Drifters and dreamers in rural Texas and the Southwest, going nowhere fast.
Hardware and lumber storeowner Carl Blalock loves his black-haired Venus, and he’s reasonably happy with life—until a young, six-foot-six troublemaker wanders in to use the bathroom and ask for a job. Any kind of job, he doesn’t care. Carl Stein is tired of being on the road, and so is his pretty blond wife May. Blalock invites the Steins to Thanksgiving dinner, and so begins the slow destruction of their settled lives. It all starts innocently enough: The older Carl hires the younger man to flock Christmas trees, and Venus and May become fast friends, talking into the wee hours. But sinuous, soft-voiced May, who’s quite the corrupting influence, somehow persuades the middle-aged Venus to cheat on her husband in a tawdry one-night stand with a cop. Then the two couples picnic by an artificial lake where May is mysteriously sucked into a hidden cistern and drowned. Grief-stricken, her husband steals $7,000 from the Blalocks and hits the road again. Venus and Carl split up, but he runs into her now and again as they begin their own pointless hegira through Mexico and the Southwest, blowing money in casinos and arguing whenever they meet. Venus sleeps around. The older Carl wonders where it all went wrong. The younger Carl moves on restlessly, looking for someone new to hustle. Various members of the supporting cast pop up to offer their opinions from time to time, and there’s a lot of strenuously unsubtle philosophizing about the meaning of life, the nature of fear, and other deep stuff.
The chaotic structure and multiple points of view keep what action there is at a distance—and Jarrard’s (Over There, 1997) odd, self-conscious stylistic tics don’t help to draw you in.