There may be record-breaking heat in parts of the world, but D. A. Lockhart’s ‘Kentuckiana‘ is pretty hot (“Crock-Pot heat”) between the covers of his collection of short stories, Breaking Right.
The smell of Indiana as it meets Kentucky is that of the breath of a man in the morning. The scent is heavy and full of the moisture of tar-filled lungs, putrid and fresh with the richness of river-fed earth.
Eight short stories in a little over 150 pages, but each story exists as a small marvel in itself. Mr. Lockhart knows this part of Indiana and Kentucky, so he writes like both a native of the area as well as that of a short-term resident, one who has spent enough time there to get a good grasp of the language and customs. This is evident from the get-go in “Riding the Rosewater” as two friends Omer and Smithwick dream of winning the annual Bedford rally, a car race that even Indiana’s Larry Bird enters a car in, and as such, becomes ‘the car to beat’. A grease monkey named Gretchen comes to the friend’s help in building a winning entry. The car, named Rosewater, becomes more than a vehicle to Omer, who as the driver, sees the car as a way out of his mundane life.
In “From the Banks of Jeffersonville” protagonist Dmitri and a friend are escaping the heat by cooling off down by the riverside one night when they see someone drop a flaming object off the bridge onto a passing coal barge that immediately starts a fire. This turns into a big news story and Dmitri finds himself caught in between a beautiful dance partner he met earlier that night and the local fossil-fuel baron.
The Twilight Zone award goes to the story “Blackford County Lights”. Two co-workers are driving home from work (after getting their lay-off letters) one night:
Lucas Hatton and George Fox were driving home post-shift without much in the way of conversation. They had split driving duties over the past few months since they had always managed to find themselves on the same shift-and with the same need to save a few extra bucks. They needed to pay for all the things that life told them they required, even though life also refused to pay enough for them to afford them.
Then the UFO appears. Enough said.
What these stories and others in the collection have is a working-class mentality and rootedness. It is not known whether some characters are white or black or Indigenous, and it doesn’t really matter in these stories as everyone is struggling together in the midwest USA. There’s even a local shaman (“Etch A Sketch Shaman”) who creates art with cassette tape and plans to use an Etch-a-Sketch to save the city the way he once used one to save a man’s life. Absurdist? You bet, but Mr. Lockhart lets the story unfold naturally so that by the end, you too are a believer.
Author Diane Schomperlen sums up Breaking Right nicely when she says:
“Harnessing all the superpowers of the short story in one slim volume, D.A. Lockhart writes about hot-rods, sports, love, disasters both natural and supernatural, and the legends and mythologies that shape the lives of a cast of unforgettable ordinary characters who are anything but ordinary.“
I absolutely love the short story format and I agree with Ms. Schomperlen that “superpowers” were at work here. Heretofore, I was only familiar with Mr. Lockhart’s exceptional poetry, and now, with Breaking Right, he has created eight fictional stories worth revisiting. A keeper for sure!
Daniel Lockhart is the author of several books of poetry, including Devil in the Woods (Brick Books, 2019) and Gravel Lot That Was Montana (Mansfield Press, 2018). He currently acts as the publisher of Urban Farmhouse Press and poetry editor of The Windsor Review. He is a Turtle Clan member of the Moravian of the Thames First Nation and lives at Waawiiyaatanong, lands most often known as Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan.
- Publisher : Porcupine’s Quill; 1st edition (April 15 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 160 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0889844364
- ISBN-13 : 978-0889844360
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