A picture of your wife standing by a lion cage, anonymously mailed to you. The fine print in the scorecard on the back page of the Sports section—which holds your future. A guy who sits in your favorite bar, reading the same book you’re reading. Judd Spicer’s characters seem fated to bump up against such oddity—hanging out at the edge of a hum-drum, white collar, beer and basketball sort of universe, every now and then they transcend into weirdness. Now Spicer has put together a book of short stories, Seven Days, which offers a bit of strangeness for each day of the week. On Sunday April 22 we have a guy watching an afternoon baseball game at home; a home run is hit, and caught by someone in the stands—a man who looks just like our hero, and next to him a woman that looks just like his wife. Friday November 19 features a “Miller man” sort who lives alone and is fond of watching the high school girls pass by outside his picture window. On that Friday, however, a girl turns the tables on him—she knocks on the door asking to use the phone, then admits that she’d been watching him:
“I was looking Mister. I was looking at you through that big window. You were sitting on that couch over there, drinking Miller, and watching something on your television.”
I didn’t respond. She seemed harmless, but scared. Jumpy. One minute I’m watching Scooter drill jumpers, and now some girlkid’s going to pieces in my livingroom.
“So you were watching me,” I said. “So what? It’s not like I was naked or smoking grass or something. I was relaxing, having a beer. Don’t worry about it. Just...don’t worry about it.”
The strange week ends with Saturday September 19, a tale about a business man who, after losing his job, falls into a very different career: entertaining ritzy partygoers with his funny-looking face. Tacked on to the seven days are a handful of extra stories, including My Day, where a photographer specializing in restaurant food has delusions of playing in the NBA, and Horsepower, the gem of the collection—an apparently straightforward sketch of a man going through the Sports section at his regular diner:
I added another touch of Tabasco to my over-easys, and read a short article about a foreign bike race. I dipped my toast into the yolks, and moved on to a slightly longer piece about a local athlete who was having trouble deciding which college to attend. I took healthy bites of bacon as I turned to the baseball boxscores, where, avoiding more downer news about the Big Club, I made my way through rows of names and columns of numbers, seeing who pitched well, and who hit poorly.
By the way, if you’ve noticed a lot of sports being mentioned, you’ve caught on to one of primary motifs of Seven Days. A more intriguing theme is that of the double. The doppleganger couple and voyeuristic guy and girl were mentioned above; in Wednesday October 13 the main character notices a mysterious stranger, reading the same book he is, at the same bar—a book which is itself about a mysterious stranger.
All but one of the stories is told in the first person, and the narrator is always a young, white-collar male. The narration is in a colloquial dialect, which tends to weave between present tense and past tense spontaneously, much like bar stories. But unlike bar stories, the pieces in Seven Days do not have punch-lines—they are subtle and open ended, and different readers will doubtless have varying interpretations of them. Outside of this, the stories seem largely unconnected—other than a basketball player named Scooter who is mentioned now and then, the characters each inhabit their separate worlds. And yet they’re are all quite similar to one another—the beer drinking, basketball watching types that are to be found everywhere in the real world, but which seldom inhabit literary fiction. Spicer deserves credit for that—for sketching the lives of twenty-something bachelors in the real worlds they inhabit, and the alternate worlds they dream of. And for writing about sports in a way no one has since Hemingway. He doesn’t quite pull off all of the stories, but most of them are decent, and a couple are something more—stories that will make you stop and think about them long after the book is put down and you’re onto the next week’s reading.
Seven Days is Judd Spicer’s first book, and is probably being printed as I write. It should be in local stores by late April, and in any case can be ordered from www.midwestbookhouse.com.
- Joel Van Valin