DH: “Noon” is the third of three Brad Watson stories that I’m reviewing. Good stories are distorting mirrors and I can’t see what another reader will find reflected back at them from Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives. I am hoping we’ll see some other reviews from the Guys…so you can read about a different Brad Watson.
In the first line of Noon, a stillborn child is delivered “and the child had come apart.” The story’s characters and the reader never recover from that line. The child belonged to Beth and Tex. This typed the story for me as out of my region since absolutely no one in my part of the country is ever named Tex. I talked about the power of BW’s names in the second story that I reviewed, Carl’s Outside. Notice in Noon how the names of our couple help join them together. “Tex” shares two of his three letters with “Beth”. As for “Noon” I thought “no”, “non”, “none”, “nothing”. You don’t tell a story by word association. But I’ve found in BW that the sounding of the words trips my mind into a darkening state. Watch as BW turns down the dimmer. Watch the shadows grow while you are reading.
“In the house over the next few weeks they seemed to walk through one another like shadows.” That’s another great opening line for one of BW’s paragraphs. An old-fashioned way to learn poetry was to copy out your favorites in a “commonplace” book. Now why would you want to do that since we all all rich people now and can own the original book?
When I typed out Brad’s sentence I nearly put a comma between “weeks” and “they”. That’s where I would have put one. But when I double-checked the text I saw no comma. And how much better you sense Beth and Tex, flitting through each other like shadows, without a comma! The sentence itself becomes shadowy. Should you care about such small details? Every sentence that you write is a shot at taking the reader by the throat.
Brad breaks his story out into the open. He does this by introducing Julie Verner and May Miller who have both had miscarriages. May has had one. But Julie and Beth have each lost two. They form a social set with their husbands. That’s what I mean by breaking the story out. They form a little community of the miscarried. They have all drifted away from their married friends who have children. Either that, or those families with kids have drifted away from them. This is the last time I’ll mention naming. But “Julie” May” “Verner” July May Vernal.
BW takes the biggest of risks when this childless group hangs out for the evening. Mozart wrote ordered symphonies where you can fall into deep water. As I write this, I can’t get it out of my head that tomorrow night I’m going out with JC and JE. We’ll be meeting our friend Jonathan for the first time. The evening has gotta be filled with unknowns. I told Jonathan that we would blindfold him and take him somewhere. But none of us is going to end up drifting down the Hudson River…even though we’ll be close enough to jump in.
So Brad Watson sends his characters out for the evening. He flays their souls and then puts them into play on a night out with their pals. When the soul sees hell, then it’s there. We can create hell ourselves…or is it just the brutish quality of life…that it’s extremely hazardous? Brad, you’re great. Your students in Laramie are lucky. Your readers everywhere are lucky. But your characters, they are not so lucky…it being quite risky out there.