Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Election by Tom Perrotta (Berkley Books 1998)


 “SO TELL ME,” said Dad. “Who's gonna win this election?”

Lisa shot me a surprised glance, her pretty eyes widening with alarm. Tammy stared blankly at her pancakes. Mom twisted her head, apparently searching for our waitress. Dad pressed on.

“What's the matter? We're all intelligent people. Doesn't anyone have an opinion?”

The whole brunch had gone like that, Dad playing teacher, the rest of us fumbling for answers. Mom was stiff and tongue-tied, Tammy sullen, Lisa polite. I'd done my best to keep the conversation afloat, but I was starting to lose heart.

“I'm a lifelong Republican,” he went on, “but I'm actually thinking about pulling the lever for Jerry Brown.”

The sense of relief around the table was immediate and conspicuous.

“Jerry Brown?” Mom scoffed. “You've got to be kidding.”

“I'm serious,” he insisted. “This country's corrupt from top to bottom, and Brown's the only one with the guts to say so.”

“Perot's saying it too,” Lisa reminded them.

“He's nuttier than Brown,” Mom observed. “The ears on that man.”

“What about Clinton?” I asked. “He's pretty interesting.”

“Ugh.” Dad looked disgusted. “That guy. He could stand out in the rain all day and not get wet.”

“I'm surprised,” said Mom. “I had you pegged for a Clinton man.”

“Me?” he said. “What gave you that idea?”

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dog Eats Dog by Iain Levison (Bitter Lemon Press 2008)

Elias was so relieved to see a smile that he felt compelled to offer more information as fast as he could make it up, as if to cement a friendship that was forming between them. Between the guy who said bizarre untrue things about his pistol, and this intractable old bastard of a gun-shop owner.

“It was my father’s gun,” he said. “He just passed away. I just found it in the house. My father was a soldier in World War Two.”

“This gun isn’t military issue,” said the shopkeeper, shaking his head, as if bored with Elias’s lies. “This is chrome-plated. And it was manufactured well after that. If the serial number hadn’t been filed off, I could tell you exactly when, but I figure, oh, about 1950s.” He was looking at Elias now, as if he expected either honesty or silence. He slid a piece of black metal across the counter, then opened the box of bullets. “The war was over by then. You should learn about history,” he said.

Elias was so taken aback by this country bumpkin telling him to learn about history that he almost blurted out that he was a history professor who was about to get tenure and was going to be published in the National Historical Review. Then he remembered, from deceiving Denise, the joy and energy that came from playing dumb. “My dad must have bought it recently, I guess,” he said humbly.

The shopkeeper loaded bullets into the magazine. “This is how you load it,” he said, pressing each bullet down into the clip with a slow, deliberate gesture, looking up at Elias to make sure he was being heeded. “It takes seven slugs.” He slid the magazine into the grip. “This lever here drops the magazine back out of the grip when it’s empty.”

Elias nodded.

“Can you shoot, or do you need lessons?”