After a surprise walk locally today* with good friends and their three dogs, I got home and finished reading the Larry Brown story 92 Days from his collection Big Bad Love, a book I started reading before I began marking exams – and having finished those for now, I was able to return to finish the final story.
In this longest story in the book, the narrator Leon writes about writing, but like most of Brown’s stories, it is also mainly about drinking beer, getting drunk, going for drives, usually drunk, not having a fulfilling relationship – either with his estranged wife or the very occasional women he meets – and the never-ending slog to get work published but having most of the writing rejected.
The story 92 Days ends with the following narrator’s observation [which doesn’t actually give the story away] where Leon is thinking about the story he is then writing:
I had to find out what they were running from. I had to find out if the little girl was going to be safe. I didn’t know if she would be or not. But whatever it was she was running from, I knew I had to save her from it, and that I was the only one who would do it. They were running, running, the cars going by, and I could see the slippery sidewalks, and the lights in the stores, and I could see my mother and my father looking back over their shoulders at whatever was chasing us, and I ran as fast as I could, terrified, not knowing how it would end, knowing I had to know.
In this extract, Leon [and Larry Brown] enter the story as writer/s and this is one important factor, but the aspect that resonated for me was this notion of how the writer doesn’t know where the writing is going, but there is the need to know, which is, of course, the compulsion to write. I can identify with this.
[for Phil and Becky]
My two friends come around as arranged to take their dogs
for a walk: the old one on a lead – not to stop it running away
but to keep it moving; the middle one a normal dog, and then
the third that is taking speed. They tell me they’ve been reading
that day, relaxing, and we drive and park at a place where there’s old
cut tree trunks and other wood to take for free, ready for winter when
it comes, months away but they’re preparing. We head down to the river
across the fields in the blazing sun. They throw balls and the dog on
amphetamines fetches and comes back each time more eager than before,
shaking water from the stream on our summery bare legs to cool us down
in this heated August tolerance. When I am home later and reading Larry
Brown’s short story 92 Days where it is also hot, I am drinking too
and his world of pick-ups and beer and writing seems so true, and like
him, I want to know where this story is going to go, if anywhere.
* Yesterday, at the time of posting)