Wednesday, January 05, 2005

A Long Time To Die

"A Long Time to Die" by David Zeltserman, Hardluck Stories, Fall 2004

Stories that involve members of a family are among my favorites because the feelings run deep and strong, and Dave Zeltserman proves once again that families are fertile ground for sowing murder and mayhem.

This story involves a pair of brothers, one who has made his way in the world and one who has dropped out. The "successful" one, Brendon, was able to make his way in the world because of a sacrifice his brother, Nick, made. After all, that's what brothers do for each other.

Nick, after his experiences in Vietnam, has been drifting through life dead inside, feeling nothing, and Brendon seems convinced that his brother's brain has been addled. So Brendon asks Nick for one more favor. A simple little job that will make them rich. But the job's not so simple. And there's a beautiful woman involved. And Nick isn't as dumb as he acts. As Nick says later in the story, "There's a difference between being stupid and not giving a damn."

Suffice it to say that the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley. The final paragraphs of the story twist things around to a true noir ending.

Now after my first sentence about familial feelings running deep and strong, you might say this story doesn't apply because Nick declares himself to be without feeling. Like most people who say that, Nick still has the feelings, he just doesn't acknowledge them. No one without feelings would do what he did for his brother's wife and kids. And he certainly feels something for Lisa, the beautiful woman mentioned above.

Dave's writing is easy to read, and he uses the tropes of the form well. One sentence I particularly liked was, "Her lipstick - the same blood red as her fingernails - stood out on her skin like a knife wound." And even better, he doesn't over do it by using such similes in every paragraph.

In short, noir by one who knows how to do it.