June 28, 2020: “Goliath” by Dave Housley

Sunday Sunday Sunday, Story366!

So today’s the day that starts a significant change to Story366 policy: Today I’m covering an author I’ve already covered here. I mentioned I was going to have to start doing this earlier this week, as I’m fresh out of new books by new authors. It’s by far the easiest of my original Story366 rules to relax, as writers write more than one book, and furthermore, why the heck not? For the most part, I’ll also be covering authors I covered four years ago, when all this started; four years is plenty big a buffer, I think, between entries. So, no big deal—it’s not like these authors are giving me payola to keep them on the airwaives.

Technically, I’ve already double-dipped on authors once, as I covered Dana Diehl and Melissa Goodrich’s co-authored collection back in January, after writing on each of their own collections earlier in the project. They are sort of the beta test to this venture.

As I restock my new-author pile—books are on their way—today will kick off a week of previously covered authors, as I have a bunch of those, books I’ve been saving up for the inevitability of today. I will probably at least link up my first entry on the author (which I do, below), though I probably won’t spend too much time revisiting that original post, no compare and contrast, as I simply don’t want to see myself up for a harder, longer-to-complete task.

I know all of this matters to me much more than it matters to anyone else, but I’m glad I’ve stuck to my rules. It’s allowed me to reach nearly six hundred different authors and collection so far, which is something I’m extremely proud of here. Good for the authors, good for me, good for my readers.

But it’s time to change things up.

Without further ado, here’s the lucky first candidate for a second (solo) entry: Dave Housley, founder and editor of Barrelhouse, and author of Commercial Fiction, which I covered here in March of 2016, focusing on his story, “Cialis.” That books is literally a parody/tribute/send-up of famous TV commercials, and I enjoyed it a lot. Today I read from If I Knew The Way, I Would Take You Home, from Dzanc in 2015. This means I could have covered this book back in 2016 instead, and that it’s been on my shelf for over four years. Ugh. But that’s the great part of Story366—especially now, that I’m doubling up on authors—that I’m finally reading books like this one by Housley, cast aside simply because I’d read his other book. Why did I have that rule again?

To know Housley’s work is to know that he writes about pop culture extensively, as he was not born of humans, but is the offspring of a TV and and a record player; I’ve heard tell he is one-sixteenth film projector on his TV’s side. As I mentioned, his first book is all about commercials, and this one seems to be about music, though that’s not entirely true. The first story is called “Be Gene” and is about a guy named Eddie who has to stoke himself up for his forthcoming gig as Gene Simmons in a KISS cover band. He gets ready—the costume and makeup are easy—but he must become The Demon if he’s doing his job. It’s fun to watch him prep, though it doesn’t help his confidence that he has a short tongue.

“Behind the Music: A Christmas Wish” is told from the perspective of the singer of a one-hit-wonder band, a guy starting every paragraph-long vignette with the line “All I Want for Christmas is …,” and then moving on to things like one more hit, a second chance, and for his bad to actually be able to play, for him to be able to sing. It’s kind of sad; actually, no, it’s really sad. And I love it.

Housley slips a few essays in at the end of the book. I read “How to Listen to Your Old Hair Metal Tapes,” which is one of those second-person imperative stories like “How to Be a Writer” that tells its tale in the form of commands. This one features Dave Housley himself, aka Däve Höusley, who finds his old mix tapes in the basement, gets pumped to listen to them, realizes he doesn’t have a cassette player, but when he finds one, rocks out with his cock out, for days on end.

Today I’m focusing on one of those non-rock stories I warned you about, “Goliath.” Housley starts off inside his protagonist’s nightmare, one in which he, David, is self-aware. David, we find out, is a former child star, and has dreams where he relives old episodes of his TV show, canceled years and years ago, often jolting him awake when he can’t remember a line. So, cool, an ex-child-star story.

When he wakes up, he gets a call from his parents, who want him to watch the family dog while they’re on vacation. David doesn’t really want to, but his parents insist. This will give David the chance to tell his parents about Sandy, his girlfriend, with whom he lives. This is a big no-no, as David grew up super-Christian and living with Sandy is, you know, living in sin. Sandy wants David to take this step, so David agrees, though it seems like there’s more to it, to why he doesn’t want to dogsit Goliath.

There’s a good chance you know where this is going, but I have to admit, I did not, not until Housley reveals it all-out. When David’s parents arrive with Goliath, there’s a short scene where the big Sandy revelation comes out, but that’s understated. The big scene, really, is the first time David is alone with Goliath, soon after, and Goliath starts talking to David. Yep, this is a fractured fictionalization of Davey and Goliath, that kids’ Christian claymation series from the sixties. Boom! Mic drop.

I feel a little dumb that I didn’t catch on to what’s going on here sooner. Maybe it’s because I was thinking this was still going to be a rock ‘n’ roll story somehow. Maybe I’ve had too much fried rice for dinner. Maybe I’ve tried to block the memories of that creepy show out of my head. But Housley got me, so he can punch my arm next time he sees me.

Anyway, David has been trying to leave the TV show behind, move on, especially in terms of faith: David’s not Christian anymore. Goliath is having none of it, though, and every time they’re alone, he preaches to David, to Daaaaavey, about his lapse. David just wants the week to be over, but when he doesn’t listen, Goliath starts to bring the justice of the lord down upon him. Things get knocked over. Sandy’s birth control goes missing. By the end of the story … I won’t reveal the end of the story.

Mind you, in case you forgot, David is made of clay. So is Goliath. Everyone is: It’s a clay world. Housley, however, made me forget all that as I read.

I will sit down and read the rest of If I Knew the Way, I Would Take You Home, as I love Housley’s stories. They’re well crafted, beyond clever, and easier to gobble up than a bowl of popcorn. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I’ve reached this point, that I’m going to be reading more collections by some of my favorite writers, writers I’ve avoided because of some self-induced clause that made no real sense. And to note, I have a third collection by Housley, Massive Cleansing Fire, on my shelf as well. Dare I go for the Housley trifecta? Even more insane? He has a fourth collection, another from Dzanc, Ryan Seacrest Is Famous, and I bet I could get my pals at Dzanc to send me a copy of that one, too. Maybe I should have a Dave Housley week? I guess I’d need like three or four more books for that. But Holy Housley, Batman, what a week it would be.

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