In a small town in New Mexico, a divorcé named Doe turns his ex-wife’s snowmobile into a dragster and dreams of hitting the road.
First, he’ll have to convince the police to declare his vehicle roadworthy. Broken into slim chapters like a novel, this novella charms with simple dialogue and honest depictions of the ordinary people who govern the town. Many of the characters wink at gender roles: Doe got his name because his mother had been hoping for a girl. His neighbor Ed Sanders is actually an Edwina. And the town’s smallest and meanest cop, Burt Lascone, joined law enforcement to rebel against his sisters, who used to dress him up in their clothes. Doe’s half-baked schemes to win Burt over yield no results—an emergency phone call trumps the spaghetti dinner he cooks for him—and fizzle out without much impact on the plot. But it’s Rigger, described as a “moving pile of rags,” who is the small town’s beating heart. Homeless by choice, Rigger steals a casket from Edwina’s woodworking business and sleeps inside it until Edwina rousts him with a reminder that he’s not dead yet—echoing Doe’s desire to “escape his world of mindless things” from the driver’s seat of his dragster. But from the bar stools of the town’s two watering holes, The Cozy Cue and The Dirty Banana, Doe discovers that the kindness and trust of his neighbors are all he really needs to get back on the road. The text abounds with unusual metaphors: a dog’s underbite, for instance, “resembles a small menorah.” And Doe’s heartbreaking description of his failed marriage aches with loneliness: “They sat in silence together and after the noisy fast clatter of the washing of dishes, they escaped to their beds and sleep.” The sentences aren’t always smooth, but poetry emerges from rambling prose that is stripped of excess punctuation, mimicking the rattle and hum of the dragster’s engine.
A disarmingly tall tale by a roadworthy writer.