Short Stories All the Time

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

20 June, 2016

Tim Gautreaux, "Good for the Soul"

From the 1999 edition of Story, "Good for the Soul," tells the trials and tribulations of a priest who hurts a woman sitting in her car because he's driving drunk on his way to give last rites to a dying man in the hospital. It's a small town; everyone knows everyone. A car has been stolen and stored safely away for over ten years by the man who is about to die and he wants to confess after all the years of standing outside the church smoking and never going to confession. The woman's arm was broken but otherwise no other serious damage. Gautreaux handles the characteristics of people very well. The situations are funny but he's not making fun of the characters. "The car had its logical movement, but his head had a motion of its own." There are some seamless point of view shifts. For example, "Vic could see that the priest was shocked." And, "Mr. Arceneaux couldn't remember the last time he'd been to confession..." One of my favorite lines comes in the beginning of the story, "His stomach was full from the Ladies' Altar Society supper where the sweet, sweet women of the parish had fed him pork roast, potato salad, and butter beans, filling his plate and making over him as if he were an old spayed tomcat who kept the cellar free of rats."

"Good for the Soul" was published in the summer of 1999 in Story magazine.

12 January, 2016

Tim Gautreaux, "Waiting for the Evening News"

It is Jesse McNeil's fiftieth birthday and he's gotten drunk just before engineering a train carrying fifty some cars of toxic chemicals through the desolate part of Louisiana. He's desperate for change in his life from the predictable routine, "the same routes with the same trains for so many years,"
and decides that getting drunk and engineering the so-called "rolling bomb" is the ticket. He becomes the scapegoat of the media. Jesse did not cause the breaking apart of the train but he ran away from the accident that caused a lot of damage and deaths. He's indicted by the court of public opinion. He is given a ride and lunch on different days by a Catholic priest who reminds Jesse that "secrecy is not innocence." The priest also tells him, "'When you throw a rock in a pond, you make ripples.'"

It's another great story from Gautreaux and is the second one in the collection, Same Place, Same Things.  "Waiting for the Evening News" was first published in the late 1990s in the journal, Story.

"Hardly forty people knew he existed, and now his name has sailed out into the region like parts of his exploded train."

"Lurleen looked into the camera as though she had heard the remark. 'I just wish he could put all this mess behind him and come home to help paint the living room.'"

"He wondered once more why a man's mistake grows with importance according to how many people know about it."

"Everyone knew it all, or nobody knew the first thing."

11 January, 2016

Tim Gautreaux, "Same Place, Same Things"

Harry Lintel repairs irrigation pumps during the Depression in Louisiana up and down highway 51. He goes to repair a pump and instead finds a dead man humped over the pump. A theme of the story, for me, is the frustration one can feel when they don't know how to alter their situation and sometimes do something that can only make things a lot worse. "She was a woman who would never get where she wanted to go." Ada wants to leave, "she had never been more than a hundred miles from the spot they were standing in," and was desperate and frustrated enough that she killed her husband and only Harry knew. Harry's last name, Lintel, is the word for the top part of the frame of a door and Ada had hoped that Harry was going to be her door through which she could leave.

The story is told in simple past tense and a limited third-person point of view. "Same Place, Same Things" was first published in Atlantic Monthly. I found a hard copy of the book of the same title at a wonderful used bookstore, Recycled Books. Many years ago, I heard Tim Gautreaux speak at a university and I loved it that he said that he could write a story about anything, even a lace doily.

Favorite Lines:
"In the quiet night the engines fought the drought, popping like the musketry of a losing army."

"He remembered that putting his big arms around his young wife years ago would stop her from crying, but he had no notion why this worked."

interview with Gautreaux and the Atlantic Monthly
full text of story, "Same Place, Same Things" at the Atlantic Monthly
Wikipedia page for Gautreaux
A wonderfully thorough and interesting interview between Tim Gautreaux and Margaret D. Bauer, East Carolina University, including audio clips
Vimeo, video of panel discussion at Louisiana Book Festival, 2012

12 September, 2014

Tim Gautreaux, "The Pine Oil Writers' Conference"

This story is a satire about writers and writing conferences. It's hilarious and I enjoyed it very much. It was first published in Image Journal, issue number 24, and subsequently included in Gautreaux's collection, Welding with Children.

link to Image Journal web page

10 September, 2014

Tim Gautreaux, "The Piano Tuner"

Claude is called to tune a piano at Michelle Placervent's place "set high up on crumbling brick pillars." Michelle is the end of the line of the clan who "had just enough money and influence to make themselves disliked in a poor community." She had a music degree and had never held a job other than taking care of her dying parents. Now alone and in a derelict house with only her equally derelict piano.

When Claude arrived he found a depressed woman and he decides to talk to her about getting help. She does and he then gets her a job playing the piano in Lafayette at a piano bar in a new, large hotel. After some hiccups she manages to have a few faithful followers.

The funniest and saddest part of the story is when she uses a tractor to try to pull her old piano out of the house and the tractor is on the loose for four miles.

The theme, for me, is that help is nearby and often appears unexpectedly and also that a person can be reinvented or nudged out of a shell or box that has defined them too narrowly.

It was fun for me to listen to the various songs that the author used throughout the story to help set the tone and illuminate the shifts in mood of Michelle Placervent. "As Time Goes By," Mozart, "Stardust," "Put on a Happy Face," "Yesterday," a polka, Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody," Patsy Cline's "Crazy," and ends with Scott Joplin's "Solace." The titles work nicely as well as the tunes.

"The Piano Tuner" was first published in Harper's magazine and then included in his collection, Welding with Children.

Favorite lines:
"The house was as uncombed as she was."

"He sat there next to the plant box full of plastic flowers and worried about Michelle and whether he'd done the right thing by turning a Creole queen into a motel-lounge pianist."

interview with Tim Gautreaux
Project Muse, Tim Gautreaux