Life father, like son, and it takes only a matter of seconds for me to calculate that weeks or months or years from now I might own up that, “Here, overtaken by rage and revenge, is where I pummeled and perhaps maimed or even killed a man.” Or, “Here’s where I stood with my only two friends on Earth one February night. The snow suddenly coming down so hard that a man my mom believed mattered passed unaware within ten feet of us after being with another woman.We could smell her perfume, her nakedness, his beery breath, could hear him hiss between his teeth as we watched him disappear.”
Here’s a story akin to last year’s “Two Midnights In A Jug,” right down to the scene of him sitting in the undriveable car – “[r]ear risers but no tires, and snow up to both doors so we have to crawl inside, like it’s an igloo or a fort, and always with some half-wrapped notion of someday firing it alive and driving hellbent away from Bethlehem. Not the one in Pennsylvania, but a town so remote you can’t even locate its position ona USGS map” – complete with a kid from the very wrong side of the tracks fighting against a despair that seems almost genetic. Fritzi’s dad’s in prison for manslaughter; his mom, almost divorced and getting on pretty tight with Bobby Bigelow, looks for miracles in the newspaper, since an image of Christ in a lint filter at the laundromat might bring throngs of the faithful to their door. She’s making Jesus ornaments so she’ll be ready to cash in, and sometimes the drivers at the truck stop where she waitresses will buy one.
Fritzi, on the other hand, is more proud of his quarter-Ottowa blood from his dad, and he doesn’t like Bobby Bigelow at all. His two best friends from the reservation take him to Bigelow’s house on their snowmobile to dish out some righting of wrongs, as they see it – except they discover more wrong than they expected, when it turns out it isn’t Bigelow’s home but that of another woman. He doesn’t lose it, not yet, per the quote above, and they ride home:
Three lost-cause kids in crazy get-ups, straddling not the wide seat of a Polaris sled, but rather a bareback horse, its black tail combed shiny by the wind.
It’s a story about miracles and otherness and anger and revenge: “Dads who’ve gone missing, and a mom who, against all the evidence, believes in miracles she’s determined to pass along to her son.” We all need to believe in miracles now and then; some of us need them more than others.
At first, it didn’t work for me as well as “Jug” did, maybe because it’s a little more enigmatic. But there’s some serious power here. The snowmobile becoming a horse gives me goosebumps. So it grew on me. Still is, in fact: I find something new every time I read it (it’s fairly short) or think about it, which is why enigmatic is a good thing.
In his interview with The Georgia Review, Driscoll says he uses the extreme weather of the Northern climes (primarily northern Michigan) as a crucial element in his fiction:
Take away this frozen landscape and the story ceases to exist: its verbal zeal, at least as I hear it anyway, would begin immediately to dissipate—as would the miracles themselves, and the boys’ tough-talking need to mock and disbelieve in them, and their stand’s head-on collision with the mother’s small-odds hope and trust in Providence.
I see what he means. Winter always requires faith in the miracle that spring will, even when there’s six feet of snow on the ground, eventually come.