Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Fiction Fix: "The Descent of Man"

We might very well be licensed to slack a bit on the usual Friday, but I'll be damned if we'll head into a holiday weekend without a little Eff Cubed, if you feel me. It's been an interesting week on the House of Georges, and we might as well go out with a bang. We will, however, keep this one brief, so's not to give too much away. Be careful with your boats, beers, barbecues, and bongs out there, America.

T. Coraghessan Boyle is an American novelist and short-story writer who has been publishing since the late 1970s. He has compiled an impressive list of works and achievements including 12 novels, eight collections, a PEN/Faulkner award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He currently has a novel and a short-story collection in the works, with tentative publication dates of 2011, 2010, respectively. I would highly reccommend The Road to Wellville and The Tortilla Curtain; the wife is currently reading Talk Talk while I'll next take on Budding Prospects, a 1984 novel about growing weed. So if you don't know T.C. Boyle, ya betta' ax somebody, 'cause his stuff makes fer good readin'.

"I was living with a woman who suddenly began to stink."

"There were other problems, too. Hairs, for instance. Hairs that began to appear on her clothing, sharp...and brutal...Then too there was the fruit...

...these fruit fragments occurred principally in the bedroom, on the pillow, surrounding by darkening spots."

As one might imagine, our narrator is in somewhat of an uncomfortable situation to say the least.

"(She) was in the habit of sitting before the air conditioner when she came home from work, fingering out her hair, drying the sweat from her face and neck in the cool hum of the machine, fruit bits sifting silently to the carpet...hairs drifting like feathers. On these occasions the room would fill with the stink of her, bestial and fetid."

"One evening, just after her bath (the faintest odor lingered...), I lay my hand casually across her belly and was suddenly startled to see an insect flit from its cover, skate up the swell of her abdomen, and bury itself in her navel."

Our protagonist, with his frustrations now yielding suspicions, begins to ponder an investigation.

"At home I poured a water glass of gin, held it to my nostrils and inhaled. (She) sat before the air conditioner, her hair like a urinal mop, stinking...On the way to the bedroom I poured a second glass.

In the bedroom I sniffed gin and dressed for dinner...She appeared in the doorway. She was dressed in her work clothes: jeans and sweatshirt...'I figured I'd go like this,' she said."

"I was knotting my tie. 'And I wish you'd stop insisting on baths every night -- I'm getting tired of smelling like a coupon in a detergent box. It's unnatural. Unhealthy.'

When I returned from work the following day, (she) was gone...On the pillow in the bedroom I found a fermenting chunk of pineapple. And sobbed."

Thusly, the last straw, and the narrator is off in search of answers.

"It was dark when I got there...I began searching through the rooms, opening and slamming doors."

"Inside I found (her), legs and arms bare, pinching a lab smock across her chest. She looked puzzled at first, then annoyed. She stepped up to me, made some rude gestures in my face...Then I saw (him) -- in a pair of baggy BVDs.

I grabbed (her). But (he) was there in an instant -- he hit me like a grill of a Cadillac and I spun across the room, tumbling desks and chairs as I went.

I slumped against the chalkboard. The door slammed: (she) was gone."

Boyle's story is full of numerous surprises. You can obtain a copy of one of his short-story collections here.

That's today's Fix, kids. Dunno when we'll be back with another one, so be sure to check back every Friday afternoon, and the rest of the days that end in 'y,' as well.