of the standard bearers of the “Golden Age” of Indiana Literature.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in thislegacy project seal of approval 2 year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

A Reward of Merit

When I hear the name of author Booth Tarkington, the first thing that comes to mind is his, uh, magnificent, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Magnificent Ambersons,” which I’ve read more than once, not to mention watching the Orson Welles film adaptation multiple times as well. That wasn’t the only Pulitzer Prize for fiction he won, though. He also won for Alice Adams in 1922, making him one of only three authors to win the award more than once. Can you name the other two? I’ll save that answer for the end of this post…:-)

collected shorts tarkington

I would describe this story as a tale of youthful hijinks, escapades, or monkey business. It amusingly explores how distorted the view of the world can sometimes be for those who are too young to have “put all the pieces together” in their understanding of how life really works. It has almost a Tom Sawyer-ish feel, focusing on two idle young boys, Penrod and Sam, and the adventures they run into one rainy afternoon.

***Spoilers Follow*** (If you’d like to read this story first, it’s available online at http://cozycoffeehouse.blogspot.com/2007/04/booth-tarkington-reward-of-merit.html )
Pernod and Sam encounter a “stray” horse in the alley. It is basically old and has sort of been “discarded” by its former owner. The boys don’t know this, and with their youthful logic surmise that a lost horse must worthy of a great reward to its finders. They are sharp enough to discern that it is nearly starving and end up feeding it nearly half the provisions in Penrod’s house.

Eventually, the risks involved in their little enterprise begin to become apparent and, after being “found out” by the family’s cook, Della, they figure they are in big trouble for trying to hide the horse in a carriage house and also for “stealing” food for it. This leads to the humorous declaration by Penrod when the boys are contemplating how they might be able to escape the trouble they’ve found themselves in:

“I don’t know where you’re goin’, but I’m goin’ to walk straight out in the country till I come to a farm-house and say my name’s George and live there!”

But what actually happens at the end of the story? It turns out the adults in Penrod and Sam’s circle view their acts in a wholly different way. To them they are acts of kindness toward an unfortunate animal, and for that the boys are presented with a “Reward of Merit” the value of which far outweighs their fanciful imaginings of what a monetary reward might have been – yes, a happy ending. I enjoyed the story a lot, and it brought back some funny memories of some of my own childhood antics where I was as clueless as poor Penrod and Sam.

I wasn’t aware of it before writing this post, but “Rewards of Merit” were once a real thing commonly given to children by encouraging teachers or other adults. Many were fanciful cards with beautiful illustrations. One website I found with examples and explanations is http://www.merrycoz.org/merit/MERIT.xhtml – also where the images above and below are found.

In preparation for writing this post, I also read an old essay from The Atlantic about Tarkington. Though curiously mean-spirited and acerbic, I did find much of interest in it, including the observation that the Penrod stories were written in “the precisely defined period when the stable was empty but not yet rebuilt into a garage”

Also from the article in the Atlantic:

“To be caught with Tarkington in one’s hands is to be suspected of nostalgia, a willingness to endure the second-rate for the sake of some moonlight on the Wabash, which must still be flowing somewhere through the heartland. But if that’s what one is looking for, disappointment will soon set in with the realization that Tarkington was himself in the throes of nostalgia, setting most of his work two or three decades before he wrote it. He was, in fact, a kind of historical novelist, whose books can now be read only through a double glazing of time.”

As promised – the answer to the trivia questions above – Other multiple Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winners: John Updike and William Faulkner. Please tell me you know which is which…

  
(Ace of Clubs image above found at https://www.spicherandco.com/home.php?cat=1217)

Have you read anything by Booth Tarkington? What other short stories have YOU read lately?

Jack Cady’s “Play Like I’m Sheriff” – Story #12 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

img_6930The card: ♦2♦ The two of diamonds.

The suit: For 2016’s Deal Me “IN”, ♦diamonds♦ represent more ‘modern’ Indiana authors (as opposed to my “legendary Indiana authors” clubs suit.

The story: “Play Like I’m Sheriff”found in “Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Stories” edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. It was published in 1968 and included in the 1969 edition of Best American Short Stories.

The author: Jack Cady. Cady is known for writing fantasy and horror, winning the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award and the Bram Stoker Award.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in thislegacy project seal of approval 2 year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

For Story 12 of Deal Me “IN” 2016, we turn the reins over to my blogging colleague Dale, whose excellent blog, “Mirror With Clouds” is definitely one you should follow.  Dale’s been a regular participant in the annual Deal Me In challenge almost since it started. If you’d like to see his Deal Me In roster for 2016, click here. I’ll also be returning the favor and guest posting on his blog sometime this year when his ♣2♣  comes up.:-) The rest of this post’s text comes from him:

I’m excited to celebrate Indiana in literature as a guest writer with Jay at Bibliophilopolis. One might be asking how a story from an anthology of Kentucky Short Stories could be included as Indiana literature. Cady grew up in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky so I think these states tend to share him or at least all three claim him. For more about this story’s Indiana relationship – keep reading…

“Play Like I’m Sheriff”

This story has a strong element of fantasy although it’s not the magical story of which one might think. Two strangers meet and begin what could be considered a role playing game for an evening. Both have come from broken relationships and decide to name each other “Norma” and “Johnnie” while they pretend to be married. At their initial meeting, Norma sets the stage for the loneliness and despair that prevails over the plot:

“There’s lonesome in the wind. I walked to the bus station, and there was lonesome in the crowd. Like something evil hovering…I haven’t talked to anyone for more than a week.”

As readers, we know little detail of Norma and Johnnie’s past relationships and subsequent breakups and are unable to determine, as each of them talks to the other, what is the truth. When Norma takes Johnnie to a house she calls her grandmother’s, readers might even question whether this is true. Regardless of who owns the house, Norma has a key.

All that the reader doesn’t know helps to emphasize the shallowness of the couple’s attempts at what they consider normalcy. The conversations remind me of Ernest Hemingway’s characters in that so much is under the surface but the reader knows it’s there. Cady puts enough of a human touch to these two that I didn’t find them completely pathetic – only very sad. Perhaps one could say they are on the brink of being pathetic – and maybe on the brink of being insane, too.

What is the Indiana tie-in to this story? Norma and Johnnie happen to meet and play out their game in Indianapolis. Having lived and worked in Indianapolis for 18 years, I couldn’t help but smile when Cady describes Indianapolis’ famous circle from Johnnie’s point of view in the story’s first paragraph:

“Sunset lay behind the tall buildings like red and yellow smoke. The cloud cover was high. Shadows of the buildings fell across the circle that was the business center of downtown Indianapolis. The towering monument to war dead was bizarre against the darkening horizon. On it figures writhed in frozen agony, except when they caught the corner of his eye. Then they seemed to move, reflecting his own pain.”

circle monument

I love that this Indianapolis landmark (pictured above, from google images) can pave the way for a very sad but fascinating story and can serve as a premonition of the horror stories yet to come in this Indiana (and Kenutcky and Ohio) author’s career. I spent many a lunch hour walking around the “Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument” over the 18 years that I worked in downtown Indianapolis.

“What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell” by Clint Smith – Story #11 of Deal Me In 2016

The Card: ♦7♦ Seven of Diamonds

The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “contemporary Indiana authors”

The Selection: “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell” from the short story collection, “Ghouljaw and Other Stories” which I purchased at Bookmamas Bookstore in Irvington. I picked this story because I was intrigued by the title.

The Author: Clint Smith of Indianapolis. I’ve previously read his work in Punchnel’s “Mythic Indy” series (which have now been collected in a hardcover anthology). I’ve also explored some of the other stories in “Ghouljaw and Other Stories” with the “title track” being my favorite thus far. You can find him online at clintsmithfiction.com

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? Before the start of each year, I come up with a list of 52 stories to read and assign each of them to a playing card in a standard deck. Each week, I draw a card and that is the story I read. By the end of the year (52 weeks), I’m done, and ready to start a fresh deck. (For a more detailed explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster click here.) Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only legacy project seal of approval 2stories that have an Indiana “connection” of some kind. Deal Me “IN” is now also officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

“What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell”

This was an effectively terrifying story. It begins with the reader learning that High School Principal, Mr. Wilkinson, only has two hours to live. Or, as the author puts it, “two hours left of as an independent functioning organism existing as something other than food.” How will his end come about? Surely it has something to with the urgent calls and emails he’s been getting from an Afghan war veteran, one who seems to clearly be suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Both PTSD and school violence are, sadly, facts of life in the 21st century. When the two are mixed together – along with a touch of the supernatural – the resulting story can hardly be other than horrific right?
After inexplicably – and irresponsibly! – ignoring these calls and emails for several days, principal Wilkinson finally opens the latest email. It’s a warning from one veteran, William Craft, about a former comrade in arms, Lonnie Meadows, someone who he urges “you must stop from entering your school.” Of course, on the day he reads this email, two army recruiters are visiting his school…

The rest of the email, however, contains excepts from Craft’s wartime journal when he and Meadows were on a tour of duty in Afghanistan, they were friends beyond the basic “comrades in arms required” level, and Craft has genuine concerns about Meadows’ mental health. Who wouldn’t be after listening to the following:

“There was a time” -he swiveled his head, glancing around- “that I thought being a soldier was the best way to show my family I wasn’t a total fuck-up.” He ran his fingers over his forearm, tracing the scar that’d been camouflaged by a swirl of tribal tattoos. “How are we supposed to go anywhere, let alone home, after seeing the things we’ve seen?”

Their tour included a night mission to a remote village nestled against the mountains and “docked” with one of the cave entrances common to the area. After a brief, creepy meeting with a village elder and his entourage of unnaturally tall burka clad “women” they head inside and we learn just how Meadows came to be so dangerous…

I usually include an image of the card selected, but I varied from routine when I saw the ‘devil mug’ and included it instead. Indeed, I count 7 visible diamonds in that picture so… (Devil mug image above from https://www.liveauctioneers.com/item/26607595_beer-mug-devil-and-card-royal-bayreuth-bayreuth)

For Esme, With Light and Shadow – Story #10 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

 The Card: ♦8♦ The Eight of Diamonds
About The Suit: ♦♦♦Diamonds are my suit for “contemporary” Indiana Authors.
The Story: “Shadowed” from the “Defy the Dark” anthology. I purchased my copy at Bookmamas Bookstore in Irvington (Indianapolis).

The Author: Christine Johnson. A Hoosier native, you can learn more about her and her writing at her website: http://www.christinejohnsonbooks.com which is also where her picture (included in the photo collage at left) is from.:-)

legacy project seal of approval 2What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind.  Deal Me “IN” 2016 is also now officially endorsed as a Legacy Project by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

“Shadowed” by Christine Johnson

Okay, so this blog post’s title is not really the title of the story I read this week. It’s not everyday, however, that one encounters the name “Esme.” One other time I’ve encountered it, literarily speaking, was in the famous J.D. Salinger story, “For Esme, With Love and Squalor.” Another was the protagonist of this story, a princess afflicted by a cruel and unusual curse…

For reasons that would be too spoiler-y to elaborate, the Princess Esme cannot be in the presence of direct light. Sunlight, moonlight, firelight, and even torchlight are all very dangerous to her. The appearance of her shadow puts her in grave peril. The consequences of this are as you might imagine – she is kept indoors and cloistered by her family. Sometimes in the top room of her castle’s tower. It is from this lofty vantage point that, on a “mostly cloudy” day, she sneaks a peek at the festival unfolding below, which includes a jousting tournament, and is smitten with a young, fiery-haired knight, Rylan. So smitten, in fact, that she carelessly fails to notice the sun is making an appearance. When it does, it unleashes her shadow and launches this story, which relates her efforts to escape the curse.

Will the efforts of Rylan, her friend Margaret, and the town’s old witch be enough to break the curse? With what weapons would one fight a shadow, anyway? The story provides the answer to one of these questions. Whether or not the other is answered, I believe, is open to multiple interpretations, and I liked it that way.:-) Interested in reading this story? Look for it at your local bookstore or library, or even online, where a kindle version is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009NF68R2/

Where else have you seen the name Esme in literature or in real life? Also, have you encountered any great “shadows” in literature? I can immediately think of one case in a prior year’s Deal Me In challenge, when I read Mary Williams Freeman’s “The Shadows on the Wall” https://bibliophilica.wordpress.com/2013/10/27/the-shadows-on-the-wall-by-mary-wilkins-freeman/ and I’m hopeful, but wonder if alert readers noticed that I even found a playing card at google images that included shadows?!:-)

When reading this story, to help picture the events described, I found myself drawing upon my childhood memories of the “Classics Illustrated” comic book edition (See below – I still have my copy too!) of Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, which featured knights and a damsel in a tower, in that case the lovely Rebecca…


Next up for Deal Me In? The Seven of Diamonds. Which I have assigned to Clint Smith’s story “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell.”

“Come Go With Me” by Nora Bonner – Story #9 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♥10♥ The Ten of Hearts

The Selection: “Come Go With Me” – from the Indiana Review magazine – which is (from the magazine’s website) “now in its thirty-eighth year of publication, Indiana Review is a non-profit literary magazine dedicated to showcasing the talents of emerging and established writers. Our mission is to offer the highest quality writing within a wide aesthetic.” This story appeared in the Summer 2015 issue.

The Author: Nora Bonner. See her online at norabonner.com, where the picture above is also from.:-)

The Suit: ♥♥♥ Hearts are my suit featuring selections from Indiana magazines, or Midwestern magazines featuring Indiana authors.

img_6202What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind.  Deal Me “IN” 2016 is also now officially endorsed as a Legacy Project by the Indiana Bicentennial Commission!

Come Go With Me

I selected this story from the magazine as it was identified in the table of contents as a finalist for Indiana Review’s annual fiction prize. (The winner gets $1,000 – not bad for a short story, eh?) It was a very interesting story. I particularly liked our narrator, Emily, a young girl describing her immediate family’s efforts to “rehabilitate” her juvenile delinquent-ish male cousin (Brian) who is a few years older than she. Making the relationship even tighter is that Emily and Brian’s parents are brothers and sisters – I mean two brothers married two sisters. Not common but not unheard of either.
Emily’s father is a man of faith and feels that’s what Brian needs more of as well. As he tells Emily, regarding her cousin’s upbringing compared to her own:

“We chose to let God choose. Uncle Gary (Brian’s dad) was an example of what happens When we don’t leave it up to God. God wouldn’t choose for Uncle Gary to leave his family. God wouldn’t choose for Aunt Sally to stay in bed all day while her son ran around without her supervision, God wouldn’t choose friends for Brian who talked him into robbing a gas station and wouldn’t tell him to cut a man with the razor blade he’d hid between his fingers.”

Part of the “treatment” for Brian involves a family trip up to Huron National Forest. As seems to be true for many people who think they have “all the answers” to complex human problems, Emily’s dad soon learns turning Brian around will not be an easy – and perhaps even an impossible – task. Part of the backdrop for their time is that the lake shores are experiencing a swarm of toads. So many that they’re always underfoot and even make the sides of the road appear to move. This phenomenon added a surreal and even biblical plague-ish feel to the story.

I was rooting for Brian, and enjoyed hearing this story from Emily’s perspective. She was also rooting for him, though she seemed to realize better than her dad that he may already have reached critical mass on the way to living the wrong kind of life. I also liked how frankly Brian challenged her father’s beliefs, and her father’s answer:

“I keep thinking that you’re going into the woods to bring us back something to eat,” Brian said. “Bear meat. Coyote.” I made a face. “What do you go out there for,” he asked, “bird watching?”

“I talk to God,” my father said.

“And God talks back.” Brian chuckled.

“Sometimes,” my father said.

Brian threw his bowl into the fire. “What does God sound like.” The plastic bubbled; flames devours the cardboard.

“He speaks in my thoughts.” 

“How do you know you’re not just thinking what you want God to say?”

My father waited a long time before he answered. “He almost never says what I want Him to say.”

A fine story, and the events it chronicles rang quite true to this reader.

(Playing card image above found at http://playingcardcollector.net/2013/04/20/lo-scarabeo-the-fairy-people-playing-cards/
Toad picture from http://www.nicolanaturalists.ca/2012/08/29/another-successful-season-of-amphibian-monitoring-summer-2012/)

Personal notes:


I have a memory from childhood of experiencing not a swarm of toads, but certainly a large number of them. We had gone to some sort of picnic for my dad’s office near a lake and they seemed to be everywhere. This was new to me and my brothers, who had suddenly seen in a few minutes more toads than we’d seen in our entire lives. I remember our pleading with our parents to take some home as “pets” and, though not thrilled with the idea, they eventually relented. The toads didn’t survive long, as I recall…


The tens in my Indiana deck of cards feature a picture of the Indiana War Memorial in downtown Indianapolis. Up until 2007 I’d spent almost all of my working life at jobs in the downtown area, and would frequently walk at lunchtime. The War Memorial was one favorite terminus of my walks and I would often bring a “brown bag” lunch and, after climbing all those steps, enjoy the view (great from up there!) while I ate. Even if I walked “just for the exercise” at lunch, I would often include a couple up and downs of the monument steps on my route. It was great for that as well. More information about the Indiana War Memorial may be found at http://www.in.gov/iwm/2333.htm

Next up in Deal Me “IN” 2016: “What Happens in Hell Stays in Hell” by Clint Smith

“The Legend of Potato Creek” by Maurice Thompson – Story #8 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card:  ♣10♣ The Ten of Clubs

The Suit: ♣♣♣ Clubs ♣♣♣ – my suit for “legendary” Hoosier authors.

The Author: Maurice (pronounced like “Morris”) Thompson (1844-1901), born in Fairfield, Indiana, is one from the “Golden Age” of Indiana literature. He’s also a member of the archery(!) Hall of Fame.

The Story: “The Legend of Potato Creek” from his collection “Hoosier Mosaics.” I have one other story of his in this year’s Deal Me “IN” project, (“The Pedagogue”). Read “The Legend of Potato Creek” for free online at http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/60358/ (& then let me know what you think, naturally:-) )

What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  (For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )

 

As little as one year or so ago, I had never even heard of this author. He is one I was led to discover by Dan Wakefield’s Introduction in the late 2014 “Indy Writes Books Anthology.”

“The Legend of Potato Creek”

This was a profoundly sad story – something I wouldn’t necessarily have guessed based on the title – but one with just enough sweetness mixed in for me to still like it. Quite a bit, actually.:-)

It’s the story of Rose Turpin, a charming sixteen year old girl spending the summer on a relative’s farm, and “perhaps 25 years old” Zach Jones “a person thoroughly saturated with ague in its chronic form.” They meet when Rose is settled in on a perch of roots near the titular Potato Creek and Zach comes along leading an old horse, one who was

“…sadly diseased with that scourge of the equine race, scrofulous shoulder or fistula, commonly called, among the country folk, fistleo, and because the animal could not get well the man was on the point of killing it…”

Yes, Zach is planning to euthanize the ignoble old steed, by bashing it on the head with an axe. This, of course, is more than the delicate sensiblities of our sweet Rose can endure, and she pleads on the horse’s behalf for its life. Naturally, being a human male, Zach relents and subsequently, under Rose’s care, the horse makes a remarkable recovery. Her uncle notes her seeming natural ability to heal and suggests she spend some time with Zach to see if her healing touch can help with Zach’s chronic ague. They begin spending time together and the effects are just as her uncle hypothesized.

The sweetness of the story was over, though, since – with apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary – disease and pestilence live forever, but not so young girls, and Rose returns home where, after making a most triumphant “debut” in society, she is eventually snapped up by one of the region’s eligible bachelors. What happens afterward one could likely imagine, but I will let you discover that for yourself by reading this entire (short) story.:-)

Personal Notes: Not long ago I went to a talk at the (nearby) Greenwood Public Library in Central Indiana. The featured topic was “Books by Hoosier Authors Made into Films” or something like that. All the normal ones you’d expect were covered (Ben Hur, The Magnificent Ambersons, The Fault in Our Stars, etc.), but it was here I learned a little more about Maurice Thompson and the fact that he was a legend in the field of archery, and one of the first inductees into that sport’s Hall of Fame. According to their website, his book, “The Witchery of Archery” was ‘accredited for returning the sport of archery to public interest.’ and notes that ‘Some of this was due to rifles bringing back bad memories of the American Civil War.’ I particularly like a quotation of his that I found on that website: “So long as the new moon returns in heaven, a bent beautiful bow, so long will the fascination of archery keep hold of the hearts of men.” Very nice.


I became fascinated – only briefly – with archery as a youth from reading of the legends of William Tell and Robin Hood and later from seeing the famed Errol Flynn movie, “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” which featured an archery contest for the ages…

I also found, in my online researching for this post, that there’s a target game in archery called “bow poker” – how appropriate for the Deal Me In challenge!
Bonus trivia question: Can you identify the Roman Emperor below, known for his devotion to archery?

“I Can Hear the Clicking at Night” by Ann Gamble – Story #7 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: 5♥5 The Five of Hearts

The Selection: “I Can Hear the clicking at Night” – from Punchnel’s – an online magazine founded in 2011 and based in Indianapolis. This story appeared in June 2014. I admit that I may have only chosen it because I found the title intriguing.:-) It’s one of the shortest works I’ve ever read for Deal Me In and would more properly be classified as Flash Fiction.

The Author: Ann Gamble (check out her website at annmariegamble.com)

The Suit: This year for Deal Me “IN”, Hearts are my suit featuring selections from Indiana magazines, or Midwestern magazines featuring Indiana authors.

img_5408-1What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  (For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )

 

 

“The control panel’s in there—that’s why the door is behind the desk. There’s only one man allowed in that office, and he reads all our files. Then he decides.”

“I Can Hear the Clicking at Night”

I’m always impressed when a “whole story” can be effectively told in a very abbreviated manner – the aim of flash fiction. Clocking in at just about twenty paragraphs, “I Can Hear the Clicking at Night” encompasses a woman’s visit to her grandfather in the hospital. Though not in an “intensive care” unit yet, he is clearly approaching the end of the line.

“The End of the Line” – Do you ever wonder about where you will find yourself at “the end of the line” in your life? It seems the older I get the more I think about it. Like I’m sure just about all of us I hope, when my time comes, to “go quickly” and not after a prolonged illness which ends up being the fate of many.

On arriving for her latest visit the man’s granddaughter, Kate (though he mistakenly introduces her to a nurse as “Loretta”), finds on his bed table “one of those books about the secrets on the back of the dollar bill” and “grits her teeth.” The grandfather’s world has shrunk to a few rooms in the hospital and the few people the work there or visit him. Already with a mind easily seduced by ’conspiracy theories’ he constructs his own about death at his own end of the line…

Certainly not a happy story, but one I found interesting and thought-provoking. The story may be read online at http://www.punchnels.com/2014/06/22/i-can-hear-the-clicking-at-night/

(Five of heart image found at http://playingcardcollector.net/2013/07/18/kashmir-playing-cards-by-printissa/ )

Other works from Punchnel’s I’ve posted about:

The Man on the Monon” by Ben H. Winters

The Gods of Indianapolis” by Jason de Koff

Edward Eggleston’s “Bobby and the Key-Hole – A Hoosier Fairy Tale” story #6 of Deal Me “IN” 2016


The Card: ♣Q♣ The Queen of Clubs. My third queen in a row! Who shuffled these?

The Selection: “Bobby and the Key-Hole – A Hoosier Fairy Tale” (Book image above found here)

The Author: Edward Eggleston, making his second and final appearance in Deal Me “IN” 2016. I read another of his stories, Mr. Blake’s Walking Stick for week 1.
When populating my Deal Me “IN” deck for 2016, I learned of Eggleston and found his book “Queer Stories for Boys and Girls,” a collection he describes as including “…nearly all of those which I have written for children in a vein that entitles them to rank as “Queer Stories,” that is, stories not entirely realistic in their setting but appealing to the fancy, which is so marked a trait of the minds of boys and girls.” Then, when scanning the story titles for a couple candidates for inclusion in my project, I just couldn’t allow one subtitled “A Hoosier Fairy Tale” to be passed by.

img_5408-1What is Deal Me “IN” 2016?  (For an explanation of the Deal Me In challenge, see the sign up post. For a look at my deck of cards/story roster see here. Since 2016 is my home state’s bicentennial, in this year’s edition of my annual Deal Me In challenge, I’m reading only stories that have an Indiana “connection”of some kind. )

Bobby and the Keyhole – A Hoosier Fairy Tale

At some point along the line of my education, probably in Mr. Hon’s Biology class at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, I learned about “fontanelles,” the soft “membranous gaps” in a developing infant’s skull. They allow flexibility both during childbirth and during the early growth and development of the brain. It’s my belief that there are also fontanelles of the human imagination. How much easier for us, when young and still growing, to simply imagine our way to entertainment? For most of us, growing up leads to a hardening of these fontanelles of imagination as the sometimes harsh needs of the “real world” sadly relegate flights of fancy to a minor role in our lives. Bobby, however (the title character of this story), still commands the full power of his imagination – a power that can turn a spot on the side of a creek bed into a doorway into the fairy realm…

Eggleston talks about how fairies are usually only seen by rich people, or at least “people who wear fine clothes” and their encounters are not often in the province of the poor. Little Bobby Towpate may be the exception that proves the rule, though, as he lives in a log cabin along “The Injun Kaintuck” creek:

“Bobby’s play-ground was anywhere along the creek in the woods. There were so many children that there was nobody to look after him; so he just kept a careful eye on himself, and that made it all right.”


Great blue heron image from http://www.pwconserve.org/wildlife/birds/herongreatblue.htm

One day Bobby encounters a “stake driver” bird (sounds like a great blue heron from the description) by his creek. The bird transforms from a natural tadpole Hunter to a supernatural “long-legged, long-necked, short-bodied gentleman, in a black bob-tail coat.” It is through this creature that Bobby learns of a door, a keyhole, and a transmogrifying key.

This may have been my least favorite story of Deal Me “IN” so far, but it was still fascinating to read, and made me recall the “fairy craze” of roughly a hundred years ago (anyone remember the “Cottingham Fairies” (the most famous picture of them is below) a hoax that counted author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle among its dupe-ees?) and the “Fair Folk” of the Prydain Chronicles of Lloyd Alexander. The story includes a lot of eye dialect too, which I always find tedious to read. I did find Bobby’s encounter with the “Sleepy-Headed People” underground very interesting and somewhat reminiscent of the type of creatures Swift’s Gulliver might have encountered in his, er, travels. Worth a read if you’re interested. It’s available online at http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/15167/


What about you? What are your favorite literary encounters with fairy folk – or the imaginary realm in general?

Below: our non-imaginary fontanelles:-)

fontanelles

 

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