‘Long Distances’ by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Rhodes, Jewell Parker 1989

Long Distances by Jewell Parker Rhodes, 1989

The magic trick:

Showing the good and bad in family life from a father’s point of view

“Long Distances” tells the story of a family’s move strictly from the father’s point of view. And a lot of it is negative. The father-in-law is a villain. The wife isn’t much better. This man, Nate – the father – must be miserable, right?

Well, he’s not. The story isn’t that simple. There is a ton of sweetness – verging on saccharine – here too. Nate worries about his mother. And he loves his daughter very much. The scenes with his daughter at the end really are over-the-top sweet.

It’s an interesting mix of salt and sugar. And that’s quite a trick on Naylor’s part.

The selection:

He looked in the side mirror and saw the Ford his father-in-law, Ben Williams, was driving. Ben was no comfort. For weeks, Ben told folks at the Pier Point Bar, “No way I’d allow my baby girl travel from Pittsburgh to L.A. alone.”

“What you mean alone, Ben? Nate’s going. He’s her husband, ain’t he?”

Then Ben Williams would puff his chest, suck his gut, and glare until the person nervously admitted, “Ain’t right to let a woman travel alone. Not with two kids.”

A dozen slicks and low-lifes had told Nate that Ben was drinking bourbon and calling him a faggot. But what was he supposed to do? Beat up on an old man? Have his wife holler? Nate gripped the steering wheel.

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