"Every man is a divinity in disguise, a god playing the fool." - Emmerson
JUNK MAN, a novella: A young boy from the Trail comes to the city. He is an outsider. Ignorant. Alone. Until he finds the Junk Man. Then, what was broken might be made new. In a fallen world, there is a mythology of redemption. For lives marred, there can be renewal. Buried in the deepest pits of loss, pain, and tarnished dreams, there is a resurrection.
This is an old story, both in its setting and in the chronology of my life. It was my first piece of prose beyond a short story. It is ridiculously ambitious, written from the eyes of American society’s most ignorant and often most wise, impoverished and abused, in a facsimile of various Southern dialects, about topics the young man I once was might ought to have postponed taking on as subjects.
But like most “real” stories that come from within, the narrative had a will of its own. I had no plans to write Junk Man – it had plans for me. My old friend Insomnia visited in Greece while seeing family there, and suddenly in the middle of the night my protagonists began speaking in my mind. Taking forms. The story was fleshed out roughly by morning. Their voices were strong, real, and would not be denied. So, I wrote them as best as I could.
The narrative also commandeered my memories, and the tales of others I have witnessed. Their stories were ripped out of time and context, thrown into an Acme Story Blender 5000 along with completely fictional elements, and the “pulse crush” button depressed until what remained was a soup of tragedy with the forensics of a Jackson Pollock painting.
In that sense, Junk Man is both the least accurate and the truest story I’ve ever written: The least accurate for all the blending, mixing, matching, and selective use of human woe; the truest because, in my subjective sense of truth, the essence of the pain and human frailty in those deconstructed and reformed narratives remains intact.
The attempts to recreate the impressions of various regional dialects should be taken in the spirit intended: not as an academically accurate transliteration (for which the written English language is unsuitable), nor as an effort to quickly and grotesquely stereotype the speakers of these musical accents, but as an honest endeavor to remember and capture the spirit floating above the people who learn the rhythms and intonations of any language. For me there would have been something missing in the story had it been rendered in “standard English” (whatever that is in whatever age), however imperfect my attempts here.
Many thanks to all the “beta-readers” out there who volunteered their time to get through what must have been for most an idiosyncratic, difficult to parse, and somewhat confounding narrative.
Special thanks to Ria Evans and K.C. York who agreed to give their input not only on the story (in one case, inducing a radical change), but to share their personal PhDs in the Southern Vernacular as dey done larned it. Without their commentary, things would be even more absurdly clumsy than they are.
Thanks to my daughters who lifted my spirits after their reading by enthusiastically and without hesitation telling me that it was the best thing I’d written. While that of course might not be saying much, coming from the brutally honest voices of my young ladies (one who did not even finish my first thriller, at one point writing in the margin “Please, kill me now!”), it was a sorely needed vote of confidence for a book I often wondered myself what to make of.
To all the members of my family and friends who have supported my efforts to produce creative materials, who have encouraged me to “be myself” and in the words of Neil Gaiman to “make good art”, this book is for you, too.
It’s the closest I’ll ever get to art.
Finally, for all of our waste and brokenness, for all our clumsiness in life and matters of the heart, there has always been a mythology of redemption. Of resurrection. Of renewal.
In that spirit, I give you Junk Man.