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
What 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 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.
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.”
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:
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.