Matthews’ debut fiction invokes the Great Flood of the Bible in the hallucinations and dreams of a half-Mexican carnie named Xavier.
On what he announces is the “last official day” as a carnie, Xavier leaves the “Ark-like existence” of his Airstream and heads out for a stiff drink. As he approaches the tavern, lightning strikes him down. Despite melted soles and charred clothing, he dusts himself off and joins his fairground brethren: the tattooed Cajun, Jacques; Six-Foot Alice; attractive, stuttering Ella; crooked-spined Crawdad; a roustabout named Chumba Cruz, and his twin brother, Gustavo. After sharing “180-proof hope” and PBRs with his companions, Xavier collapses in a filthy stall in the men’s room. When he comes to, he begins to experience what appear to be a series of psychotic, drink-induced episodes. As he carries on a Spanglish “dream conversation” with the disembodied voice of Chumba, a torrential rain begins to fall on the surrounding Texas landscape, causing death and destruction. Xavier and the voice of Chumba argue about hot dogs, luchadors and the fresh world they plan to create after the deluge. Chumba, calling himself El Jefe, tells Xavier, “Words are a drug mainlined by those swimming against the torrent.” “Truly deluded,” Xavier continues “babbling” to himself as the cresting waves consume the dreary desert outside the bathroom window of his “Tavern-acle.” Suddenly awakened by his buddies, Xavier thinks they’re figments of his insane dream. In a fight with Gustavo, he’s told to let his temporal spirit abandon him and “move on with the new you.” With faint echoes of Richard Brautigan and Tom Robbins, Matthews creates a unique universe of absurd situations, place-holder characters and rapid-fire, tangential dialogue. Passionate, but perplexing prose trumps any semblance of a plot. Despite its meager length, the work demands much patience to wade through what amounts to an incomprehensible hybrid of parable and parody—although what’s being taught or made fun of remains hazy.
A rambling trickster of a book, full of convoluted questions and no easy answers.