Dangerous Men

Dangerous Men

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Dangerous Men
    Book Description:

    Geoffrey Becker'sDangerous Menwas selected by Charles Baxter as the winner of the fifteenth annual Drue Heinz Literature Prize. His manuscript was selected from nearly three hundred submitted by published writers.In these tightly drafted stories, Becker creates a wide variety of distinct voices, peculiar characters, and odd stettings, with tantalizing emphasis on lonliness, loss, and the ever-present struggle to find one's place in the world. "It was wrong to think that our presence would linger on, though it was to this notion that I realized I'd been grasping all along," the music-student narrator of "Dangerous Men" says after an evening involving drugs, a fight, and a car accident, "the idea that in some way we were etching ourselves onto the air, leaving shadows that would remain forever."Many of the pieces incorporate music into the storyline. Music is a gathering point in his characters' misfit lives. In "Magister Ludi," a seventeen-year-old girl meets up with an older local guitarist whom her younger brother has invited over to their house when their parents are gone, and plays him for her own ends: "She makes Riggy drive right through the center of town, hoping that someone will see them - one of her friends, or one of her parents' friends even, it doesn't matter. She just likes the idea of being spotted in this beat-up car alongside someone so disreputable."In "Erin and Malcom," a bass player with an injured hand who still lives with his estranged wife, a singer, and her pet ferret, finds out how out of tune his life really is: "Something has gone wrong - he could see it in the way she looked at him over her morning bowl of cereal, and the way she didn't as she peeled herself out of her Lycra pants and leopard shirts at night."Yet , even when the music seems quiet, there are tales of choice and happenstance. "El Diablo de La Cienega," set in New Mexico, is about a boy who accepts the challenge of a mysterious figure to a game of basketball, for very high stakes indeed. Charles Baxter - one of America's great story writers - calls the story "a small masterpiece. It has formal perfection, like a folktale. I thought it was wonderful."With leaps from the funny to the sad and the revelatory, these amazing stories explore dreams and longing with remarkable insight and imagination. These are stories you will not forget.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7882-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
    (pp. 3-16)

    Calvin, a drummer from Long Island who lived down the hall from us, wore jeans and tight, white T-shirts, smoked Lucky Strikes, and had eyes that nervously avoided contact. He was nineteen and skinny, but in a muscular way that reminded me of a greyhound. It was the summer of 1974, and my friend Ed and I shared a dorm room in what had once been a cheap hotel, but was now part of the Berklee College of Music. One Saturday night, Calvin came to our room and laid out ten little purple pills.

    “Eat ’em up, gentlemen,” he said....

    (pp. 17-30)

    I’m soft and always have been. Nikki’s the tough one, the one who always got into fights, who couldn’t wear a pair of pants two days without ripping the knees out climbing something. Which was kind of a gyp, because when I got old enough to want them, there was nothing for me to inherit—no lipstick or mascara, no pretty clothes she’d grown out of. Mama had to start fresh with me on everything, and what with Mr. Quitts doing most of the providing for us, I couldn’t just stick out my hand and ask for, say, money for...

    (pp. 31-44)

    Jimi-John Houser, bare chested and ripped jeaned, one sneaker laceless, toted sand up the steps to his fifth-floor walk-up. He was on his third sack, and the sweat formed rivers down his back, pooled in the band of his underwear. He’d stolen the sacks from a construction site three blocks away, and every minute of the agonizing journey back over sun-baked sidewalks, he had expected a hand on his shoulder, a shout, a police officer. But he would get away with this, it seemed.

    Inside, he fell to his knees and shoved the sack next to the other two, then...

    (pp. 45-54)

    It was Tony’s idea to go after Big Grey. We hanging out back at the place, me reading some old comic books I got laying around and Tony practicing his guitar. It’s an electric one, Tony’s guitar, all black and silver. He got it from a junkie in Canarsie who carved the names of all the notes into the side of the neck. Looks like a bird walked along there. Probably took the dude hours, but he sold it anyway when things got tight and he found himself staring at that wall, which will happen. Tony play it through his...

    (pp. 55-72)

    Duney is on the phone with her best friend, Beth Ann, running down a list of all the boys in their senior class at Dover High, deciding which ones are or are not virgins. She sits at her kitchen table, wrapping the phone’s long white cord around and around her arm as she talks. Her parents, who are away in the city for the rest of the afternoon, until late tonight, have left Duney, who is seventeen, in charge, and she has taken the opportunity to mix herself a tall drink and enjoy the luxury of a good long phone...

    (pp. 73-88)

    The black sports car that pulled up in a puff of dust alongside the La Cienega Community Center looked like a big hand, placed palm down in the red dirt. Ignoring it, Victor kept his feet in front of the chalked line on the cracked concrete. The door clicked open and a very tanned man with straw-colored hair got out, stuck his hands into the pockets of his chinos, and leaned back to watch. No time left on the clock, Spurs down by one. As always, the game had come down to this one deciding moment. Victor made the first...

  9. TAXES
    (pp. 89-104)

    Pretzel and Ronnie stand on the corner in front of the deserted Shabazz Steak and Take, huddled back a little to take advantage of a slight overhang of the roof and stay out of the rain. Ronnie, lean and muscular, his hair cut into a flattop, hunkers down, cups his hands, and lights another Newport. Pretzel is smaller, skinnier, and does not smoke. It isn’t his health that concerns him, just the waste of money.

    “You set up, man,” says Ronnie.

    “Forget it,” says Pretzel. “Just forget it.” Across the street, behind stained plate-glass windows, a shadowy figure moves slowly...

    (pp. 105-116)

    Erin was in her stage clothes. Her black hair hung Chinese-style in a sharp curtain around her jaw, two inches shorter on the left. The haircut was new, but Malcolm hadn’t said anything. The rest of her outfit was what she always wore: tight leather skirt, fishnet stockings, white tank top under a ripped jeans jacket, and enough bracelets to fill a shoe box. From one of her shoulders her pet ferret, Rizzo, eyed Malcolm with apparent contempt.

    “I need the keys to the van,” she said.

    Malcolm got up and dug them out of the pocket of his other...

    (pp. 117-128)

    The answering machine is on the blink, but I’ve got the door to the booth open, so I hear the phone. I figure it is probably Dave, stuck someplace, needing a ride home. Since he dried out, he has occasional moments when he seizes up, like an engine with no oil. The last time was two weeks ago, when he got off the train at Fourth Avenue, then couldn’t get himself to leave the station.

    “Nick and Dave’s,” I say, hating the name, which still sounds to me like a pizza parlor. “What?”

    “Nick? It’s Betsy.”

    She’s been gone six...

    (pp. 129-144)

    Christine came back to the truck to tell Ray a dwarf had moved into number two-nineteen. Well, maybe not a dwarf exactly—but a very little man with a fat belly normal-sized head, and nearly useless legs. He had a big black guy helping him out.

    “Uh-huh,” said Ray, taking a bite from a peanut butter sandwich.

    “Don’t you think that’s strange?” She opened one of the packs of cigarettes she’d bought from the Arab grocery at the end of the block.

    He shrugged. “Lahla black ’roun’ here,” he said through the peanut butter.

    “Not the black guy, the dwarf.”...

    (pp. 145-162)

    When I was fifteen, my father showed up at our high school and stood outside the door of Mr. Margin’s history class wearing his leather jacket, waving a pink piece of paper. It was a September afternoon, sunny but not too hot, the sky bright blue. I had been alternately staring out the window and making eyes at Lucy Westbrook who sat opposite me, and had probably the nicest body in the whole school. Mr. Margin stopped lecturing (the subject was, I think, slavery) and went to the door, then gestured for me to step out into the hall with...

  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 163-164)