Book Review: A wonderful bit of writing 

I want to thank Beth of I didn’t have my glasses on for calling my attention to Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume.

Opening lines of a novel or a short story are always an invitation. Some opening lines are so oft-putting, you just know that a visit with the folks in this house is not going to be worth the effort. Or the time.

A good opening is a Welcome mat that invites you into the story. It says, “C’mon in and sit a spell. You’re sure to have a mighty fine time.” Sara Baume opens her novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither with these words:

He is running, running, running.

And it’s like no kind of running he’s ever run before. He’s the surge that burst the dam and he’s pouring down the hillslope, channelling through the grass to the width of his widest part. He’s tripping into hoofrucks. He’s slapping groundsel stems down down. Dandelions and chickweed, nettles and dock.

Those are the words of Ray, a 57 year old man in this first person account. He lives alone in a coastal Irish village in the house he inherited from his father. He has only the memories of his father to keep him company. He’s “too old for starting over, too young for giving up” (p. 12). He rescues a one-eyed dog he names One Eye. They are both outcasts, the man and the dog.

When Ray goes to the grocer to buy some food, he reflects:

The grocer’s girl, April, talks loudly on the telephone as she scans my goods, forgetting to proffer a paper bag. I’ve always imagined April was born in April and has three sisters called May, June and July, perhaps an only brother called December because if the summer is a woman, so the winter much be a man. (p.23)

As Ray and One Eye bond, the man takes on a dog’s eye view of his world.

Now the food bowl is the epicenter of your existence, to which the house is attached, and everything beyond radiates from, like sun beams. (p.36)

On a walk with One Eye, Ray comments:

I wish I’d been born with your capacity for wonder. (p.41)

Then this:

Now you are my third leg, an unlimping leg, and I am the eye you lost. (p.43)

And there is a joy Ray experiences when he lets One Eye run free in a field outside the village.

You wag your tail. This is the first time I’ve seen you wag your tail. “GOOD BOY!” I yell. (p.48)

One day, while Ray and One Eye go walking, the dog attacks a collie. Ray finally gets One Eye to let go. The collie runs away with its female owner it chasing him. Ray takes One Eye home and hides in the house, afraid of what may happen next. After a while, Ray and One Eye continue their walks. They go out at dawn and find places where they can walk and not have a repeat of the incident with the collie.

Then it happens again. One Eye goes after a shih tzu. Ray retreats back into his house. He is afraid of losing One Eye. The local warden comes for the dog. “A complaint’s been made.” How Ray responds to that complaint drives the rest of the novel.

The friendship that grows between the animal and the human is chronicled in detail in Sara Baume’s beautiful novel. For the first time in each’s life, they have a friend. As I read, I was completely pulled in, not only by the language, but also by the character study of Ray, revealing his rich inner life.

Not only does he open up his perceptions of the world to One Eye. There is also a running dialogue about his dead father. So strong is his memories that it can be said Ray’s father is the third of three major characters.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a book that you will remember long after you put it down. One thing is for sure. Sara Baume has created one of the most moving novels I have ever read. And, in case you’re wondering, Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a mondegreen for Spring Summer Fall Winter.

Sara’s second novel, A Line Made By Walking, is out. From the reviews on Amazon, looks like she has a winner with it as well. It will be interesting to follow this writer five, ten, twenty years down the road to see where she leads her readers.

Superhero’s Meeting

Ratman was at the bar, nursing his drink. Supercharger walked over and sat down on the stool beside him and ordered a beer.

Then he turned to Ratman and said, “You look pretty down in the mouth. You okay?”

“Yeah. My wife says I have to go on a diet.”

Superduper Woman joined them. She ordered her usual scotch.

“Hey, Ears,” she said to Ratman. Ears was what she called Ratman because he had big ears. They were his super power. They were like wings he used to fly with. “What’s up?”

“Oh, the usual, Mabel.” Mabel was Superduper Woman’s civilian name.

Supercharger leaned over and said, “He’s getting fat. His wife says so.”

Mabel slapped Ratman on the back. “Ratz, you’re not getting fat. Oh sure, you could use some slimming. It’s that darn costume you’re wearing. It’s shrunk. What you need is a new costume. What do you think of mine?”

Mabel jumped off the stool and turned around. Supercharger hadn’t noticed but now he saw Mabel in a whole new light. The reds were reds, not rust. The yellows were bright and the greens, they were green.

“Wow. I like,” both Supercharger and Ratz said.

“Don’t you think it accentuates my amazing figure?”

“I must say that your butt is nice and firm. You may just win the superhero butt contest at the convention this year. Who did this?”

“Jimmy Olson, fashion designer to the superheroes. Actually he’s done a name change. He’s Jimmy O.”

“Jimmy Olson?” Ratz asked.

“Yeah. He was a cub reporter. He went and took some aptitude tests and found out he was a fashion designer trying to get out. He had always worried about being gay because he paid a lot of attention to Superman’s clothes. He had a real thing for the cape. Hated it. Now he’s set up shop. You should go see him.”

Supercharger piped in, “And me too.”

“Nothing can help you, S.C.,” Mabel said, then she gave it a bit of thought. “Well, maybe some bubble wrap.”

My Stuff Writing Challenge

I don’t usually do writing challenges. But, then again, who can resist a challenge from Greg at Almost Iowa. That’s the very Greg who keeps posting about the fiendish Stan. Yes, that Greg. Greg’s challenge: Look around me and see an object and write a flash piece about it. So here goes:

The lamp’s name is Irving. I am not sure how he came up with that name. He tells me his mother at the Ikea factory gave it to him. I don’t believe him. He has told more fibs than can be counted in a month of Sundays.

Ever since we moved into this house, Irving seems to have a hiccup problem. I keep asking what the problem is. He keeps replying that he’s hungry. It’s getting to the point that I am going broke supplying him light bulbs. I even gave him one of those new fangled LED lights. He keeps saying, “More, more, more.”

I do like Irving. He was given to me when I was in college. Getting rid of Irving would be like getting rid of a pet. I would never ever get rid of Rover or Kitty. My wife keeps saying that I should just get rid of him. I keep threatening him but he just won’t listen. What am I to do?

Then I hear a voice coming from Irving. It is not Irving. Irving has a high pitched voice. This one sounds very low pitched in the bass range. All of a sudden Irving’s lampshade is spinning. It’s getting out of control. The voice is laughing. It’s telling me that it wants my soul.

Can somebody help me? Can somebody suggest an exorcist for a lamp?

Cows and bulls

Cows. Cattle. What’s that all about? They come in for their feeding, then they go back out to the pasture. That’s a cow for you. Pretty soon they’re hanging out with a bull. What happens next ain’t a lot of bull.

Guess that’s why the bulls in the rodeo and the bullring are mad. They’re lifelong bachelors. They don’t get to hang out a lot with cows. It’s a lonely life for a bull who has to fight a matador and chase around with a cowboy on his back. Just one date is all the fellow asks. Just one date. He’ll be a happy fellow. At least, for a day or so. And that is all any bull can ask.

Oh, Get Over It

“I tried to stop. Honest I did,” the woman said.

“My car. My beautiful car.” The man was crying. “Look what you did to my beautiful car.”

Then she turned on him. “Oh, get over.” At that, she walked back to her Chevy. She was tired of men crying every time they got a little scratch. She waited for the police.

“She hit me,” the man said when the police arrived.

The cop said, “Oh, get over it. I hate it when men cry. Grow up.” He finished taking the man’s statement. The man’s name was Phillip Mason. The cop then rubbed the scratch on the man’s car. “Nice Porsche.”

“Not anymore.” He passed his insurance card over to the cop. “Give it to her. I don’t even want to get close to her.” He walked the card over to Jane Hughes, gave it to her and took her information. The cop walked her card back over to Phillip. Then he said to Phillip,” I’m going to have to write you a ticket.”

“What? But my car,” Phillip wanted to scream. Instead he cried the words.

“Seems it’s your car that caused the accident.” The cop pointed to all the people standing around. Then he passed the ticket over to Phillip and had him sign the paper. “Next time be more careful. You could hurt somebody with that thing.” He pointed to the Porsche.

The cop went back to his cruiser, then drove away.

As the crowd dispersed, Phillip got in his Porsche and cried out to God, “Why me?”

God whispered back, “Oh, get over. At least, you get to drive around in a Porsche. I’m still driving an Edsel.”