The Card: ♦3♦ Three of Diamonds
The Suit: For 2016, Diamonds is my suit for “Contemporary Writers with an Indiana Connection”
The Selection: “The Penance of Scoot McCutcheon” from the 2011 short story collection Crimes in Southern Indiana.
The Author: Frank Bill. I don’t see much recent activity on his blog, but he’s active on Twitter if you would like to follow him there at @HouseofGrit
What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! 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/storyroster 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 Penance of Scoot McCutcheon
“After all these damn years of running, you gotta trot in here and turn yourself in.” Mac looked Scoot dead in his eyes and told him, “Guilt’s a heavy package for a man to carry. It’s wrapped by all the wrongs a man’ll do, which are really lessons he learns by living life so he don’t do them no more.”
This was a good story. Like the other stories by Frank Bill I’ve blogged about (This Bitter Pill, A Coon Hunter’s Noir, and Amphetamine Twitch), it’s gritty, visceral, and… somewhat disturbing. Our title character, Scoot McCutcheon, doesn’t go by that name any more. He’s been a fugitive from the law for years. He’s now just “Deets” but, in a flashback, we learn of his crime, perpetrated in the small town of Corydon (once the Indiana State Capital). He walked in on another man and his wife. I won’t spoil the story by revealing the extenuating circumstances of that encounter, but will say they enable the reader to sympathize with Deets.
He’s spent the past five years wandering from town to town, down “as far south as Greenville, Alabama,” and west to Missouri. Part of his routine when visiting a town would be to check the post office, and pull wanted posters of “a man who haunted him.” (himself, of course) These were evidence of “an identity that wouldn’t let him forget. That wouldn’t let him start over.” As you can see by the opening quotation, Scoot does eventually turn himself in, because, as Mac (a sheriff) tells him, guilt really is a heavy load to bear.
The story is available as part of the author’s collection “Crimes in Southern Indiana” which, as noted above, has made several appearances in my annual Deal Me In challenges, and I doubt that I’m done with it yet. It’s available on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B004YD6GM0/
Above pic from my Kindle App reader; Author pic in header photo from Writers Digest