Profiles in Survival: James Duckworth by John Shivley – selection #46 in Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠9♠  Nine of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for short, Indiana-related non fiction works

The Selection: “Profiles in Survival (James Duckworth)” a collection of true stories of Indiana POWs who served in the Philippines in World War II.

The Author: John Shivley is a practicing physician who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is also the author of The Last Lieutenant: A Foxhole View of the Epic Battle for Iwo Jima.

What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad img_5408you 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

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Profiles in Survival – James Duckworth

“We must impress the Japs that we are a well disciplined, smart-looking, smoothly functioning outfit. Their god is discipline. They begrudgingly admire it as much in others as they do in themselves. You must maintain your own self-respect. You must shave every day, keep your clothes washed and pressed, and your shoes shined. We’ve got plenty of soap and water. Use it. Salute your arms off, smart and snappy, especially when Nip inspection parties come through.”

The above was what the commander of the Twelfth Medical Regiment, James Duckworth, told those under his command once his post had been surrendered to the Japanese. When I read nonfiction stories like this I always start wondering how I would cope in such a situation, or indeed if I even would be able to cope at all. There seems to be little doubt that strong leadership of the POWs, such as that which James Duckworth clearly provided, greatly increased their chance for survival. Also, the treatment and care of wounded Japanese soldiers, in addition to Americans and Philipinos, under the command of Duckworth also helped mitigate the hostility of their capturing Japanese commanders. I wondered while reading how many people lived through their ordeal that wouldn’t have if someone of Duckworth’s mettle had not been in command.

For my part, I was spellbound by Duckworth’s story, which honestly was difficult to read at times, hearing of all the death and suffering that marked those times. I learned a lot as well, and some of what I learned I almost wish I could unlearn.  Like the Japanese-instituted concept of “shooting squads” in which all prisoners were put into groups of ten. If any of the group escaped, the other nine would be executed. Nice deterrent, huh?  I also read about the infamous “August 1 Kill-All Order” which addressed the “final disposition” of prisoners should POW camps be about to fall into American hands and be liberated.  Seems the Japanese were concerned that postwar testimony by the POWs, if left alive, might be damning in any war-crimes trials. Just such an order was carried out in what has become known as the Palawan Massacre, where nearly 150 American prisoners were burned to death. It was the knowledge of this massacre and the Kill-All order that eventually led to the daring raid that freed the prison camp that housed Duckworth at the end of his captivity.

I mentioned in my other Deal Me “IN” post from this book that I know I will read the rest of the stories in this volume, and I recommend the book to others as well.  One of the back cover “praises” for the book reads: “Profiles in Survival is a book that will break your heart. The Americans taken prisoner after the battle for the Philippines endured the nearly unendruable. But endure they did. Though many died in captivity, others survived with an uncommon dignity. They knew the cruelty of a war without mercy. John Shively is in our debt for giving us their tales.” (Randy Roberts, Purdue University Distinguished professor of history)

Personal Notes ♫  Reading this book has also made me want to watch the epic 1957 movie, Bridge on the River Kwai again (even though it was set in Burma) since it features American prisoners under Japanese command. I still vividly remember my Dad whistling the theme from this movie during countless hikes we went on out west during summer camping trips – another reason to watch the film again.

(Below: three of the Ranger company that freed the prisoners of the prison camp at Cabanatuan in what is referred to as “The Great Raid.” Heroes. Picture from CNN.com)

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“The Boarded Window” by Ambrose Bierce – Selection #45 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣3♣ Three of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “legendary Indiana authors.”

The Selection: “The Boarded Window” which I own via a paperback copy of “Terror by Night: Classic Ghost & Horror Stories”

The Author: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914(?)) – his death and disappearance remain a mystery not wholly solved… Though born (in a log cabin) in Ohio, he grew up in Kosciusko County, Indiana. He served in the Union Army in the Civil War, as part of the 9th Indiana Infantry.

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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 legacy project seal of approval 2deck. 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

The Boarded Window

“I penetrated to the place and ventured near enough to the ruined cabin to throw a stone against it, and ran away to avoid the ghost which every well-informed boy thereabout knew haunted the spot. But there is an earlier chapter – that supplied by my grandfather.”

Old Man Murlock was a widow who lived alone in remote cabin in an “immense and unbroken forest” near Cincinnati. He was a first generation pioneer but unlike many of his comrades of that ilk, did not get a second case of itchy foot and move further west.  Bierce tells us this story kind of second hand, the narrator used to cavort near the ‘haunted’ cabin in his youth, but was not a contemporary of Murlock and leaves the telling of that man’s story to a repetition of what was once told to him by his grandfather.

It seems one day in the distant past, while he was out hunting, Murlock’s wife was stricken ill from a fever “from which she never recovered” and which claimed her life. Her death hit Murlock hard:

“He had no experience in grief, his capacity had not been enlarged by use. His heart could not contain it all, nor his imagination rightly conceive it. He did not know he was so hard struck; that knowledge would come later, and never go. Grief is an artist of powers as various as the instruments upon which he plays his dirges for the dead, evoking form some the sharpest shrillest notes, from others the low, grave chords that throb recurrent like the slow beating of a distant drum. Some natures it startles, some it stupefies. To one it comes like the stroke of an arrow, stinging all the sensibilities to a keener life, to another as the blow of a bludgeon, which in crushing benumbs. We may conceive Murlock to have been that (latter) way affected…”

Murlock’s bludgeoning by grief and his preparations for his wife’s burial lead to the climax of the story, in which a giant panther plays a role and the supernatural (perhaps, anyway) makes an appearance as well. The final page of the story gave me chills.  It’s only five pages long and be read for free online at… http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/bordwind.html

Have you read Ambrose Bierce before? I find I really enjoy his writing style, and the passage I quoted above regarding grief really blew me away.  I’ve also been looking for a good biography of him for awhile – do you know if any exist?

“Profiles of Survival”(Eleanor Garen) by John Shively – selection#44 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠5♠  Five of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for Indiana-related short non-fiction works.

The Selection: Eleanor Garen from the book “Profiles in Survival” a collection of stories of Indiana POWs who served in the Philippines in World War II.

The Author: John C. Shively (pictured at left from his amazon.com author page at Utah Beach) is a practicing physician who lives in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is also the author of The Last Lieutenant: A Foxhole View of the Epic Battle for Iwo Jima, published by Indiana University Press.


img_5408-1What 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

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Profiles in Survival – Eleanor Garen

“Garen was too busy to be frightened about what might happen when the Japanese arrived. She was ordered to burn her paper money. She still had a little camera with her. Since she did not want the Japanese to have it, she irreparably scratched the lens. After the war she wanted to make it very clear that it was not her idea to give up. She told a friend, ‘I wasn’t defeated, I was captured. I didn’t surrender – others surrendered me!'”

I found this book while on a huge pre-2016 Deal Me In buying spree at Bookmama’s Bookstore in Irvington (an Indianapolis eastside neighborhood). I was scrambling to find suitable “short” non-fiction material to include in my annual challenge.  When I found this book I thought it would be great to read a couple of the people’s stories it contained.  Though a bit longer than most of my short story reading, I’m glad I made the decision to buy it. My knowledge base of WWII history that occurred in the Pacific Theater – and especially in the Philippines – is shamefully light and this book helped me learn where Bataan and Corregidor actually were (other than just “in the Philippines”).  This book also makes a nice partner to some of the work by Ernie Pyle that I’ve read earlier in this year’s Deal Me In.

Garen’s story was the only one of a woman included in the book, so that – and admittedly because it was one of the shorter ones – helped secure its place in my 2016 roster. I learned also that Garen hailed from South Bend, Indiana, where one side of my family is from.  As I read I wondered if she ever encountered any of my family in South Bend. My grandpa, for example, worked for a time as a grocer, and I wonder if a young – or adult – Eleanor Garen ever may have handed him a few dollars across the counter to make a purchase. That’s one great thing about “reading locally” – you can sometimes amuse yourself with such speculations… Garen is pictured on the far right in the picture below, from the book, as you can see. 🙂

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This was a longer story – about 45 pages – but it held my attention so well I read it straight through without a break, and I am a slow reader. I liked Garen right away – an otherwise ‘ordinary’ person faced with extraordinary circumstances. A patriot. One who was quietly fearless and devoted her career to helping others as a member of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. With the little background knowledge I have of this part of the war coming mostly from movies and television, I feared the worst when starting the story of a female P.O.W., but thankfully, she and the other nurses in her group were never subjected to the depravities I feared might be their fate at the hands of the Japanese.

Her Japanese captors, though, rarely missed a beat when it came to looting the nurses of their belongings:

“Most of this looting took place in broad daylight, but Garen was accosted one night while she slept. She was asleep on her cot when she became aware of a presence. Someone was at her side and she quickly realized it was a Japanese soldier. She was petrified, but remained perfectly still as he took her ring and removed her watch.  Other than this petty theft, the Japanese soldier did not molest her. Of the things stolen from her, she missed he watch the most. With it she had counted the pulse of many of her patients.”

That last sentence typified the type of character Garen had. It was all about the welfare of others and rarely about herself, even when late in captivity conditions and food supplies ran scarce, resulting in malnutrition and, in some cases, starvation.

I was on the edge of my seat reading the final dozen pages of her story, as the tide of the war was turning against the Japanese, though they often knew little of it, only garnering what news they could on a ‘contraband’ radio they hid well enough to avoid frequent searches for it by the Japanese. The fear that their captors would summarily execute the prisoners if their liberation became imminent was also a very real one, and had happened elsewhere. At one point, they searched her foot locker as part of their efforts to find the suspected radio:

“One night a Japanese soldier demanded she open her foot locker. She had an American flag inside, but when she pulled it out she told him it was a dress.  By the way she held it over herself, he did not recognize it as a flag and, not finding the radio he was looking for, moved on.”

Way to go Eleanor! 🙂  I considered her story to be one of probably countless others experienced by the more ‘quiet heroes’ of World War II.  Though I’ve only assigned two of the stories in this book to my Deal Me In project, I know I will read the others as well.

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“Uncle Sack” by Murphy Edwards – selection #43 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♦Q♦ Queen of Diamonds

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Diamonds is my suit for “Contemporary Writers with an Indiana Connection”

The Selection: “Uncle Sack” from the horror anthology “Terror Train 2”, published by James Ward Kirk fiction.

The Author: Murphy Edwards of Brookville, IN, who specializes in Horror fiction with the occasional venture into crime-related work.  I’ve featured one of his stories before on Bibliophilopolis, “Strunke City Derail”  which was actually a story from the first “Terror Train” anthology. The anthology containing “Uncle Sack” is available on Amazon.com for a mere 2.99. There’s also a Terror Train podcast at https://terrortrain.wordpress.com/ if you’re interested.

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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

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Uncle Sack

“So, The Sack Man, is he like the Boogey Man, or Yeti?” “Oh no,” said Manuel, erupting in laughter, “nothing like that. The Sack Man, he is much worse. Still, you must remember, what I am telling you is just a tale. Nothing has ever been proven.”

Too often in life, it seems that justice isn’t always meted out when and where it is needed. If there were only some supernatural force at work that would make sure this isn’t the case. Enter Portugal’s “Uncle Sack.”

Our protagonist, Cordell Harvey, is on one of Portugal’s regional trains. Seems a train trip through Portugal has been on his “bucket list” for a long time. The leg of his journey related by this story, however, is interrupted by two young “toughs” who are passing through the cars of the train and harassing passengers, including one feisty older lady who keeps yelling “O homem do saco!” back at them. Harvey inquires of Manuel, a fellow (local) passenger, what this means.  He feels she is cursing the thugs, but he learns she is trying to warn them.

“Uncle Sack is said to be Portugal’s great equalizer. When someone misbehaves, he steps in to set things straight… At the chosen moment, he transforms into a hideous creature; an insane, psychotic, vigilante murderer. He engulfs his prey and uses the sack to make them vanish.”  Harvey is somewhat disturbed by the tale, but is reassured “You have nothing to fear. He preys only on those who chose to disrupt society with their misbehavior.” (actually sounds like a handy kind of superhero to have around if you asked me!)

By this point in the story, an experienced reader will have realized that Harvey will have an opportunity to see Saco de Tio at work, but how will this come about? When he gets off the train in the town of “Porto” he may get the opportunity!

I don’t know if the legend of Uncle Sack exists in real world Portugal or only in the mind of the author, but in my opinion it’s a good one – as any would be that serves to discourage “misbehavior.” Porto (pictured below, from Wikipedia) is a real city, though, near the northern end of Portugal’s western coast. Though it’s not a bucket list item for me, I would also someday like to visit Portugal. I haven’t explored much Portuguese literature here at Bibliophilopolis either, with the exception of the exceptional writer, Katherine Vaz, whose work I was introduced to by some Portugeasan tourists who were visiting the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library a few years ago. See “the rest of the story” in this post about her story “Undressing the Vanity Dolls” here.

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Personal note: An inside joke at one of my book clubs is the fact that I have never been on a train trip in my life. Although this didn’t seem that odd to me, for some reason, it has become part of our monthly banter. I’ll have to report back to them that now at least I’m reading stories that take place on trains.   What about you?  Have you traveled by train? Can you recommend a trip? Can you think of any literary works that prominently feature trains, or rides on trains. (I can think of a few, but I’ll keep them to myself until people have had a chance to comment if they wish.)

“The Haunted Valley” by Ambrose Bierce – Selection #42 in Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♣K♣ of Clubs

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Clubs is my suit for “Stories by ‘legendary’ Indiana authors”

The Selection: “The Haunted Valley” which may be read for free online.  It was actually Bierce’s first published story, seeing print in 1871.

The Author: Ambrose Bierce – though actually born in Ohio, Bierce served in an Indiana Regiment during the Civil War and went on to be one of the most famous writers of weird or ‘occult’ stories in the 19th century. I’ve blogged about a few of his stories in the past: Beyond the Wall, and The Man and the Snake to name a couple.

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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/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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

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The Haunted Valley

“Looking in the same direction, I saw that the knothole in the wall had indeed become a human eye — a full, black eye, that glared into my own with an entire lack of expression more awful than the most devilish glitter.

This story is probably my least favorite of the Ambrose Bierce stories that I’ve read thus far, but it is certainly not without merit and, though the story line itself didn’t exactly grab me, the writing was up to his usual high standards. It’s a story I’ve “almost heard” several times before – a  narrator describes a road or route that he commonly travels that takes him through some eerie terrain (in this case a dark ravine) that gives him the impression of a lurking evil presence.

The unnamed narrator of this story goes on to give us a little of the backstory. It seems the valley was once inhabited by a “Jo. Dunfer,” a rather unlikable man who at one pointed hired “a Chinaman” to work as a laborer on his property, though he had virulently racist attitudes toward the Asian race, who he considered to be attacking the country like locusts.  At one point, he decides to build a cabin in the darkest part of the ravine and a dispute arises about how best to cut down the lumber required.  Apparently, the Chinaman, “Ah Wee”, instead of the traditional ‘chopping down’ method we use, fells trees by cutting in a shallow manner all around the circumference near the base of the tree.  For some reason, this method throws Mr. Dunfer into a rage.

Eventually, Ah Wee is killed by Dunfer, who more or less gets away with the crime, prejudice against Chinese immigrants being what it was in those days, yet there remains a haunting presence in the valley, particularly near the aborted construction site of the second cabin. When visiting the site years later, the narrator notes that, in addition to the trees that had been ‘worked on’ by Ah Wee, others were once partially felled in the more traditional manner. He notes that:

“It was as if the Old-World barbarism and the New-World civilization had reconciled their differences by the arbitration of an impartial decay — as is the way of civilizations.”

Dunfer has also since died and is buried next to the unfortunate Ah Wee at this location, which adds to its haunted-ness.  Have you read anything by Ambrose Bierce?  What are your favorites among his short stories?

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“Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room” by David Hoppe – selection #41 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠K♠ of Spades

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Spades is my suit for “Short, non-fiction works by Indiana authors”

The Selection: “Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room” from Personal Indianapolis, a collection of short essays covering “thirteen years of observing, exhorting, and satirizing the Hoosier capital.”

The Author: David Hoppe – his third appearance in this year’s DMI.  An Indianapolis writer who has labored for Indy’s “Alternative Weekly” Nuvo Magazine since 1998.

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/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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

“Songs of Experience: Bob Dylan at the Egyptian Room”

“As it happened, Bob Dylan played the Egyptian Room on election night.  What occult calculus was employed to position our country’s living Shakespeare on an upstairs stage in the heart of the heart of the country at this of all times we might know but never fully understand.”

I found this short essay to be a very interesting examination of Dylan the artist, juxtaposed with the coincidence of his playing Indianapolis on the night of the 2002 Election. Hoppe  mentions how “like at most concerts” the ‘pre-game’ time before the act included taped music, in this case the music of Aaron Copland, including Fanfare for the Common Man.  There was also a spoken introduction that:

“summarized each phase of his forty-plus career in purple National Enquirer prose – from prophet to substance abuser, to Christian convert to comeback trail. The inadequacy of all these tags is hilariously clear. All of them are shortcuts, feeble attempts to brand the work without having to try and really understand it.”

He describes Dylan’s voice as “splendidly ravaged” and “a storyteller’s dream. It seems to come from a timeless place that’s equal parts café, shack, hotel room and dirt road.”

My favorite observation was his comparison of Dylan to Sir Laurence Olivier:

“…the great English actor played Shakespeare’s tragic King Lear for the first time when he was in his thirties. People raved about Olivier’s sheer ability to inhabit the body of an old man. But when Olivier played Lear again, in his seventies, he captured the king’s soul in a way that moved audiences to tears. Olivier said the passage of time and his own aging had enabled him to truly grow into the part. Something similar seems to have taken hold of Bob Dylan. He was an old soul but still a young man when he wrote “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Hear him sing it now. You realize this is not a song of innocence but of experience – and that Dylan is at last old enough to understand the song in a way he could only intuit it when he first performed it.”

Pretty heavy stuff, and it makes you think it’s almost better to hear the singer in his ‘old age’ than to hear him in his prime. I suspect the true answer, though, is that it’s best to hear him throughout his career…

♫Personal Notes: I was shamefully late to the party in admiration for Bob Dylan. I am too young to have been swept up by his first wave, and by the time I became musically self-aware, he was almost a cliché amongst my musical friends, with his “mumbling” incomprehensible lyrics and all.  Then came the Tom Petty and the Travelling Wilburys.  Tom Petty is an artist I swore allegiance to long ago.  I often joke that his album Damn the Torpedoes “got me through high school.” Not exactly true, but I wore that cassette tape out back in the day. Petty’s unrestrained respect for Dylan and his participation in the True Confessions tour, where he and the Heartbreakers opened for Dylan, then stayed on stage to be his band (God, I would’ve loved to have seen that show) were good enough to me to look further into the artist.

It’s also interesting that Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature this year.  The same year this piece was a part of Deal Me In Challenge.  Coincidence?  I don’t think so! J

DMI Bonus song Lyrics! – Mr. Tambourine Man

Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you
Though I know that evenings empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming
Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you
Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship
My senses have been stripped
May hands can’t feel to grip
My toes

“A Hundred Ways to Do it Wrong” by Emily Temple – selection #40 of Deal Me “IN 2016

The Card: ♠J♠ Jack of Hearts

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me “IN,” Hearts is my suit for stories from Indiana-related magazines and literary journals

The Selection: “A Hundred Ways to Do it Wrong” from the Summer 2015 issue of Indiana Review. The story was a nominee for the 2015 Pushcart Prize

The Author: Emily Temple. Having gotten her MFA from University of Virginia, she’s currently writing for lithub.com. You can browse some of her work there at http://lithub.com/author/emily-temple/#

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What is Deal Me “IN” 2016? I’m glad you asked! Before the start of each year, I come up img_6202with 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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission

One Hundred Ways to Do it Wrong

“It only gets worse when you notice we can’t be trusted. I didn’t fail the test. I just found a hundred ways to do it wrong. Do you think you can forgive me?”

One thing I continue to be struck by since I joined the ‘book blogging’ community is just how many great writers there are out there that I had never heard of (imagine that!). I’ve found that one way to encounter many of these is to simply read some literary journals, something I’d never really done until a few years ago. This week, drawing the Jack of Hearts led me to this story by Emily Temple. It starts out ordinarily enough, with a devoted father (dressed hilariously in a “Shittake Happens” apron – of course I googled it and of course there is shiitakehappenssuch a thing for sale out there) preparing “tons of food” for his daughter’s 16th birthday party. All of a sudden however, when the daughter is inside the house with the “master chef,” the author sneaks in another father: “As she sniffed the mini quiches, her father came in from the yard wearing a baseball cap and holding a well-worn mitt. Are you ready to throw the ball around? he yelled pounding his fist into the mitt more times than the girl thought strictly necessary.” This happened so quickly, I had to go back and read again – ‘wait, isn’t her father inside with her?’

It turns out this was just the start, as many other fathers (I guess the number must be one hundred for the story’s title to be exact) show up, each representing one thing or another in the girl’s growing up – either real or imagined, it seems.  It seems the girl also has a secret she wants to tell her father. At some point, the girl begins to feel the need to “choose” which one of these is her real father.  Then, she lines them up and “told them they would all have to go. Except the real one, if he didn’t mind identifying himself, please. This had gone on long enough.” Though it is not exactly specified what the secret is (though one can guess) and she wants to make sure she tells the right father.  At the end, when she apparently has settled on one of the men as her father, she says to him “I’ll tell you tomorrow. If you’re still here.”

Maybe this is a story that left me with more questions than answers, but as I’ve stated here any times before, I enjoy when some of the work is left to the reader. I loved the concept and the execution of it, too. I’ll be looking for more to read from this author.

“Not in Kansas Anymore” by Rocco Versaci – selection #39 of Deal Me “IN” 2016

The Card: ♠K♠  King of Hearts (the picture at left is, appropriate for this story, from a Bicycle deck)

The Suit: For this year’s Deal Me IN, Hearts is my suit for “Stories from Indiana literary magazines and journals.

The Selection: “Not in Kansas Anymore” from my copy of the Spring 2014 issue of “Midwestern Gothic” magazine.

The Author: Rocco Versaci (pictured at left upper right [from his website]), who earned both his M.A. and PhD at Indiana University, and also worked as film critic for the Bloomington Herald times. He is currently teaching at Palomar College in San Marcos, California. You may learn more about this author at http://www.roccoversaci.com/

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/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 also now officially endorsed as a “Legacy Project” by The Indiana Bicentennial Commission.

 

Not in Kansas Anymore

“This is some perverted backwoods version of Zen, where I’m shackled to the present moment, forced to feel each droplet of sweat, smell each dead possum, listen to each echo of thunder.”

Are you a homebody or do like adventure? How do you feel about road trips? For my part, I’m usually happy staying at home, or at least only straying to places that I’m familiar and comfortable with.  That said, I have been on my share of road trips over the years as well and enjoyed them for the most part. In a sense, this story reminded me of that feeling of being “on the road” and made me think that, in a way, being on the road is almost an altered state of consciousness…

This is kind of what the narrator of this story experiences.  We join him in medias res, pedaling across the country on his bicycle, as he’s leaving Kansas and entering Missouri (just one of the reasons for the story’s title). His reaction to seeing the “leaving Kansas and entering Missouri” sign on the road? “About Goddamn time!” (having driven across Kansas, I can appreciate the fact that it is a very long way across)  He encounters a detour, which have come to plague him during his trek.  Here we also learn a little of his background:

“Detours are another matter. Detours, I know about. I hit a big one in my mid-thirties. A lump in my chest that became nine weeks of chemotherapy. Nine weeks inside a body being slowly almost-killed. Like a lot of detours, it had piss-poor signage, and by the time I got back on the road I’d been on, it didn’t look the same.”

Smattered with details of small encounters on his trip, especially in the Ozarks, the story leaves the reader with a good idea of that ‘altered state’ of consciousness that being on the road can evoke. I liked the story a lot and it made me feel like going on a trip myself. I will NOT be bicycling, however. J

What are some of your favorite road trips (of any kind)?  I’ve often thought of going on a literary road trip, retracing some of Kerouac’s routes but haven’t pulled the trigger yet. Or maybe a re-tread of (roughly) the path of the Lewis and Clark Expedition would be fun.  I also have accumulated a list of great places that I visited as a child on summer ‘family camping trips’ that I’d really like to see again through the eyes of my adult self. Maybe when I retire I’ll finally have ample time to try these things…

below: from wikipedia – a map of the Ozark Mountains, where much up and down pedaling was done by the author in the story

ozark-map