My new collection, Trumpet Field and Other Stories, is now available through Kindle, Nook and Smashwords. It includes several already-published stories (three were published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine), excerpts from longer works, and memoir. Below is the opening of a new, previously unpublished story that is in the collection.
Larry and I were sitting in a pickup truck in a driveway on an island in Puget Sound. He turned off the headlights but kept the truck running. We rolled down the car windows an inch or two and waited for the drizzly rain to let up. The heat was on low. The mingling of the cool rainy evening air from outside and the warmth from the truck’s heater was pleasant. We smoked. Me: Marlboro Lights. Him: Kools. We didn’t know each other very well but had talked about a lot of things on our beer run and now, all of a sudden, this Larry was telling me about the two worst things he’d ever done in his life. He tore open the case we just went to IslandMart to buy and handed me a can. The people inside the blue split-level house at the end of the driveway were probably wondering why we didn’t bring this beer, which they all pitched in to pay for, indoors.
Larry was only twenty, so there were plenty of years ahead for him to fill up with bad behavior, behavior that might well dwarf the two bad things he told me about, although they were pretty awful, but I was only eighteen and so this thought did not occur to me. I believed something that I didn’t know I believed: that we were both, were all, aimed squarely at improvement, at fulfillment, not at further error and foolishness.
Only eighteen, as I said.
Larry, a sharp-faced, black-haired boy, was from Idaho. He was on that rocky misty fir-tree-covered island because he enlisted in the Navy after he graduated from high school and couldn’t find a job. Why did he tell me his secrets? I never did figure that out. Something in our conversation unlocked him, but I don’t know what it was. I did know that this was not an attempt at seduction, this lingering in the truck in the thin autumn rain, this revelation of weakness. It would make no sense at all to reveal the two worst things you’ve ever done to a person you have a crush on, would it? You wouldn’t want that person to think about your terrible secrets every time she looked at you, would you? No.
The blue house at the end of the driveway was shared by five or six young sailors, including Larry. The cast changed constantly, as the sailors got new orders or went on tour or found other places to live, but it was consistently a house where a lot of pot was smoked and a lot of beer was drunk. There was a pool table in the basement and posters that glowed under black light. The police came by now and again, mostly when the neighbors complained about the noise and the cars and the young people throwing up in their yards. We girls who hung around went to Oak Harbor High School.
A couple of years later, while I was away at college, one of the guys living in the blue house got up before dawn and loaded his handgun and shot two of his housemates – Larry was long gone by this time — as they were sleeping. The other people in the house were able to stop him before he shot them all. He’s in jail now. His name is Maxwell. He dated one of my girlfriends. I remember talking to him about Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea Trilogy, which we both liked. I was astonished when I heard what he’d done.
So. Twelve or thirteen years have gone by. I have forgotten all about Larry and his secrets and the rain and the pickup truck. I quit smoking long ago. I am seven months pregnant with my first child and …..