Authors: Diane Hammond
“Hammond doesn’t make splashy drama out of her characters’ dilemmas or solve them by way of a sudden, inspirational uplift. Instead, she opens a window onto the vanishing world of small-town America, and lets the cold sea air blow in.” —
San Francisco Chronicle
“Hammond offers a nuanced look at the strains of daily life in a world of diminished possibilities.… What lingers here is the unflinching look at dailiness.” —
“An exceptional debut about small-time lives and limited dreams in rural America … Hammond’s depiction of the town and its people is refreshingly unsentimental … moving and deftly told.” —
“Hammond shines an unwavering light on a group of people who struggle to make do, yet who live their lives and cope with hardship with grace and dignity. Her clean, sharp prose, idiosyncratic dialogue, and deep insight into relationships embellish this heartfelt debut.” —
“Earthy dialogue, precise narrative, well-placed humor, and the coverage of difficult topics (e.g., AIDS and child abuse) mark Hammond’s distinctive style.… Recommended as a testimonial to the regenerative power of female friendship, the will to survive, and the courage to seek happiness.” —
“The characters take over and live on these pages.… Hammond is going to blow the socks off the fiction world.” —
“Hammond is a gifted writer.…
Going to Bend
paints a picture of a town in which small triumphs can make up for large sufferings.… This is a delightful, spirited debut.” —
“Deeply moving …
Going to Bend
is about finding the good in people.” —
Going to Bend
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
2005 Ballantine Books Trade Paperback Edition
Copyright © 2004 by Diane Hammond
Reading group guide copyright © 2005 by Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by Ballantine Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.
Ballantine and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Ballantine Reader’s Circle and colophon are trademarks of Random House, Inc.
Originally published in hardcover in the United States by Doubleday in 2004.
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hammond, Diane Coplin.
Going to bend : a novel / by Diane Hammond.—1st ed.
1. Fishing villages—Fiction. 2. Restaurants—Fiction. 3. Friendship—Fiction.
4. Oregon—Fiction. 5. Soups—Fiction. I. Title.
Ballantine Books website address:
To Kerry and Nolan
one of the oldest no-account towns on the coast of Oregon. Men there fished commercially or helped others deepsea fish for sport; they worked in the woods cutting timber, or they worked in the mill over in Sawyer, making paper amidst a great noise and stink. They lived hard, bore scars, coveted danger and died either young and violently or unnecessarily old. The women worked, or not. The children belonged to them.
Hubbard was one of those places where you could still have your choice of oceanfront trailers—old rusting aqua and silver tunafish cans with moisture problems. Highway 101, the West’s westernmost route from Canada to Mexico, was the town’s only through street, a straight and single shot lined with gift shops and candy shops and kite shops and a Dairy Queen, shell art and postcards and forty-six flavors of saltwater taffy, homemade right here. There was everywhere a spirit of cheer, clutter and nakedly opportunistic goodwill: what Hubbard had it would happily sell you, and if you didn’t see it, just ask. Everyone loved a tourist, and the fatter the cat, the better. To a point. The locals maintained their own entrances to the Dairy Queen, Anchor Grill and Wayside Tavern: unmarked doors around back by the service entrances, where there was no parking problem.
In this town, beautiful even if no-account, lived two women, old friends, Petie Coolbaugh and Rose Bundy. Rose was a big, soft woman of
calm purpose and measurable serenity. Petie was small and hard and tight and flammable, like the wick of a candle. They were both thirtyone, and ever since grade school had been celebrating good times, hunkering down in lean ones, hiding truths from each other’s families, sitting up with each other’s babies. In the last six weeks they had also become business partners. They made soup for a living now.
Two months ago a cafe and coffeehouse had come to Hubbard by way of a brother and sister, fraternal twins from Southern California who’d had the idea of coming north to slow down. They had bought the old barbershop at one end of town and moved in tables and church pews and giant green ferns. They bought crockery dishes, an espresso machine, quilted tablecloths and posters for the walls. They sanded the old fir floors and built a mahogany counter of great beauty and grace. They installed a tiny kitchen, named the place Souperior’s, and then, instead of hiring a cook, they held auditions.
Bring your best soup
(they invited all of Hubbard, on index cards in city hall, the post office and the Quik Stop)
to Souperior’s next Saturday afternoon. Winners get on our menu. Grand winner gets a job offer
Although Hubbard loved its tourists, resident newcomers were a source of suspicion. For a week or so the little index cards—tacked up fresh and bright among the curling notices about firewood and crab pot repairs and handmade dog figurines—excited a lot of comment, most of it skeptical. On the other hand, an invitation to compete against your neighbors didn’t come along often except for the county fair, and in the end, sixty-four soups were entered in the contest and were judged during an open house and soup-feed by the cafe’s owners, Nadine and Gordon Latimer. Petie and Rose won with a jointly submitted bottomfish stew born of desperation the year Eddie Coolbaugh broke his foot and couldn’t work for three months. A fisherman Rose had been dating then had fed them all from the junkfish left behind on a sportfishing charter boat. Two more of Rose’s soups also made it onto the menu. When she was offered
the job of soup cook, she asked if she and Petie could share it. The deal was that they would supply the cafe with two fresh soups each day, Tuesday through Sunday, and they could work from home. Breads came from the Riseria in Sawyer; Nadine handled the salads herself. Every day the soups would be different until the menu was exhausted and they could start again. New soups would always be under consideration.
Rose had been working at the time as a waitress for the Anchor Grill, 3
. to noon shift—a job from which she’d come and gone for years. Bad hours, good tips. Petie had been cleaning motel rooms at the Sea View Motel: bad wages, good people, good location. In either case, cooking sounded better and the money was only slightly worse. Plus as long as they could stand a steady diet of soup, they could feed their families for free.
The Coolbaughs lived in a shabby little rental on the north side of town, on a dead-end road called Heyter Place. The house was old and had been no good to start with, but Petie knew how to put a good front on things. Small, exquisite watercolors hung on the walls: still lifes of balloons and baby toys; wildflowers and action figures; cooking utensils, bouquets of keys. She’d painted the kitchen walls and ceiling brilliant white with lemon yellow trim, and even the sickly sun of winter seemed to try a little harder there. Now, in robust late September, the cheap white curtains were so saturated with light they seemed incandescent.
While Petie diced fifty carrots, Rose read aloud from the weekly newspaper about old Billy Wall, who had just been indicted on sodomy charges.
“You know what I think? Hand me that peeler.” Petie weighed it thoughtfully in her hand, then pointed it at Rose. “I think if he did what those kids say he did, the guy deserves to have a bad thing happen to him. I mean worse than shame and a jail term. I mean something
. They should take him just like you’d take a carrot, and peel him down real slow, you know, real
, layer by layer until you’ve got him peeled naked as an egg, and then you bring him to Hubbard Elementary and you lock him in the gym with twenty mothers with baseball bats. You put some Gatorade in there, and some high-nutrition snacks, and
maybe have an alternate or two who can substitute when one of the women gets tired.” She traded Rose the peeler for a paring knife. “The son of a bitch.”
For several minutes Petie’s knife made sharp regular reports like gunshots on the cutting board. She had thick, strong, shiny black hair—Indian hair, although she was no part Indian—that she’d tied back from her face with an old rolled-up bandanna. Stuffed under it were some straggly ends, old bangs. She was always trying to grow out old bangs or some other hair fiasco. Once, Rose remembered, she had bleached out a central stripe in her hair. She’d looked strange as a skunk with the jet black running up against the peroxide yellow with no warning and no apology. That was back in high school, in their freshman year. Petie’s mother had died four years before, and she and her father were living up at the top of Chollum Road in a twelve-foot camp trailer. Old Man Tyler had always been mean, but after Petie’s mother died and he had to declare bankruptcy, he’d been even worse. But as far as Rose could tell, even before Petie’s mother died, the only time Old Man Tyler had really paid attention to her was when he was yelling at her; otherwise, he took no notice. Petie swore she didn’t own a dress until she was twelve, and by then it was too late to get a feel for them. She’d have gotten married in pants if she’d had her way, but Eddie Coolbaugh had balked so she was married in a homemade lace sheath Eula Coolbaugh made for her, a dress that showed how essentially boy-shaped Petie was. And how small. Everyone thought she was bigger, including Rose. In her own way, she took up a lot of space.
“What are you thinking about?” Petie said, scraping the cut carrots into a big plastic Tupperware container to use tomorrow morning.
“That time you bleached your hair out.”
Petie chuckled. “I looked just like a skunk.”
“That’s what I was thinking. I never thought it bothered you, though. You didn’t show it.”
“Of course I didn’t show it. I didn’t tell anyone Old Man beat me over it, either.”
“Well, he was drunk.”
“Then again, you never really knew, with Old Man. Chances are, he would have beaten me anyway.”
“What do you think will happen to those boys Billy Wall messed with? I’ve heard kids don’t recover from something like that, ever. Do you think that’s possible, that those poor kids have been ruined?”