Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sittin' In: "The Voice You Throw, the Blow You Catch" by Samuel Snoek-Brown, as based on the song "Little Drunk Fists" by Slobberbone

More from Sam, with my favorite story of his little series here. Slobberbone is such a cool band, possibly my favorite band at this point in time--summer jams abound! I tossed him "Rollerskate Skinny" by Old 97's and "V" by Golden Smog, making this an alt-country shoot-out. You can't pick wrong, really. I've actually based a recurring characters in my fiction off the woman in "V" already, so I was curious to see what Sam would come up with. That Old 97's song just rocks, and I think it's Rhett at his quirkiest (though lots of my friends hate the song). Sam says he picked Slobberbone as a shout out to Denton, TX (Sam's from Boerne, a scant 5.5 hour drive away, considering how big Texas is). He passed on "Rollerskate Skinny" because he "kept picturing Heather Graham in Boogie Nights, which is not a good thing." (The song was actually written about Winona Ryder.) He was all set on doing the Golden Smog song, but in talking to his wife, she mentioned something about a ventriloquist's dummy, which sent Sam back to Slobberbone. "That take on whose fists we're talking about was too cool an opportunity to pass up."

I made a bit more progress this week, despite too much time spent in book stores--I had a total of $120 spent at three different Half Price Books for their 20% off sale this Memorial Day weekend--and at shows. Both of those things rule--especially the extra James Leg show I caught on Thursday in Madison, WI and the beautiful country-tinged rocking pop of Chicago's Death Ships I was lucky enough to see in Iowa City, IA (first time I've seen them in three years, and the new songs are excellent). As far as finishing this goddamn manuscript goes, I'm two stories closer: a 1024 word story named "After I'd Read Raymond Carver" based on "A Little Longing Goes Away" by The Books (the extra words will surely get cut upon revision) and an 824 word story named "It's Been Far Too Long Since You Woke Up In Someone Else's Shoes" based on "Misunderstood" by Wilco. I'm at fifteen stories "finished"--four older ones are in various stages of revision--meaning I've got seven left. This week will be slower than normal, so I'm hoping to finish three stories instead of just two. All right, let's rock.


The Voice You Throw, the Blow You Catch

Every new guy in the bar took a chance with LoAnn. From behind, she was a fox. The heart of her ass rested firm on the barstool, her body thick where it matters. The ventriloquist dummy never turned them off.

Some of the old boys might have warned the newcomers. Carlo, the bartender, could have waved them off or refused to let them buy her drinks. No one said anything. Almost everyone in there, even the married ones, had taken their lumps making passes at LoAnn, and it had become a right of passage. Any man who took his chance and still came back the next night, well, everyone knew he was one of them, that he would return every night thereafter to watch for the next poor idiot who caught sight of her.

The sad part of it was, the dummy actually lured some guys in. He was a conversation piece, or a gag. Even when he spoke out, defending LoAnn, it was a joke and a challenge. Some guys like to fight for a girl, and what a great story they’d have if they won her away from a dummy.

Sometimes, LoAnn seemed to invite it. She’d argue with the dummy and pretend to want to make him jealous. She’d hold the dummy away from her like she was leaning out of earshot and whisper. His little jaw would fall open then slam upward in an angry clap of wood. “She already has a drink, jack, and her free hand is in my pants” was a bar favorite. No one believed the few guys who said they saw her lips move.

Maybe two or three a month would make headway in the game against the dummy, and when they did, she’d slide from the barstool and saunter outside. She held the dummy behind her back, like he was following her, and this is when his voice became the loudest. “LoAnn, why’re you doing this?” Sometimes you could see her wrist flick and his head would turn to face the poor guy following them. His caterpillar eyebrows would dip in the middle, a perfect mockery of a scowl: “Who the fuck do you think you are, buddy?” And, “You’re gonna regret this, jack.”

Everyone in the bar stopped talking, stopped drinking even. Everyone scooted forward on their stools, in their booths. Carlo leaned over the bar.

* * *

The bruises were always small, and they never lasted more than a day or two. No one ever talked about what happened between the three of them—LoAnn, the guy, and the dummy—in the parking lot. Never. Most people assumed she used the dummy like a weapon, just went batshit and chased them out of her car with that dummy’s voice screaming from her lips.

For two years this happened. At least a couple hundred guys tried their luck. Several dozen got unlucky. But everyone came back for the show.

* * *

When LoAnn missed a few nights in a row, the bar grew restless with rumor. When she’d missed a whole week, the bar went silent. A handful of guys stopped coming around. But when LoAnn returned without the dummy, the whole damn town turned out to watch.

It took maybe two weeks before anyone had the nerve to approach her, simple questions from regulars, just some people wondering if she’s all right.

The only thing she would say was “usual” as she first slid onto her stool. Sometime during the third week, one of the former abused, rubbing his jaw where he remembered old bruises, crept over to her and leaned on the bar, a few feet away, and watched her. When she didn’t look at him he dipped his cheek down to the wood and peered up at her. He was far enough away from her that everyone heard him: “You’re looking a little lonely tonight, baby. Maybe we could try again?”

From the back, a snicker. Then a few more. Soon, the whole bar was laughing. LoAnn leaned over the straw in her vodka until the glass was empty, then she slipped outside. But she was back again the next night, pulling down five, six rounds in a night, getting drunker and drunker, and the jokes kept coming.

That happened five, maybe six times, before LoAnn stopped coming around. No one had seen her in months. But about a week after she left, her dummy turned up on the front stoop of the bar, propped against the door. That first night, the bartender brought him in and everyone gathered around him, a wide circle like they’d found a wounded dog and no one was sure what he’d do. Everyone spoke in whispers. They stood like that for who knows how long. The dummy lay in a pile on the floor, limbs twisted, his face a mess. A couple of the older jilted men finally stepped into the circle, bent like pallbearers, and lifted him to the bar. Carlo set him on the highest shelf, put a bottle in his hand. A man leaned over and shut the dummy’s mouth. Then, opened it.



Slobberbone is a band from Texas. Right around the time Uncle Tupelo called it quits, Slobberbone came around to be the new kings of cow-punk. And thank fuck they did. It takes a special band--or person, like Warren Zevon--to make rock and roll fun without being pointless, funny without being stupid. I'm not saying throw away all your Drive-By Truckers albums, because they're great, too, but if you don't have any Slobberbone albums, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Samuel Snoek-Brown is a man from Texas. I could say nice things about him like I did Slobberbone, but I'll let him embarrass his own damn self, which he does on a regular basis over at his blog, Beginner's Mind.

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Next week: More from Sam, as he chooses between "Brave As a Noun" by Andrew Jackson Jihad, "Jane Doe" by Converge, and "Kings Die Like Other Men" by Metavari.

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  1. Choking back thoughts of Shari Lewis and Chuck & Bob from 'Soap'. I am now on my third read-through. Taking an idea and simply running with it - it's how many a fine story is made. :)

  2. Hey, M! How cool of you to swing over here and check out this story! And three times, no less. Thatnks! You're the best. :)