The Many Deaths of Summer

November 10, 2013 | Published Short Stories, Writing

A few months ago, Steve Himmer from Necessary Fiction came across my entry on The Next Big Thing blog trail. He asked me to send him some excerpts of the book. I did and he posted the following section from the final section of my novel, Death of an Animatronic Band.

1. P.I.‘S

When the investigators came, they came in dark suits with dark sunglasses and pencil thin moustaches. One was fat, the other thin. They wore ties. Leather shoes. They wore hats that shaded everything but the tips of their noses. They smelled like old hallways in houses with kerosene lamps. When they arrived in their old Cadillac, the wheels pulled up the camp drive, squeallingly, and stopped short in front of the main office. They stepped out. The screen door flapped behind them. Wind blew through the trees.

They lived in the nearest town — cousins of the camps’ proprietor, he called them so as not to call the police. They interviewed everyone. The thin one chewed his pencil while the fat one took notes. They asked questions with an irregular and uncoordinated rhythm, often interrupting or talking over one another. The thin one sweated and the fat one took off his hat, wringing its brim as though under some great stress. The fat one had shiny, short hair. He kept a comb in the inside pocket of his coat. When he smiled, which was often, his smile showed more gum than tooth. He made regular mention of his gout, as though it were a spouse or, perhaps, a very dear and rascally companion. Despite the failure of this device, it was, apparently, intended to give his interviewees a false sense of security. To distract them. To make them confess. Always he followed up with, “Where were you when Barry Maguire disappeared?”

If the thin one wasn’t chewing on the erasure of a pencil, he was chewing on his own tongue. Against the pallor of his jaundice complexion, it was dull and mauve — a blue clam, or the foot of a mussel. Often he rolled his tongue over, to chew the underside with its thick blue veins, and it lolled around in his mouth, an amoebic, suffering snake.

They came every day at ten a.m. They carried Styrofoam coffee cups and regularly refilled them in the main camp office before going to the spare cabin, where Barry used to live.

They had been looking for the missing boy over a week.

They seemed to hang around waiting for a subsequent death. More and more, they strayed from their verbal inquiries and scoured the campground looking, it seemed, for something — another body. They could be seen turning canoes over, canoes that had been on the beach over night. They started nosing through the laundry room. They wandered through the woods and campers began to avoid the peripheral pine trees, in case the investigators caught them off guard or followed them. When the camp went on a field trip, Max (who came back early, he forgot something) found them searching peoples’ rooms.

Once they came to the bonfire at night and after that no one talked to them ever again not about anything not anything anything anything at all.

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2.

Obligatory interviews with the visiting therapist were no better.

It was one thing to have a death in the camp — a death in summer’s family — quite another to entertain interlopers from elsewhere, adults who came into their community to observe the behavior of respective inhabitants — many of whom were still convinced that Barry had not died at all. He could have run away, he could have been abducted by aliens, or vanished in the Rainbow Stream of Consciousness. Because he disappeared on the lake, because he probably drowned, there was no evidence and thus, theories of his whereabouts grew wild.

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