July 18: “Catholic” by Amie Barrodale

Happy Monday, Story366! The fam and I are headed back to Missouri today after a wonderful weekend in Chicago. I got to vend beer at three Cub games, Karen and I read for the Wit Rabbit series over in Logan Square, and we also had some pretty phenomenal food (i.e., pizza). Still, after only three days, we have to head home, as this week launches what I’ll be referring to on Story366 as Cub Scout Camp Week.

Cub Scout Camp Week is me going to Cub Scout camp with the elder boy for four days and three nights, and for the first time all year, I’ll be away from the Internet for longer than twenty-four hours. In fact, I’ll have to be offline for at least two full days, meaning I’m going to need to get ahead on my posts before I leave. I’m not exactly sure how that will affect things, only that 1) the posts might be a tad bit shorter than normal, and 2) the posts won’t be timely. So if you read a post this week and I’ve somehow missed a shocking and obvious piece of news, it’s because I’ve written a few days ahead of time and will have left my crystal ball in El Segundo.

That said, let’s get to today’s story/book/author, “Catholic” from You Are Having a Good Time by Amie Barrodale, a paperback original from FSG. “Catholic” is the story of an unnamed woman who is in a very complicated relationship with a character we only know as “the drummer,” this guy who’s a drummer in an indie rock band named Catholic. The band’s tour takes the drummer away a lot, but that’s not the only thing that separates them. Despite several seemingly winning encounters, neither our protagonist nor the drummer are able to commit to anything lasting, even though things like fate and boredom and drunk texting bring them back together. Maybe this is Barrodale’s commentary on modern dating—I don’t know—but it’s a love story, one of the most intriguing ones I’ve come across, so unpredictable, so frustrating, so unnerving, but at same time, not without its sweetness.

What makes “Catholic,” and all of Barrodale’s stories, so interesting is how she stacks details, how she reveals information. For example, this story is called “Catholic,” and the opening line has our hero calling her priest friend for advice on her love life. The priest offers it—it’s unconventional—and then that’s it, no more mention of the priest; he has nothing to do with the title (except the implied connotation). The story of how she meets the drummer is also a roundabout anecdote, starting with a few pages about this guy named Lee, who’s in another band, who knows our protagonist through her ex-best friend, whom he used to date. Our protagonist sees Lee at Starbucks a lot after that breakup, but they avoid speaking for a decade, until Lee asks her to dinner one day, and on this dinner date, they run into the drummer. Like the priest, Lee never comes back, but while he was there, Lee’s presence adds a ton of details, details that are interesting and quirky, but have no impact on the plot.

Barrodale’s style seems kind of rambling when you first sit down to it—I was thinking too traditionally, like Hey, when’s that priest coming back?—but I quickly found myself turning page after page, unable to stop reading. Barrodale adds so many throwaway details, taking cabbie routes from point A to point Q, though it’s the Q of another alphabet, make a sigma or something Cyrillic, with some Morse code and semaphore symbols thrown in along the way. Each story I read—I read a few—proved more and more interesting, making You Are Having a Good Time one of the more unique and distinct books I’ve read for Story366 this year. This is one of my fondest finds—I really love this book, Amie Barrodale’s stories, how she chooses to tell them.

Wait, what happens between our protagonist and the drummer? That I’ll not reveal. But if you’ve been paying attention, you might be guessing that their future isn’t the point of this story (at least not the main one). And you’d be right.

Today also marks the two hundredth post on Story366, as July 18 is the two hundredth day of the year. Another landmark reached, so congrats to me. Onward.

Amie Barrodale

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