Who woulda thunk it?!? 30 books so far this year? Wow.
Anyway, finished reading a collection of short stories by Tim Gautreaux: Same Place, Same Things.
Three guesses (and the first two don't count) as to where he is from. Louisiana, of course. All his stories are set in southern Louisiana, and I think they are quite good. He has caught the cadence of speech in Louisiana, without resorting to weirdo spellings and artificial "cutesy" stuff. If you've ever heard Louisiana talk, you'll hear it in your "mind's ear" when you read these stories.
The stories are about the working poor--and sometimes non-working poor. Not a well-to-do man in the bunch. These are about folks who work hard enough to have a good time on the weekend--with enough to smoke, enough to drink.
My favorite stories in the bunch were "Little Frogs in a Ditch", "The Bug Man", and "Floyd's Girl." But every story in the book had a part that I marked--and that's a rare thing for me.
Here's a paragraph from "Floyd's Girl":
Floyd's daughter (Lizette) has been kidnapped by Floyd's ex-wife's new boyfriend, to be taken to Texas to live with her mother. Lizette's grandmother thinks the following:
She looked past him toward the rattling tractor, remembring the Texas man. A fear crept up through Mrs. Boudreaux's stomach as she saw the dark-haired Lizette ruined by outlanders, dragged off to the dry plains of Texas she imagined from cowboy movies. She wondered if her mother would take her to Mass or to the Stations of the Cross during Lent. She knew Texans had some kind of God, but they didn't take him too seriously, didn't celebrate him with feast days and days of penance, didn't even kneel down in their churches on Sunday.
And then Floyd, Lizette's father thinks:
He saw his daughter growing up on the windy prairie in a hard-bitten town full of sunwrinkled geezers, tomato barbecue, Pearl beer, and country music. There was nothing wrong with West Texas, but there was something wrong with a child living there who doesn't belong, who will be haunted for the rest of her days by memories of the ample laps of aunts, daily thunderheads rolling above flat parishes of rice and cane, the musical rattle of French, her prayers, the head-turning squawk of her uncle's accordion, the scrape and complaint of her father's fiddle as he serenades the backyard on weekends. Vibrations of the soul lost for what?
(And I'm even a West Texas girl!)
And then in "Little Frogs in a Ditch" there is this exchange between Lenny (who is selling fake homing pigeons) and his grandfather who has kicked him out for being a cheat:
"What am I supposed to tell the priest?" He put his hands in his lap.
His grandfather squatted down next to him. "Remember what Sister Florita told you one time in catechism class? If you close your eyes before you go to confession, your sins will make a noise."
Lenny closed his eyes. "A noise."
"They'll cry out like little frogs in a ditch at sundown."
"Sure," Lenny said with a laugh, his eyeballs shifting under the closed lids. "Well, I don't hear nothing." He opened his eyes and looked at the old man. "What's the point of me confessing if I don't hear nothing?"
His grandfather stood up with a groan. "Keep listening," he said.
We're reading his second collection of stories, Welding With Children later this year in book club. I can't wait.