Authors: Robert Chazz Chute
The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories
by Robert Chazz Chute
Published by Ex Parte Press
Copyright 2011 Robert Chazz Chute
Cover by Kit Foster of
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The Dangerous Kind
was originally published as a stand alone novella on Amazon and Smashwords and four of the short stories in this collection were sold separately at 99 cents. Readers tell me they prefer to buy my short story collections rather than getting the short stories one by one. I understand. Though I love a good short, I do like to have a bunch lined up in case the ship is on fire. Who knows when rescue boats will arrive?
The Dangerous Kind & Other Stories
, I have bundled six shorts with the novella. The two new short stories now seeing daylight are
Over & Out
The Sum of Me
. I read the latter at a writing conference a few years ago to thunderous applause (though people felt sorry for me for the rest of the week — no need, it’s pretty much fiction.)
The Sum of Me
also won an honorable mention from a
competition. I hope you will conclude that this collection is more than a bargain in its new, cuddly form. Enjoy! If you do like it, please don’t forget to review it. Thanks!
This book is dedicated to J, C & C because I am dedicated to them.
You are my sugar, coffee and cream.
The Dangerous Kind
s long as I can remember, I wanted to get away. I grew up in a speck of a town so small men still stop and remove their baseball caps when a funeral procession drives by. Everyone knows each other. They treat that as if it’s a virtue, as if proximity’s friction is warmth. Dad would have helped me escape Poeticule Bay, but the edger at the mill pulled him in by his wedding ring.
My brother Jason rambled through the eulogy. “I know Dad di’nt ever have so much—most of us have nothing, so that’s alright. But you can feel good knowin’ Darren Kind made do with as little as what God gave him. That’s what a man is.” He talked as if he and Dad were best buds.
We watched Dad’s coffin sink into the ground beside Mom’s grave. We cried. The people from town—Dad’s people—watched us. As the coffin disappeared, Jason wheeled on me so fast I expected him to swing at me. Instead, he wrapped his arms around me and squeezed. I went stiff.
His Jim Beam breath mixed with maple syrup from this morning’s pancakes. “Don’t worry. Big brother’s your new boss man.” That morning’s pancake charged up my tight throat but I swallowed and pushed it back down. While Jason shook hands with Dad’s friends, I fled. I got behind the truck before I puked. If they’d seen, they wouldn’t think worse of me, but they’d never shut up about it, either.
Dad told me once he felt like a spy at the mill. “It’s loud, Joey. Boy, it’s loud. Those friggin’ saws just whine. I nod to the boss. I smile as I pass the other working stiffs.” He cracked open another beer even though he was nodding off, too sleepy to finish his drink but driven to start another. “I cut the wood and nobody bothers me. While they’re all bullshitting over their lunch, I go out in the yard and smell the cedar and pine. All those bullshitters…. They’ll never know.”
At the funeral they talked about Dad like best friends talk, like they really knew him. “Always a smile,” somebody said. The big ear protectors Dad always wore made that smile possible. Most of the guys from the mill were neither smart nor kind. I couldn’t remember any of them ever coming to the house.
The father I knew just made do at the mill Monday to Saturday noon, forty-eight weeks a year: two weeks off for fishing in July, two weeks clear for ice fishing over Christmas. His Saturday afternoon smiles were the real thing. He drank Coal Porter through the weekend and fell asleep in front of the TV. The deeper he got into the weekend, the surlier he got. By Sunday night, he'd be barking at Jason and me. I didn’t get mad at Dad like Jason did. I knew Dad wasn’t really mad at us. He was mad at Monday morning.
Last New Year’s Eve, I told him we should move to the city. I was thinking New York, of course, but any city would do. “I’ve got the house and your mother’s grave to tend,” he said. “And Jason will do better here than with people from away.” Jason worked as an electrician’s assistant but told everyone he was an apprentice.
We watched the ball drop in Times Square. “Jesus, look at all those people. Imagine being in the middle of all that, huh?” he said.
“We don’t have to imagine, Dad,” I said.
He shrugged. “I can see it from right here and not freeze.” He saw my expression. “Imagination is a curse for a fella like me, Joey.” He looked at the beer in his fist and added, just above a whisper, “But you’ll get there someday.”
In my dream city, no one knows my name. If they ask, I tell them my name is Joe and it sticks. In real life, people nod and a minute later, they call me Joey again. It is as if I died at age eight and will never get older. The roots are too tight in Poeticule Bay. They will not let anything new grow. If you know somebody since they were in diapers, you own them. I still have another two years of school. Poeticule Bay does not have a bookstore. The drugstore has a dusty paperback rack. Summer people buy picture books full of shots of lighthouses and lobster traps at the B&B. A library bus wanders our way a couple of times a month. I dream of working in a Starbucks in a bookstore. My life will start, I’m sure, when I head down the highway. When I finally escape from here, I’m never coming back.
“We could at least visit New York. It’s like, eight hours!”
“Let’s not and say we did.” Dad took a swig and eased his recliner back. The greatest city on earth waited less than a day’s drive away. Dad never saw it.
Dougie Mac, Dad’s boss, told us a settlement was coming. “The insurance company’s stalling. You boys sit tight. The mill will do right by you.”
Jason had big plans for the money. “We could fix this place up. There’d be enough for a new porch out back and a hot tub. This place could be party central.”
“And I could clean it!” I say. My teeth hurt from the gritting.
“Got any girls in your class who wouldn’t mind a little weed and a naked whirl?” he asked. He didn’t look at me when he said it, trying and failing to sound casual and only half-joking.
Hanging out at home with Jason was no fun so I escaped to school. Everybody looked at me with sad eyes and even a couple of guys I thought were assholes patted me on the back and said they were sorry. Everybody got quiet, like having me around made them picture my father getting pulled into the whirring blades. People always say they are sorry when someone dies which, of course, doesn’t make sense. They didn’t kill him. Staying at the mill even though he hated it killed him. For that, I will always blame him a little. Someday I’ll be around strangers who don’t know what happened and they’ll ask about my father. “Suicide,” I’ll tell them. And maybe it's true. I knew about the blankness behind his smiles.
Every day after school I headed straight home, washed the dishes, made my bed and Jason’s, too. Jason didn’t like my cooking — I only know how to do spaghetti, hot dogs and stuff that comes in cans — so after a couple of days we switched to TV dinners. He held the remote in his big fist and even took it with him to the bathroom so I couldn’t change the channel from ESPN. He didn’t have to do that. After he took it into the bathroom with him once, I wouldn’t touch it.
I didn’t ask how much insurance money I’d be due. Dad started at the mill before I was born so the named beneficiaries were my mother and Jason. Mom’s dead. Dad did not have anything besides the insurance money, the house and half the truck. Dad left no will, so Jason would control the money the same way he held onto the remote.
A couple of weeks after the funeral, Jason lost his job. First, he said, “Laid off” and blamed Obama’s economy. Eventually he admitted the electrician, Ian Drury, fired him.
“Imagine that,” Jason said. “Firing me with Dad not cold in the ground yet? Should be a statute of moratorium of firin’ a guy who’s just buried his dad.”
I heard what really happened through Big June Iverson from homeroom as she entertained a circle of my classmates over lunch break. Her father works at the mill and she spread the story, mimicking Dougie Mac’s lisp dead on and everything. June said Dougie Mac caught Jason drunk, burning hot rubber circles into the mill’s parking lot with Drury’s company van. He ran out yelling, “Jason, stop! You’re going to make those tires as bald as me! Stop! Stop!”
Even I laughed, along with everyone else, as June jumped up and down (her huge breasts thumping up and down, too) as she waved her stovepipe fatty-floppy arms in the air and shouted, “
!” My brother peeled out, fishtailed out the front gate and almost lost it to the ditch in the turn down the hill. Dougie called Drury and said he’d call the police (“the
”, June said) if he ever saw Jason drunk driving again in the mill’s lot.
Jason was home all the time after that.
By noon each day, Jason washed his worries away. He chugged the first couple of bottles of Porter to rush to the buzz before slowing down for the hard drinking. “I know what I’m doing behind the wheel. The boss man worries too much about how I drive. That’s what he's like.”
Jason’s best friends since high school, Dick Glass and Rich Robishaw, were a couple of oddjobbers who hung out at the fire hall. “Those boys got a little too much of what the cat licks his ass with,” Dad used to say. “The way they go on, their tongues must hinge in the middle.” Dick and Rich told another version of the story which, they thought, cast my brother in better light. The new story was that Jason had marked up the mill parking lot out of grief, pumped the finger at Dougie on the way out and almost rammed into a family van from out of town as he sped through the gate. Jason laughed it all off and his buddies treated him like a hero.
Big June’s version hadn’t included anything about almost killing out-of-towners and she made it sound like Jason peeled out in a panic instead of defiance. Her version was probably closer to the truth and better told, what with Dougie Mac’s lisping and all. The bit about Jason giving Dougie Mac the finger had the ring of truth to it, though. Whatever happened, there was no end to the speculation and embellishment all over town.
Not long after that, Jason looked in the fridge and counted beers—six left. He drained the last of the coffee into his mug and waggled the pot at me.
“I’ll make more in a minute.”
“It’s always in a minute with you.” He gave me his most tragic, mocking sigh. “I talked to Dougie Mac again about the insurance money. It’s all wait, wait, wait with him, too. And the unemployment check isn’t much more than beer money, you know.”
“Less beer equals more money,” I suggested.
Jason glowered at me. I stared at my cereal.