Tiny In The Wilderness by Tom Drury, 1992
The magic trick:
Putting us in the point of view of a character who is down and out
So this one starts in Iowa, but the bulk of the action is in Colorado.
It’s another great episode pulled from Drury’s The End Of Vandalism novel. These stories are like a very weird combination of Lake Wobegon and Denis Johnson. This one gets especially rambling as Tiny takes to the road. There is something oddly comforting about reading stories about people on the brink. Maybe this mostly says something unflattering about me? I don’t know. Tiny’s options are so limited, his chances so slight, the bar for success is incredibly low. I think that perhaps makes it an easy read, because then any semblance of normalcy at all feels like a huge win for our protagonist.
And that’s quite a trick on Drury’s part.
The lights came up. The small man had moved to the stool next to Tiny. He was pale and straw-haired, and wore a souvenir turtleneck sweater from Storybook Gardens in Wisconsin. His name was Mike. He was the distributor in Plain Park for a self-help program called Lunarhythm. Tiny wondered if Mike approached every stranger or just those who seemed to need self-help.
“I’ll start a sentence and you finish it,” said Mike. “‘I don’t mean to complain, but-‘”
“I get headaches sometimes.”
“Good. ‘If there was one thing I could change about myself-‘”
“I would go ahead and do it.”
“‘I wish I were an eagle, with-‘”
“I don’t get that one.”
“There is no right or wrong answer. ‘I wish I were an eagle, with-‘”
“‘I don’t consider myself a loser, and yet-‘”
“I have lost things.”
“Good,” said Mike. “Your answers are provocative and original. Clearly you would benefit from the Lunarhythm Plan. I mean, everyone does, but you would especially.”
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