Allow me to explain where I'm coming from with this.
The Best American Short Stories 2009, edited by Alice Sebold (series editor Heidi Pitlor). I'm really enjoying this collection, and like many of the stories ("Yurt" by Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, "Beyond the Pale" by Joseph Epstein, "The Farms" by Eleanor Henderson", "Sagittarius" by Greg Hrbek) all for very different reasons. If you're a fan of short stories, this is a collection worth checking out.
What I especially love about short stories is the opportunity to sample new (or, at least, new to me) authors. I love the endnotes about the inspiration for the stories and their other works.
I'm not fnished with this collection yet, but there is one story that rises above the others (no pun intended), and that is "Rubiaux Rising" by Steve De Jarnatt. Originally published in the Santa Monica Review, this is the tale of a drug-addicted, disabled veteran trapped in an attic during the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.
Suffice it to say that this is an incredibly haunting story. It has stayed with me for days, demonstrating Mr. De Jarnatt's talent as a gifted writer. As a reader, you are right there with Rubiaux in that attic. You cannot read this story fast enough.
"In the attic Rubiaux watches light pour in - dancing dust around, slow and celestial like the Milky Way. His ears improve with a crack-jaw yawn. What's that high-pitched rushing? Those low knocking sounds like bowling heard outside the alley. And that slow, mean rumble. What is coming this way?
A shock wave hits the house like a dozen Peterbilts crashing one after another into the frame. Beams groan, the whole foundation nearly quaking off its shoulder, nails and screws strain to hold their grip, eeking like mice as wood and metal mad grapple to hold their forced embrace.
A new light shines at the far window, painting the ceiling with golden ripples. Reflection. Water. Water is coming. Water is here.
Rubiaux, who has been through more than anyone should ever have to, tries to remember his comfort song, the one he always hummed in his head on those endless missions, packed sardines inside the furnace of the A2.
"Wingo wheat lariot ..." He tries to sing the first notes of the refrain again and again like a needle that can't hop a scratch-trap groove. "Wingo wheat lariot - comin' for to - coming for to - coming to for - for to - to for - " But his addled noggin short-circuits. No sweet chariot can take him home today."
And as I finished it, I thought, I need to read more of this guy's work.
Which is a bit of a problem, you see ... and where the inspiring part comes in.
Mr. De Jarnatt is an accomplished film and television director and screenwriter but when it comes to short stories, "Rubiaux Rising" is not only the very first piece of fiction Mr. De Jarnatt has gotten published, but it was his first submission.
Allow that to sink in for a second. Guy writes a short story, sends it out, and winds up being read by Alice Sebold and included in The Best American Short Stories 2009.
Is that not truly awesome? Is that not inspiration for all of us? I love that.
Congratulations, Mr. De Jarnatt, on this tremendous accomplishment and for giving us this great story. But do us all one favor, please? Don't rest too long on your laurels with this one. Speaking for myself, I can't wait to see what else you've got.
A few other bloggers (all new to me ... yay!) have had good things to say about "Rubiaux Rising":
A Few Words
I Read a Short Story Today
Orange Words (there is a bit of a spoiler in this post)
Ramblings of the Hand and Pen