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.

4 Comments

  1. Dale said,

    April 5, 2016 at 6:59 pm

    Thank you for the opportunity, Jay!

    Like

    • Jay said,

      April 6, 2016 at 9:55 am

      & Thank YOU for contributing! You can post here anytime, Dale!🙂

      Like

  2. hkatz said,

    May 10, 2016 at 11:38 am

    I’ve never heard of this author, but now I’d like to read the story. When it’s done well, I like the kind of story where you don’t know a lot about the characters and what’s real or not. Also, the idea of pretending something about yourself in order to make life more bearable is poignant (and maybe pathetic, but to one extent or another, many people want to come up with stories about themselves – and the stories they come up with can sometimes just lead to more despair). Intimacy can’t really be imitated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dale said,

      May 15, 2016 at 1:14 pm

      I had never heard of Jack Cady myself until I read this story. And the pretending these two characters do is more on the poignant side than the pathetic side. But I did get the idea that they were in for simply more despair.

      Like


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