I made my first car payment today, and despite everything I’ve done with the car since going to the dealership–registering it, getting a brake tag, insuring it, driving it, learning how to use the functions, teaching myself how the bluetooth works, etc.–now it seems like it’s really mine; even writing the check for the down payment didn’t make it seem real, you know? But authorizing the electronic transfer of the first payment from my bank to the finance company–the first payment that’s coming from my paycheck–has made it all too real.
I worked on my short story “Quiet Desperation” and my essay yesterday, without much success; writing anything this week has turned into a horrible chore. I don’t know if that’s because of the usual post-book malaise I usually go through–and I wrote so much last year I never really was able to allow the malaise to play out; or rather, I did and then was forced to do a lot to meet deadlines. I don’t know; I don’t know why I can’t just sit down every day and spend two hours of dedicated time to writing. Yet it never seems to work out that way for me; and I just can’t seem to make myself do it. I can usually, on a good day, write anywhere from three to five thousand words in two hours or so; so if I did it every day imagine what I could get done in a year. But…yet…I don’t know why I can’t ever make myself do these things that would, ultimately, make my life so much easier.
Heavy heaving sigh.
So, I read another short story yesterday, yet another one from The Best American Mystery Stories 2014, edited by Laura Lippman. There are some terrific authors in that collection, as well as some whose work I have not read before. I was going to read the James Lee Burke story, but then decided to read one by someone whose work I’ve not read before. I chose Ed Kurtz’ “A Good Marriage,” because I have a copy of his novel The Rib From Which I Remake The World in my TBR pile, and thought I should get started reading his work, since I probably won’t get around to the novel for a while.
Wow. What a chilling, yet great, story.
We were at the Allens’ anniversary party, which I hated, and Hannah hated it too. It was not as though we didn’t like the Allens–Joe Allen, anyway, a big, fat, affable bear of a man–it was just all so tacky. I was of the opinion that notifying other people of one’s forthcoming birthday was vulgar enough (don’t forget my gift!), but an anniversary always seemed like a private thing, a husband/wife thing, nothing to do with me or my debit card. Joe could buy his wife lunar real estate for all I cared, just leave me out of it. As far as I knew, Hannah felt the same way.
But Joe insisted, and his wife made sure to send us their wish list by e-mail, so with twin engine grumbling we went and presented them with the Waterford vase they wanted. She cooed hungrily over the damn thing and he nodded with appreciation. There were a lot of people there. The gifts were piling up in the corner by the fireplace. Finally, after the inimitable Mrs. Allen opened their (her) last gift, the assemblage was freed to drink, drink, and be drunk. A trio of hulky guys whose guts were threatening the structural integrity of their shirts swarmed the keg. Hannah and I opted for the crappy boxed wine.
God, I’ve been to that party.
“A Good Marriage” is a terrific story. Kurtz paces it nicely, building up steam as we soon learn that ‘good’ is really dependent on, to quote Obi-wan, “your point of view.” The story isn’t about the party at all; but the party is what kicks off the story, and there’s an incident there–mild, nothing, innocuous–which triggers what happens in the rest. And that nothing incident triggers such a strong reaction that the reader begins to understan, subtly, that things are not as they appear in this tale of marriage; and that in fact this ‘good marriage’ is anything but…and in fact, it’s quite horrifying. He also flips the script; what’s wrong in this marriage isn’t what usually is wrong in this type of marriage. Chilling, and very well-done.
And now, back to the spice mines.
Here’s a hunk for you.