Will McGough, a friend I met on a trip to the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, was good enough to send me his first work of fiction, “A Collection of Short Stories: Thoughts From My Early Twenties.”
These are short stories, mostly in the form of dialogue in the manner of Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants.” You have to read between the lines.
What my friend Will seems to have mastered at an early age is the scathing honesty that made Papa Hemingway’s books so great. I think it’s important to remember, though, that Hemingway followed Fitzgerald to France and did everything he could to be just like him before he discovered his own style — the whole scathing honesty thing.
In one of Will’s stories, the protagonist is having sex and both he and his paramour are wearing earphones. He asks what song she is listening to, and she refuses to answer. She asks him the same question in return and he replies, “Nelly Furtado.”
She puts on her clothes and leaves, leaving her headset behind. He picks it up and finds she wasn’t listening to anything. I guess that’s the epitome of true love in the 21st century. Not that I would know. Anyway now she’s gone…
The final story masterfully conflates the destruction of the human race, marriage, and running out of ice, which are all equivalents to a twenty-something, all representing as they do the end of life as we know it.
“Now the ships had the planet surrounded and the two of them boarded up the windows… When he was satisfied that he had done all he could he found his way to the liquor cabinet. I can’t see the boards making a big difference, he thought. Well at least it makes her feel better.”
“As the girl sat with her head on his shoulder, waiting for him to comfort her, for him to tell her it would be all right, he felt a sense of panic, not for the ships or anything outside, but for the girl and how she would handle tomorrow. More importantly, he thought, the way she would spend the rest of the time.”
“I don’t want to scare the girl, he thought. But here we are with what could be the last of the ice and we’re beginning to drain the bottles and we should be appreciating each sip, each minute of it. When they’re gone they might be, well, gone, he thought. For once the word will take on its true meaning.”
Here’s a tip: Use the ice for rum and vodka drinks. The whiskey you can drink neat. Oh, and the girl likes vodka. Save some of that for tomorrow.
Whether Will McGough will become the Ernest Hemingway of the 21st century remains to be seen, but certainly it is heartening for an old coot like me to see young fellers setting out on this quest.
Will’s a blogger for GoNOMAD now! Check out his blog Wake and Wander.