Short stories by
140 pages, $12.95 cover price
($8 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)
The suburbs seemed like a good idea at one time. What happened?
Here are stories that like to stretch the rubber bands of the heart until they break. Stories with a pop sensibility that eat out of your hand, lick your fingers, and then bite you. Peabody pokes fun at suburban dreams, suburban people, and suburban trials and tribulations. But he does it with a smile. Escaping the suburbs is a goal for some, others remain trapped, or must return to consequences. If time doesn’t grind you down, if paranoia doesn’t make you crazy, if love doesn’t crush your spirit, then maybe you have a chance. The same chance whether you’re in New York, the Carolinas, New Mexico, the DC area, or someplace more exotic.
Richard Peabody is a French Toast addict and Native Washingtonian who edits Gargoyle Magazine and has published a novella, two books of short stories, six books of poems, plus an e-book, and edited (or co-edited) twenty-one anthologies. He teaches fiction writing for the Johns Hopkins Advanced Studies Program where he won the “Award for Teaching Excellence” for 2010-2011. A new collection of poems, Speed Enforced by Aircraft, is due from Broadkill River Press by year’s end.
Richard Peabody’s fine collection reminds us of the power-even the quiet grace-that can be found when memorable characters dare to reach out in turbulent times.
author of Castro’s Curveball and Summer of ’68
Richard Peabody’s Blue Suburban Skies is a charming, disarming collection of stories of (mostly) men losing and finding their way as they struggle with questions of character: honor, loyalty, family, their place in the world, and the place of art in the world. By turns whimsical, sly, poignant and wise, Blue Suburban Skies could be the American Male’s Guide to Making Sense of It All.
author of The Reckoning
“Blue Suburban Skies”
I’m thinking about March Madness and the six-pack of Anchor Steam in the fridge when Jenny meets me on the front porch, the front porch that’s badly in need of a paint job.
“Hey Hon. You going out?” I peck her cheek and move to go inside, but she blocks the doorway with her arm. I can’t move forward so I backtrack awkwardly, my weight on the wrong foot, and study her face. She’s been crying and her cheeks are red and puffy, so she’s probably pissed off as well. Uh-oh, I’m thinking, I worked late, had the boss bust my chops over the new corporate web design, ate cold Moo Shi Pork for dinner, and now this.
“I found these . . . , ” she begins and thrusts a fistful of hand rolled cigarettes at me. . . , “in Jason’s sock drawer.” Jenny drops four badly rolled joints in my hand and wipes her eyes. “I want you to have a talk with him.”
“Sure Hon, where is he?”
“Down at Albert’s house.” She crosses her arms and holds them tight to her chest across the Virginia Tech logo on her sweatshirt and then looks straight up in the air. “They’re probably doing drugs and listening to Marilyn Manson CDs, and you know, the usual-slicing and dicing neighborhood kittens–or else–”
And then she is quaking in my arms crying her eyes out.
“I’ll take care of it honey. Don’t get so upset. He’s a good kid. He’ll be fine.” I kiss her sweet-smelling blonde hair and disengage myself. She nods her head, waves an arm at the street, and she’s down the steps and off to the gym, jogging down the hill toward the Y.
I watch the bouncing ponytail and her athletic little body until she’s out of sight before tucking my satchel in the door, closing it, and starting down the street in the opposite direction.
What to do? Jason has fucked up big time. Leaving the joints in the sock drawer was either a bad case of in Jenny’s face or just plain stupid. But which? You’d think with all the time the boy wonder spends on his PC that he’d be smarter than that, anyway. Who knows these days? It is work just to get him to go outdoors.
A black and white kitten hotfoots it across the asphalt in front of the Riley’s ranch house, and then turns the corner onto Kansas Street. The daffodils are up and bright yellow in the shadows. Forsythia all down the Riley’s stockade fence. Time changes tomorrow. Spring forward. I love the longer hours and the additional sunlight that brings. Can’t wait.
Walt, the high school math teacher, is doing something on his lawn. Bringing out the recycling. Early, too.
It won’t be dark for half an hour.
“How you doing?” he waves.
“Okay. You want to take a walk?” I don’t know why I even asked. We’re not very close. Walt’s always struck me as a loser. The lone man in a house with a wife and two daughters. Only time I ever see him is when he’s working in his yard. He’s about as lively as a bunch of sticks.
“Well . . .” Walt glances at the bay windows on the front of his colonial and whistles. “Sure, why the hell not.”
I’m thinking, way to live dangerously Walt, taking a walk without permission. What a fucking revolutionary.
We walk quietly for a block or so, past the Burlingame’s house where the contractor’s dumpster has been slowly filling up for a month or more, around the corner past the O’Riordan’s where an Irish flag has been flying from the front porch since early March, a front porch that is much more decrepit than ours with broken slats all the way across the railing, and make a U-turn toward the elementary school.
“Something bugging you?” Walt asks, he’s got both hands thrust deep in his khaki pants pockets.
“I assumed you’d be watching hoops.”
Shit, I forgot all about it. “Something came up,” I say.
“These rolled numbers,” and I pull them out of my pocket for Walt to gawk at. Why? I don’t know. Shock the monkey I guess.
Walt stops walking. So do I.
“Where?” Now he’s looking at me suspiciously, like he’s never ever really looked at me before.
I exhale. “Jason’s sock drawer.” And I start walking again.
“That sucks. How’s Jenny–”
“She’s a wreck.”
“You talk to Jason yet?”
“What are you going to say?”
We bottomed out into the elementary school parking lot with its playground and monkey bars and swings. Nobody else around save for a dog walker off in the distance. A couple of red bud trees are blooming spectacularly and an earthen bank blocks us from the street. I begin to relax.
“Did you smoke in the 60s?” Walt asks.
“Yeah, and I inhaled. How ’bout you?”
“Yeah, I tried it.”
Hmm. Walt tried it? Is he testing me? I consider for a moment that most baby boomers kind of lie about it. We don’t want to appear too eager to talk about our heady teenage days during the Summer of Love or worse, the lack thereof.
And then, like it was the most natural thing in the world, I reached in my pocket, found my lighter, and lit one of the joints. The smell of the paper was harsh, and burned my nose. I’d quit smoking in my 20s but had still toked on the occasional grass when you could find it, or somebody offered. Nothing like the cheap ounces or dime bags of yore. Man, dope today cost a small fortune and always seemed to be inferior to what I remembered from my youth. Even this shit was pretty weak.
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