Hey, there, Story366! Good to be blogging at you on this fine Monday. Today I want to use my pre-story space to spill about the release of Karen’s new book, No More Milk, which is officially being released this Friday, July 1, though a copy came in the mail today. Still, I’m going to place a pre-order link here, so you can click and see how cool it looks, and of course pick up a copy for yourself. Karen is the funniest, smartest, most insightful poet I know, and since No More Milk is her first full-length collection (after two chapbooks), it’s been quite joyous around the Czyzniago household. To celebrate, we … well, we’ll celebrate over the weekend, but I have been extra-flirty with Karen all day, sneaking kisses and such, which is a celebration all its own. She especially likes when I sneak up on her, gross food in my beard, and smack a big one right on her, leaving my beard print on her chin. Check that: She loves it!
I also got to read from my friend Mary Troy’s collection, The Alibi Café, out from BKMK Press, Troy’s first collection. She also has two others, Cookie Lily and Joe Baker Is Dead. Coming this November 1 from Moon City Press is a novel I edited and am seeing to life, Swimming on Hwy N, a book I’m really stoked about. I’ve gotten to know Mary pretty well since we’ve been working on this project, which has been a ridiculous honor and pleasure. I’m looking forward to meeting her on her tour—she’ll stop at Missouri State—as somehow she lives in St. Louis and I live in Springfield and somehow we’ve never crossed paths. Weird.
I read a few stories from The Alibi Café and am writing about “Mercy the Midget,” a story that Mary suggested I might like (she was right). “Mercy the Midget” tells the tale of Mercy, who is not really a midget—most everything about her is what people would call “normal-sized,” though her legs stopped growing when she was a kid. Still, people call her a midget (which isn’t even the PC term for what people think she is, a dwarf), namely Tim, the proprietor and emcee of The Hideout, a strip club in Illinois right across the Mississippi from St. Louis. Sure, she got the job for the “freak factor”—creepy dudes have all kinds of fetishes—but also because she has absolutely perfect breasts. Mercy is proud of them, took the job at The Hideout because she likes to show them to people, and believes they even things out, karmically speaking, for the short legs.
This is Mercy, who drives sixty-eight miles from rural Missouri every night to get a shot at a bigger audience, but also to stay clear of her churchy community, namely her Aunt Faith, who would die, kill her, or both if she ever found out what Mercy did every night (she thinks she works midnights at a convenience store three towns over). This conflict pays off later—because that’s how stories work—but first, Mercy and the folks at The Hideout have to deal with more local churchies, a group called CHAPs (Churches Against Pornography), who sets up every night outside the club, protesting, harassing, and praying for the souls of the people inside.
The joy of Troy’s work is how she builds her characters, builds her plots. Swimming on Hwy N is/will be like that, as every chapter brings new characters, characters who add complexity, plus fun, to the mix. In “Mercy the Midget,” we just keep finding out more and more about Mercy and her world, all of it enriching, all of it a hoot. Mercy’s dad was in his sixties when he impregnated Mercy’s mom, who was eighteen, yet her mom died first, when Mercy was ten, and her dad, in his seventies, chugs along. Mercy dated one of her forty-something high school teachers for a while, right after graduation, a match that was deemed, by her family, favorable, Mercy and her short legs not going to do much better. Mercy bonds with one of the CHAPs protestors, a redhead who has her back when Aunt Faith’s group shows up. Every page, every paragraph, we get some new detail, a new twist, all of it adding up to an incredibly intricate, yet easy-as-heck to read story, one that I was sorry had to ever end.
Mary Troy seems to initiate, manage, and control chaos in her stories, in her novels, and since I not only like reading that kind of story, I flat-out admire it, it’s no wonder we have connected on a book project. The Alibi Café, “Mercy the Midget,” Swimming on Hwy N, everything she writes is full of grotesque, wonderful, ingenius characters and predicaments. Troy’s quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. Stay tuned: It only gets better.