Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Blevins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blevins. Show all posts

12 June, 2014

Tina Louise Blevins, "God of Ducks"


Chuck and Margo lost their baby, Sarah, to SIDS and are now in their early sixties. Chuck cooks in a restaurant. "The smell lives deep inside his skin where soap doesn't reach, and sometimes he stands on the bathmat still glistening from his shower and looks in the mirror, grips the pale, soft mounds of fat around his stomach and thinks, I look like a dinner roll. I'm a biscuit with a dick." Margo's body is described in great detail.

When Cindy storms out of the kitchen of the restaurant, Luke takes her place and becomes a favorite of Chuck's, sort of the son he never had although he couldn't really admit it to himself or anyone else. We see the tender relationship of Chuck and Margo. Losing a child didn't break them apart, as often happens, but brought them closer or at least kept them together.

Chuck works long hours at the restaurant, "His eyes feel like he has dipped them in flour and put them back into their sockets." Luke's kitchen skills improve under the tutelage of Chuck. Margo's beloved cat, Petey, takes ill and needs an expensive procedure. Luke slips money to Margo at the carnival that has come to town. There is an amusing scene of Luke winning at the smiley face duck game and this is where the title comes in. Luke says, "I am the god of ducks," because he is so good at the game. "You're just not listening to the ducks." I'm not sure why that bit warrants becoming the title. The story lines of Chuck and Margo as well as the story line of Luke and Kaleigh are intertwined but I feel like the story is Chuck and Margo's.

When Luke is unexpectedly killed, Chuck is engulfed by grief, "Ripping through his chest is a jagged confusion; he does not understand what he is crying about." Of course, Chuck is saddened by Luke's death and is also happy about Petey's recovery. I think that Chuck is experiencing a latent overwhelming wash of grief for the loss of his baby girl decades earlier. I imagine that the terrible loss of a child would never go away and that grief would continue to build and unexpectedly find release, "he sobs into the floor."

A side story line is the meth lab in the trailer near Chuck and Margo's. The people who lived there were arrested and the door is left hanging open. At the end of the story, Chuck goes to the open door, peers inside and imagines entering. He recalls the people in his life and their hardships. "He stands for a moment with his hand on the threshold, then he reaches for the knob and swings the door shut." I guess in a way he is symbolically letting go of grief, for the moment.

The story is told in present tense, 3rd person POV. The story opens with a person storming out of the kitchen of a restaurant and the story ends with a person quietly pulling a door closed. The writing style is realistic and fresh and believable and tender.

"God of Ducks" was first published in The Gettysburg Review and subsequently in the 2014 Pushcart Prize XXXVIII: Best of the Small Presses.