30 January 2006

Paper Tiger

To-day, the road all runners come,
Shoulder-high we bring you home,
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
--A.E. Housman

Troy Dent returned to Goodwater one cold Sunday night while everybody was at church. The shiny red Eldorado cruised up the hill into town, the top down, Dent’s blond pompadour firm against the chilly breeze flopping the upturned collar of his suede jacket. He parked slantwise in front of the movie-house, got out and leaned back against the door of the car like James Dean, one boot crossed over the other. Rolling a tight cigarette, he licked it and chinked open a lighter, spit out a few flakes and pinched the tip, then squinted up through the fog of breath and tobacco at the clear night sky, the sharp stars and the waning moon.

Everything was just as he had left it. Woodsmoke permeated the crisp night air. Second Avenue was empty. The rows of close-set businesses running along either side of the wide road had been closed since five o’clock the day before. The flat brick storefronts lay darkened beneath the shadowy covered sidewalk. Dent drew a comb out of his back jeans pocket. It was a habit he was still struggling to give up now that his elbow tingled and ached any time he lifted his pitching arm above his chest. Bending to the side, he leaned his head over till his ear rested on his shoulder then reached across the top of his head to comb the other side. He looked across the street at Mr. Haywood’s Barber Shop and saw the same sign hanging in the window, the writing nearly illegible in the soft glow of the streetlight: “Trims and Flat-Tops ONLY,” it said, and under that, “NO COLORED.”

Dent knew the cause of that second part well. It was a story Mr. Haywood told often, how a couple years after the war, when Dent was four or five, the black boy had come in wearing his uniform, the loose empty sleeve tucked into his coat pocket. He had asked for a haircut, but Mr. Haywood “didn’t know the first thing about what to do with a nappy head of hair,” and more than that, he was worried he’d foul up his clippers. And since he was too proud to ask the boy how to do his job (the job his father, and his father before him had trained him to do), Mr. Haywood told the boy to leave. And he did, though he didn’t go far. He stood on the sidewalk right in front of the door for as long as it took to smoke a cigarette, then he just dropped it and walked away. Once the boy was gone, Mr. Haywood wrote up the sign and taped it to the window then joined his wife in the beauty shop next door for an early lunch break. Mr. Haywood had told that story more than a few times. “He just turned right around and left,” he used to say, his voice tinged with regret. “Never said a word.”

The pain in his elbow sharpened as Dent slid the comb into his back pocket. His arm had been made of rubber once. The humid summers and mild winters of his youth had kept it elastic, loose, warm. It had been his livelihood, his ticket out when he rode the Greyhound north four years ago. The arm had taken him to Portland and Syracuse, then to Denver and--for a moment, at least--to Detroit, where the frosty winds blew in off Lake Erie and his arm turned brittle, snapping like a stick of gum in an ancient pack of cards.

He dropped the cigarette and toed it out. One more for the negro street sweeper. How many had he dropped in this same spot? Back in high school, on the weekend nights, the kids got together right here in front of the movie-house, staying out late after the last show, wishing there was nothing to go home to. He’d probably smoked enough cigarettes on this street to kill an entire Dixie-league team.

Reaching inside his jacket, he felt the cold metal flask, lifted it halfway out of the pocket then jammed it back inside. He couldn’t drink it now, not like this. On the road trips, it had been different. Especially the last one, after Denver joined the PCL. Picking up and moving to a new city every five days, the country stranger in a big town, it had been easy and preferable to drink alone. But he was home now and it just wouldn’t do, not with all the stories he could tell and all the questions everybody would surely have about what all he’d seen and what all he’d done, the kind of thing Nita Harpole would want to know, if some square hick hadn’t snatched her up yet.
He had never gone out with Nita back in high school. Other girls had offered themselves, and he had obliged for a while before dropping them, but Nita had always held back. Maybe that was why her dimpled smile had been the mask worn by the few women he had known since, most of them ex-wives of career minor leaguers, with sloppy titties and savings accounts they were piggy-banking for a trip to Vegas.

He leaned back, crossed his arms over his chest, and stared down the hill past the municipal building that housed city hall and the fire station. The street was lined with old familiar trucks and sedans parked in front of First Baptist. You could tell who went to church by which vehicles were parked out front. Nita was probably down there now. Her father’s ‘56 Buick Special was nosed in under a streetlight just down the steps from the sanctuary. She was probably sitting on the front row with the children’s choir, or in the back with a worthless husband (Hugh Moss or Ralph Newberry, one of those bums who forgot his talent as soon as the cows needed milking). Dent had almost driven home on Friday just to save Nita from anything she might get into with the local johnnies on Saturday night. It had crossed his mind to drive right up to the Harpole’s house and walk inside and shake hands with Mr. Harpole like he was doing him a favor, go in and give Nita the ring, pick her up and carry her out.

But he had only been in the car an hour or two, winding down out of the Rockies when he noticed a yellowed newspaper article in the floorboard that changed his mind. Some bush-league reporter in the Post had admired him for bowing out gracefully, for retiring on his own terms, but nothing could’ve been farther from the truth. After the blowout in Detroit, a brief rehab stint returned him to Denver, but the brutal road stretch from Indianapolis to Hawaii and back to Denver again had shut him out for good.

Anyway, it was better to come home on Sunday. It wouldn’t do to drive through town and be seen by all the kids. They’d all want autographs and he was still practicing his penmanship in his new hand. His cursive was big and loopy like a third-grader’s. And besides, none of them knew the truth. His folks didn’t even know. The last time he had spoken with them was on the telephone the day he was called up to Detroit. After signing the bonus papers at the club office that morning, he’d taken a taxi to the plant. It was September 20, 1962, and he paid the $6, 608 in cash and drove the first ‘63 Eldorado off the ramp and out of the plant toward Minneapolis and right up to Metropolitan Stadium where he found a payphone and called home with the good news. By the end of that day, though, his arm iced up in the back of the ambulance, he had the feeling—he didn’t know how to express it—that a once-possible future had passed, that the moment of his greatness flickered, like a dying bulb in an outield scoreboard, and that, like everyone else in Goodwater, he had become who he would be for the rest of his life.

The Cadillac rolled through the stop sign and parked down the hill a hundred yards from the church’s front door in the nearest available space. Dent smoked another cigarette. He could get out and go through with it, go on up and put the smoke out on the sidewalk before ascending the steps. Once inside, he’d put his ear to the swivel door that led into the sanctuary. Brother Cross would be praying, his unamplified voice booming up into the vaulted ceiling.

Dent would crack the door, peek inside at the seated congregation, their heads bowed. The back pew on the left side near the wall would be half-empty, as he stepped in, guiding the door closed behind him. He’d look for Nita, maybe send her a note in the offering plate and leave during the invitation.

The Cadillac’s idling murmur reverberated off the brick exterior of the fellowship hall. He couldn’t go in. Not now and not ever. Dreams never worked out in real life. He knew what would happen if he tried it. Intent on getting to that corner seat before the preacher said Amen, he would take a few steps before he even noticed that Brother Cross had quit praying and was staring at him from the front of the church, his arms outstretched.

“Praise the Lord,” Brother Cross would say in the same surprised, alerting voice he’d used when the Aparicios returned unexpected from their mission trip to Costa Rica. Brother Cross was a short man with a receding flat-top, probably nearly bald now or at least whitened. He’d look up with a ruddy face and a proud smile and make up some excuse for cancelling the evening service. He’d say something like, “I knew there was a reason I didn’t get much preparation done on my sermons this week. Here I was thinking it was the devil distracting me, but lo and behold, if Goodwater’s only begotten hasn’t returned.”

And almost at once, the congregation would snap awake and turn quickly as if expecting to see the Lord himself riding a white horse down the aisle toward Brother Cross. A few people in the back would stand up to shake Dent’s hand. Others would look back and forth from him to the preacher, awaiting instruction or permission to rise from their seats and welcome Dent’s arrival.

“Come on, folks,” Brother Cross would say. “This beats anything the Lord’s laid on my heart in some time.”

As the crowd stood and slowly filed out of the pews toward him, Dent would back up against the back wall of the church.

Brother Cross would slow them down, though. “Wait a minute, now. Let’s do this one at a time. Son, why don’t you come on down front and we’ll greet you like we do the new members. We’ll start the line over here to the left and it can wrap around the back there.”

The ladies would be all smiles, the men winks and nods as they parted, making a clear path toward Brother Cross and the altar.

“I don’t know,” Dent said aloud, speaking to the windshield. “I didn’t mean to interrupt the service.”

“Oh come on, don’t be bashful, son.” Brother Cross would wave him forward, reeling him in.
“Folks would sure like to speak to you. Heck, some of them haven’t even met you yet, they’ve just heard talk. How in the world is the North treating you, anyway? I imagine its mighty cold up in Detroit.”

“Deetroit,” Dent said aloud, mocking the stubby preacher’s accent. He remembered the joke he’d heard from an Alabama boy on a bus-ride somewhere out west. They were talking about the big leagues and the boy said you can’t get them confused because Detroit’s in Michigan and Deetroit’s in Alabama.

He had a sudden desire to tell everything, to confess, to jump out of the car, run up the steps, and burst in through the back doors, to walk down the aisle like the day he was saved, step up to the pulpit and swing away at all their expectations. But even then, he’d probably end up turning around in front of the altar to face the congregation, who’d be staring at him as if he were a wax dummy in their homespun version of Cooperstown, and he’d catch a glimpse of his mother and father, who wouldn’t be looking at him at all, though their faces would be proud and grateful and rejoicing. They’d be standing up from their pew halfway back shaking hands and receiving hugs from the people around them, as if some unanswered prayer had finally gotten through. The old widows would already be lining up at the front of the church and they’d inch forward, Brother Cross greeting each of them before stepping back to announce, “Y’all just tell Brother Troy how much he means to you and this church. Let him know how much we miss him, and how proud we are that he’s making good on all that God-given talent the Lord’s blessed him with.” Brother Cross would point at Troy’s parents and squeeze Troy’s shoulder. “I know Mr. George and Miss Martha are mighty proud of this youngun.”

Then Brother Cross would usher the nearest widow over and he’d pat Dent’s back and say, “Good to see you, son,” and Dent would watch him slip past the crowd, behind the piano, and out the side door.

One by one, the entire congregation would file past, the elderly shambling by half-awake, young mothers burping infants on their shoulders, young fathers recounting to their sons the preserved statistics of ancient victories. These were farmers and their wives, laborers from the local glove plant or shirt factory, electricians, hardware store owners, butchers and grocers and contractors. Mr. Haywood, the barber; Mr. Wicker, the principal; Ms. Flora, the librarian. Nearly everyone he’d ever known in Goodwater would come by to shake his hand.
But at the end of the line would be Nita. And she wouldn’t speak until the last members had left the church, until Mr. Wise, the grocer who took care of the custodial duties, flicked off the baptistry lights and said they could stay as long as they liked as long as they locked the door before they left. But then the air would change. Something would lift from him in the darkness and the silence. Near the altar he’d kneel and hug her waist and she’d smooth his hair and tell him without words that the worst was over and she’d lift his arm and kiss the elbow and touch the numb fingers to her lips.

She would eat of the broken bread of his body and he would drink of the pressed grape of hers.

Which meant, now that he’d dreamed it, that it would never happen, not that way or any other. So he was out of the parking space and jerking to a halt in the road, then two-wheeling around a stop sign up the hill toward the school before he realized where he was headed. At the top of the hill, stretching in the darkness beyond the buses parked in the grass lay Toefield Stadium, which was not a stadium at all but an outfield of unmown weeds and an infield of dirt, all of it enclosed by a rusty fence and flanked on either side by two cinderblock dugouts. He drove along the street past the Ag building and turned onto the access road, two dirt ruts worn smooth and deep. The tall-weeded median between them scraped the Cadillac’s undercarriage as he passed.
The stands were eight tiered rows of sagging planks weathered gray and bolted onto a rusted frame. He walked past them, and thumped the tin sign hanging on the gate near the third base dugout that read, “School Use Only: No Trespassing.”

He raised the cold metal latch and entered. The moon had shifted now. It was almost directly overhead as he took the mound. He kicked at the rubber without much effort and the dirty white strip of plastic flew off into the grass toward third base. For a moment he looked around as if some minor tragedy had occurred, but he left it and walked through the dirt toward home plate. A few balls were caught in the backstop so he pulled them free and rolled them out to the mound then picked up the rubber and stomped it back into place. He picked up the balls with his pitching hand and using his other, tossed two weak lobs that bounced once on the cold packed dirt and returned rolling to the backstop.

This was where he’d learned to pitch. He realized now that his father had really only taught him three things: the laundry business, how to throw a screwball, and the career statistics of his father’s hero, Carl Hubbell. Dent had soaked it up and stored it away. Some folks called Hubbell “King Carl.” Others called him “The Meal Ticket.” At the All-Star game in 1934, he struck out five consecutive Hall-of-Famers, including Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. He wore number 11, pitched for the New York Giants, and somebody—he forgot who—once said of him, “He could throw strikes at midnight.”

“‘See, the screwball’s an unnatural pitch,’” Dent’s father used to say, repeating the very words Hubbell had once used to describe his out-pitch. “‘Nature never intended a man to turn his hand like that throwing rocks at a bear.’”

But now something else Hubbell had said echoed louder than the rest: “A fellow doesn’t last long on what he’s done. He has to keep on delivering.”

Overhead, the lights behind home plate and above each foul-pole clicked and buzzed, shining down dimly for a few seconds before brightening. Dent looked around, wondering who had turned them on. He hadn’t seen any cars on the way in. The woods beyond the access road were dark, thick and tangled. The small press box was empty. He felt silly enough, standing alone on an old rugged ball field, but now that someone was watching him, he knew it was time to go. This was probably their signal, a warning from some distant spectator who understood the need of a retired hero to return to the place of his greatest achievements and consult the earth and sky as one would a map or a landmark, to know where to go from there. He balled his fists and stuck
them in his pockets as he walked toward the gate.

“Hey, I'm not trying to get you to leave,” a voice called from the deep outfield behind him.

Walking in from right-centerfield was a tall thin man wearing khakis, a gray sweater, and a blue cap with Goodwater’s white G stitched on the front. The man strode toward him quickly, blowing into his hands. Behind him, parked on the slight rise between the outfield fence and the Ag building was a black ‘54 Chevy with a white hard-top. It was Coach Norris’ car, but this wasn’t Coach Norris walking toward him.

“How you doing?” the man called as he stepped over second base.

Dent leaned against the fence now, smoking another cigarette. “Fair.”

“I didn’t mean to bug you. I saw you drive up. Plus, we’ve got spring practice starting tomorrow. Thought I’d cut on the lights, make sure everything’s in working order.” The man looked up at the lights and spat an arc of tobacco juice. He had thin gray eyes, thin lips. He looked familiar, but Dent couldn’t place him. The man chuckled. “I’d say they’re working mighty fine.”

“Yeah,” Dent nodded. “Are you helping out Coach Norris this year?”

The man pulled his hand over his mouth, smoothing his weekend beard. “Well, since Coach Norris passed away last year…”

“What happened?”

“Heart attack. Doctor made it sound like he didn’t suffer too bad, though”—the man snapped his fingers—“it happened so quick.”

In the silence Dent looked down at the dirt then dropped his cigarette.

“I’m Wayne Bridge,” the man said, stepping forward. Dent shook hands and the man stepped back a few feet and crossed his arms over his chest. “What year’d you graduate? Sixty-one.”

Dent nodded.

“Me, too. Duck Hill. I thought I recognized you. We beat y’all a couple of times, but we never did much when you were out there. You’re on your way to Detroit now, right?”

“I was.” Dent opened the gate. “The arm’s not holdin up.”

“I’ll tell you what,” Bridge said. “I imagine you’re probably pretty busy, but if you want to come to practice—talk to the kids, show them a few tricks—you just come on.”

“Well, I’m only in town for a few days.”

“Seeing the folks, huh?”

“Yeah.”

“I know how that is. Boy, that’s a pretty machine right there. That one’ll last you a while and still look good, too.”

Dent pointed up the hill. “What’s the story on Coach Norris’ old car?”

Bridge swivelled from his hips as if he had a medicine ball hung around his neck, then turned back to face Dent. “You know that thing was here when I interviewed for the job. I asked Mr. Wicker about it, and he said that car’s been there ever since Coach Norris came back from Oxford. His guard unit got called up there to help that boy go to school. He figured one of them fools up there must’ve messed with his engine.”

“Somebody ought to fix it up,” Dent said. “That was a pretty good year. Who owns it, do you know?”

“I reckon his wife does. I don’t imagine he’d leave it to his sisters.”

“His wife, huh? There was always a rumor going around about which girl he was after.”

“Yeah, I heard he waited about a year after she graduated just so folks wouldn’t talk.”

“Really?” Dent’s voice rose an octave in surprise. “Who was it? Bonnie Cotton?”

Dent knew instantly that he was wrong and that he should’ve known the answer because Nita was the last girl anybody would’ve guessed Coach Norris would go after. Nearly everybody in town thought he was an obnoxious, rough-edged cajun known for throwing tantrums if a call didn’t go his way. The men at the barbershop were always saying if he hadn’t won as many games as he did, he would’ve been gone a long time ago.

Bridge hooked his index finger inside his cheek and flung out the dried wad of tobacco.

“Do you know if she remarried?” Dent asked.

Bridge nodded. “I heard it was a doctor from down on the coast, but, now that’s just what I heard.” He clapped his hands together as if he’d just thought of something. “Listen, I’ve got to run, but you’re more than welcome to stay down here as long as you like. I’ll leave the lights on till you’re done. And I mean it, now, you come see a game if you’re back in town once the season starts. I could use a good bench coach.”

“I’d better go,” Dent said. “I don’t even know why I came down here, now.” He walked around the front of the car, and got in.

“You know it’s funny,” Wayne Bridge said. “Sometimes I look at these boys and think ‘Who the hell do they think they are,’ but then I get to thinking about it and realize ‘Who the hell did I think I was when I was their age?’ I mean, I didn’t do much either--I didn’t get a single offer--but at least for a few years there, I had the chance to really be good at something. Some folks don’t ever get that. Ever.”

Dent started the engine and switched on the headlights. He waved, but the car didn’t move. It was after eight. On the radio, Roy Orbison was yearning for bayous and fishing boats. So Coach Norris and Nita Harpole had gotten married. They’d probably been dating right under everybody’s noses and none of them ever guessed it. It all made sense now, Nita’s disinterest with the high school boys, even Coach Norris’ story about the red-haired girl he left behind in Metarie.

The air was cooler, but nowhere near as cold as that evil chinook up north. After the field lights flicked off, Dent cut the engine but left the headlamps shining. Ahead in the darkness, a figure moved toward him. The man stood on the bottom plank of the bleachers, his elbow pinning a broom handle to his ribs, the straw fan swinging back and forth near his leg as his profile advanced in a rhythmic sidestep out of the shadows.

The man stopped sweeping for a moment, looked at Dent, then he continued.

“Hey boy,” Dent said. The man looked at him, expressionless, then returned to his sweeping.

“Do you know who I am?” Dent asked.

“Yes, sir,” the man said, and he kept sweeping. “I been knowing you.”

“Who am I?”

“Jonah.”

“Jonah?”

“Yes, sir. You been in the belly of the whale. But he didn’t like the taste of you, so he spit you out.”

“What’s that supposed mean?”

The man stopped sweeping and looked at him. “Oh, no sir, I’m mistaken,” he said. “You’re not Jonah, neither.”

“So you do recognize me. Right?” asked Dent, almost pleading. “You’ve seen me in the paper, probably.”

“Oh, yes sir,” said the man. “You’re all over the paper. You’re all over everything.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty famous around here.” Dent lifted the flask from his jacket pocket. He unscrewed the lid and took a swig. He offered the man a drink, but the man refused.

“I’ve got a bad arm, too,” Dent said. “What happened to yours?”

“War took it.” The man twirled the broom away from his side and leaned it against the fence. He stepped over to the car.

“You were in the war?”

“I was stationed right outside of--”

“I lost mine playing ball.”

The man’s expression changed, his eyes dulling as if he were watching a worn-out vaudeville routine. He stepped back into the shadows, picked up the broom and started sweeping again as
Dent continued.

“I made it to the majors, but you probably heard. Career stats: one inning pitched, two hits, one walk, zero strikeouts, one wild pitch. Hey, I tied the record for lowest ERA of all time. Zero-point-zero-zero.”

Dent paused to roll a cigarette, then continued. He could no longer see the man, but he could hear the faint wisp of the broom beneath the resonance of his own voice.

“So even though Dickie was calling for the hard one, I crossed him up and turned the screw. Felt the crack in my elbow. The ball sailed high over Killer’s head, over the on-deck circle and into the stands.

“Dickie kicked the dirt when he walked out the new ball. He was cussing like I never heard before. He apologized though, said to trust him next time, then asked if me if I was okay. I nodded, turned away, and stepped off the mound, massaging the new ball, trying to loosen the laces. My fingertips were numbing. I was dizzy, nauseated. It felt like a hinge-pin had been hammered half-way out of my elbow and broken off.

“I could’ve thrown in the towel right then, the doctor said later, and I might’ve pitched again. I didn’t know it, though. I managed to stay out there. Gave up back-to-back first-pitch singles to Vic Power and Bob Allison, then gloved a weak come-backer off Lenny Green and started the double-play with a force at home. The third out was Bernie Allen’s foul pop-up. Dickie made the out in front of home plate and flipped the souvenir to me. The fellows patted me on the back on their way in from the field. I’ll never forget Al Kaline. He said, ‘You fought hard, kid. You got heart.’ I was the last one in. Tipped my hat to the standing crowd and just sort of sank into the dugout.

“Yeah, the doctor said if I kept playing, I wouldn’t be able to sign my own checks when it came time to pay the hospital bill, so that’s how it was decided. No microphone in the middle of home plate. No ceremonies. No goodbyes. Pretty sad case, huh?”

Dent scanned the darkness to guage the man’s reaction, but he was gone and had taken the broom with him.

After midnight Dent wove through the school parking lot, down past the Methodist church and turned onto Webster Street. Old Cemetery Road was up ahead and he turned onto it, riding the brake, firming his grip on the steering wheel to keep a steady path as the tires plowed through the thick surface of rocks. Pulling over onto the grass, he stood out of the car and walked onto his family’s plot. The grass was scratchy and dry where he lay looking up at the night. Flattening his palms onto the ground, between the grass and soil, he felt the world turning beneath him.
Overhead, the stars wheeled on. He knew nothing of the heavenly lights and their positions, but overhead a constellation appeared in the shape of the cup of Christ. From far away, a star shot into it and the cup lit on fire, the blood running over. He rose to his knees, sat back on his ankles and bowed to the earth, his forehead in the grass. He lifted his head and found the cup as it spilled a shower of stars over the West. Loosening his belt, he removed his jacket, his shirt, his jeans and his shoes, and sat cross-legged in the grass.

He hated himself for thinking he could come back and start something, for thinking Nita would be waiting for him and that he’d convince her he was leaving the game for her, for thinking Goodwater still deserved him in flesh and blood.

The desert was waiting for him, as it did for all men broken by the cold, and now he knew what he must do.

THE END

--I want to know if you think this is ready for me to submit. Is there anything at all that prevents this from being a publishable story?

4 Comments:

Blogger The Damned said...

adam
i think you already know what i'm going to say...i think it's too much at the end about what's happened to his arm...WE ALREADY KNOW...so why are you killing us with information? it makes that great simile ("snapped his arm like a stick of gum in an ancient pack of cards") just disappear...you're usually not one to overwrite like me so i just don't understand why you're leaving all of that in here...i thik it's another story, perhaps, not this one

i'm trying to map this out, the reason for his return...it doesn't seem to be to tell his story, it seems to be for Nita, yet there is almost no emotion when he finds out she's been married not once, but twice, and to his ex-coach! yet Dent gives us NOTHING...i don't buy it

and why the information about the "bushleague" reporter? don't we know this already by the way you give us the great description of his painful arm

i like that you put the one-armed man at the playing field...would the new coach know he's there?

good job...i say with one final edit you're ready
--joy

10:59 AM  
Blogger Jean Louis said...

Adam,

I agree with what Joy's said, actually, regarding the information at the end, the story, the arm. We know already, so why the recap? It's not very interesting, from a story standpoint, in that it doesn't really advance the narrative. More or less just wallows in it.

Also, I'd re-think actually naming James Dean in the first paragraph. It seems to me that one of the misunderstood facets of Dean's persona is the whole cool-guy thing. In "Rebel Without a Cause" he's cool, sure, but he spends half the movie wearing a coat and tie. Also, the way we've glamorized his image from the movie as the epitome of cool is a bit ironic, given the fact that his character is a troubled, lost, even pathetic soul (which, come to think of it, may be appropriate to Dent, but that's not what the Dean reference is playing up on, I don't think).

I admire the fact that this story feels like it's ABOUT something. It seems to be searching for answers from Dent's POV. I like that.

Andy

3:54 PM  
Blogger The Damned said...

Thank you both. It's tough to let go of the baseball stuff, because I like it. But maybe the only reason I like it is because it's about baseball--in which case, you're right, it doesn't belong.

You make a good point about the James Dean allusion, Andy. I think I intended it show us that Dent is intentionally fashioning himself after Dean. So I was hoping it would work to suggest a distance between who Dent is and who he wants to appear to be, even though he's fashioning his appearance (ironically, as you say) on someone who shares a similar problem and does the same thing. I don't intend that description--in other words--to be entirely favorable. I was hoping it would be something contemporary American readers would identify with (modelling a celebrity), and at the same time see it for what it is, a commentary on the fact that our heroes (moral or otherwise) are often unreal, Hollywood vapor.

I think that may be part of what this story is about, about Dent feeling distanced from the glorious image (he thinks) Good Water has of him.

I guess I'm trying to make a case for keeping it, but have I?

10:06 AM  
Blogger The Damned said...

adam and andy
about the James Dean direct allusion, is that a narrative intrusion? that is to say, would Dent think of himself as a James Dean figure, or is that just the narrator trying to get us to "see" dent as this mysterious/died too young actor...i mean, when i think Dean i think "Giant" first, so then i want to put Dent in boots and cowboy hat...not exactly what you want, Adam, right?

as for the baseball stuff, i'm not saying it's not well written, i'm saying i think it belongs to another story...i liked it, just not for this story

8:45 AM  

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