April 14, 2020: “Welcome Thieves” by Sean Beaudoin

It’s Tuesday, Story366, and that means Wednesday is tomorrow.

Anyone else forgetting to shower? I realize a lot of you are probably still going to work, a lot more essential to the real world than this writing professor and general goof. Yesterday, I kept putting off the shower as I kept thinking we were going to go outside for some yardwork, and there’s no point in showering when you’re just going to go outside and do yardwork. I did that … then didn’t shower, after, either. At night I had a Boy Scout meeting on Zoom, through which, I’m pretty sure, smells cannot be transferred. I was definitely going to take a shower before going to bed, like I did when I was a kid, only I fell alseep reading, didn’t really want to restimulate myself with a shower, and stumbled to bed.

I’m not ashamed of this. When I asked that question at the start of the last paragraph, I knew the answer for a lot of you was Yeah, of course. So, I don’t feel bad about missing my daily cleanse, not on a Monday in quarantine. It’s like, hey, why waste the water? It’s only one day.

Only, it wasn’t. I have a bad recent history of not showering on holidays, spending most of the day cooking, working right up to the big meal. I’ll labor all day in the kitchen, only to realize at the start of the affair, the table set, the food spread out, and everyone else looking decent, that I’m a mess. That’s why a lot of our holiday pictures don’t feature me at all, my person too covered in flour and grease and other splatters to qualify for the album. I think it’s better that way.

I’m pretty sure I showered Saturday. Yeah, let’s say Saturday.

As soon as the Karen left for work today, I took care of it. I even put on clean clothes—including a button-down shirt!—just to spend my day as a more civilized human. I even put on my shoes, as putting on my shoes means I mean business.

Ten hours later, I’m still basking in my relative glow. Got to go make dinner soon, and then after, we might head out for a walk. Thus the cycle begins again.

For my post today, I got into Sean Beaudoin‘s 2016 collection, Welcome Thieves, brought to us by Algonquin Books. Beaudoin is the author of a bunch of young-adult books, but has been publishing in lit mags for a while. Welcome Thieves is his first foray into regular-adult books, one I really sunk my teeth into this afternoon.

I read four stories from Welcome Thieves, cherry-picking cool-sounding titles. I ran into some identifiable themes along the way, all the stories I read about young men acting rather drastically, making bad decisions, and getting involved in some seedy shit, only to—more or less—take a step toward adulthood by story’s end. Sometimes that step is huge, moving them forward; other times, it’s a step backward, fucking themselves up even further.

Nick in “Nick in Nine (9) Movements” is a wannabe rock ‘n roller, a guy trying his best to get a band going, despite his general lack of musical talent and luck. He picks up the music, eventually, but his luck goes from bad to worse as we follow him for more than a decade, starting up bands, playing bad gigs, meeting loser bandmates, and dealing with Duff, his childhood friend with similar aspirations but a tendency to disappear. Once thirty’s in the rearview, Nick has some decisions to make.

“Hey Monkey Chow” is about Dillard, a dude who’s childhood friend, Wade, had his nose bit off by a monkey (kids taunt him, yell, “Hey monkey chow!”). The characters all grow up, out of some shady squalor, and become semi-adults. Cher, Dillard’s kind-of sister, is living with him and his pregnant wife, Jonelle. Wade—now a gangsta known as Butterfly because of the shape of the skin graft on his face—returns to their lives, causing all kinds of unrest. This might be my favorite story in the bunch.

There’s a second-person imperative story, “You Too Can Graduate in Three Years with a Degree in Contextual Studies,” about this dude—you, the reader!—who embarks on a life of aimlessness and even worse, academia, waiting for a former lover to come back to him, following her to the other side of the world.

And then there’s Adam, another earnest young man making questionable decisions in the title story, “Welcome Thieves.” Adam’s living in the northwest when he meets Eve—yep—at a bar. Adam’s smoothtalk gets him a date, and after a long courtship, Adam breaks through Eve’s ultra-feminism—she’s taking a lot of classes—and they finally have sex, then become a couple. This part of the story, from beginning to end, is pretty sweet, Adam making a lot of the right moves (rare for a protatonist in this collection).

In the meantime, Adam manages to fuck up the other aspects of his life, mainly by getting into business with Bruce “Parse” Parsely, an imposing bald hustler in a track suit who deals in stolen merch. Adam takes a bag full of prime cell phones from him—to sell, I guess?—Parse expecting money back in return. Parse reminds him he knows where he lives: down the hall. Almost immediately, Parse wants his money and Adam doesn’t have it.

A third storyline, by the way, has Gabriel writing snarky postcards to his dadless nephew, bestowing advice about women and manners and Vegas. These feel like diversions, but eventually, they become a barometer of Adam’s psyche, how in-touch with reality he is at any given time.

The storylines of Eve and Parse collide by diverging, Adam jumping on the chance to travel with Eve to her sister’s wedding, just to avoid the Parse situation for a few days. As it turns out, Eve’s uncle is the extremely wealthy founder of a hip-hop/goth/BDSM clothing line called Welcome Thieves, which Adam recognizes immediately. Eve tells Adam to forget any ideas of getting money from this uncle, but Adam immediately sees business opportunities, has a laundry list of bad ideas he’s ready to pitch.

Adam and Eve head south in a $300 car they just bought—Adam refuses to fly—and again, this courtship is sweet and sincere. They get a little lost on the way, via LA, but eventually end up at their hotel, have to get fitted into wedding duds, and go to the ceremony. Adam meets Uncle Benny, makes his best pitch, Uncle Benny not listening. The whole time, Parse texts dark threats (which somehow read as really funny: in one, he claims to be shitting on Adam’s bed, but takes the time to lecture him on thread count).

I won’t reveal the ending of Adam’s story here, “Welcome Thieves” a ride down the coast, but also through Adam’s shaky attempt at being a real person. It’s a fun-ass story, a nice topper to a fun-ass collection.

Aside from the goofy-young-man theme, Beaudoin has a distinct style that keeps his stories moving like a punk-rock anthem. He writes in deliberate, declarative sentences, often in short paragraphs, his dialogue quick and to the point. The stories span months, even years, so Beadoin has to keep the pace up, making every story a whirlwind of bad behavior and lightning prose.

I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent in Sean Beaudoin’s worlds, my trip through Welcome Thieves an experience that felt as physical as it did mental. I can’t help but wonder what his other books are like, the ones he writes for young people, no drugs, alcohol, or horrible life decisions getting in the way. Maybe those stories are about the guys in this book, only young and innocient, their downfalls in the queue. Or maybe they’re about talking animals or a wizard school or something. I’m rooting for the former, that they’re be about the same kind of fuck-ups, only younger, a big slower, one pointed F-bomb allowed each time.