The Rookers by Bobbie Ann Mason, 1982
The magic trick:
Painting a perfect picture of local color and characters in lieu of an action-packed plot
The plot in this one doesn’t seem to know what to do with itself. It ambles along without much happening before finally picking one of the thematic motifs (Mack calling the weather service for temperature updates), forcing it into a would-be poetic reprise and calling it a conclusion.
And even with all that said, I really, really like this story. I do wish the ending wasn’t so contrived, but who cares? It’s the journey, not the destination, right? This story, like nearly all of the Shiloh collection, is just an absolutely spot-on portrait of small-town America. The people act like people. Stupid statement, but I’m serious – it’s not easy to do. Every single action in this story rings true. They feel insecure sometimes. They feel excited by small victories, worried but defiant in the face of small defeats. The language is western Kentucky through and through.
The plot might meander but that’s not really the point. And that’s quite a trick on Mason’s part.
As they hear it backing out of the driveway, Claussie says, in a confidential tone, “She’s mad because we saw that dirty show. The weather, my eye.”
“She’s real religious,” says Edda.
“Well, golly-Bill, I’m as Christian as the next one!” cries Mary Lou. “Them words don’t mean anything against religion. I bet Mack just got her stirred up about the temperature.”
“Thelma’s real old-timey,” says Claussie. “She don’t have any idea some of the things kids do nowadays.”
“Times has changed, that’s for sure,” says Mary Lou.
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