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Desert Gothic

Don Waters

Publication Year: 2007

This powerful debut collection, set in the light-filled deserts of Nevada and Arizona, introduces a darkly inventive new voice. Like an early Richard Ford, Don Waters writes with skill, empathy, and an edgy wit of worlds not often celebrated in contemporary literature. In Desert Gothic, Waters unleashes a wild and gritty cast and points them down paths of reckoning, where the characters earn the grace of their hard-won wisdom.
     Set in bars, mortuaries, nursing homes, truck stops, and the “poverty motels that encircled downtown’s casino corridor,” Waters’s ten stories are full of misfit transients like Julian, a crematorium worker who decorates abandoned urns to create a “lush underground island,” and the instant Mormon missionary Eli, a hapless divorcé who “always likes people better when they’re a little broken.” Limo drivers, ultra-marathoners, vagabonds, and a distraught novelist-to-be populate the pages of these gritty stories.

Published by: University of Iowa Press

Contents and Acknowledgments

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What to Do with the Dead

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pp. 1-15

Springer was a large part of Melvin’s life, a calico I’d heard much about. I didn’t have an opinion one way or the other. To me, whatever Melvin wanted: fine. Though I’d only known him a short time, it was clear Melvin, a squat, fortyish, high-foreheaded man, was a champion of animal companionship. I’d also heard talk...

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Sheets

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pp. 16-31

When Billy said he was leaving me for the Venezuelan, I panicked and took off for my hometown, Reno. It was a stifling July drive in the small Honda. I kept the windows rolled up, the AC turned off. I was trying to bake his scent into the upholstery, trying to season the car with the faint trace he’d left in...

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Mr. Epstein and the Dealer

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pp. 32-48

The dealer doesn’t have a girlfriend, no kids, divorced once with a restraining order stapled to it. He lives alone in Nana’s pink stucco house and mostly watches a lot of TV. Paint peels from the orange walls in long fine stripes; when he walks through the house he’s reminded of candy canes. Over the past...

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Dan Buck

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pp. 49-58

I run unaccompanied along a desolate stretch of America’s loneliest highway, Nevada’s I-50, which halves the state horizontally and now, at midday, at 101 degrees, ripples like waves of exhaust. The soles of my race flats leave gummy imprints on superheated pavement while a punishing sun reduces my vision...

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Mineral and Steel

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pp. 59-78

“Tommy stole the goddamn Ford,” my stepfather said when I finally answered. I’d been asleep, dreaming. Dallas’s booming voice tore across my watery mind. He loved to harass my cell. “A pallet of titanium round bar, from the shop’s dock...

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Blood Management

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pp. 79-92

That night, Geoff found his young neighbor lying fetal on his sun-cracked driveway. The kid’s spine was bowed, his knees drawn in to his chest. Geoff’s white stretch Cadillac turned wide, fit nowhere, and now, as he came to a stop, its long butt obstructed the rest of the street. Headlights framed the kid in...

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Holiday at the Shamrock

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pp. 93-100

It was July fourth, and they were flushing the jail of misdemeanors and minor infractions, making room for that night’s felonies. All morning, Doc was shuffled from pod to hallway, hallway to waiting area, until at last he was handed his street clothes in a brown paper sack and asked by a heavyset deputy to...

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The Bulls at San Luis

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pp. 101-119

This is Cye’s second run in a month. He’s nicknamed the rendezvous El Cementerio because several large, wind-chiseled boulders have eroded in the shape of headstones. Rumor has it, beneath every other rock near the border is a grave. Out here...

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Little Sins

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pp. 120-135

Jessie and her big plans. Jessie and her big brain, her big job. As always, Jessie’s suggestion wins out: Dennis is a Black Pearl. At the drugstore, he argues for Rich Maple, maybe Tawny Bronze. But Jessie insists on the black. The others, she explains, are too close to his natural tones. And what he needs, she...

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Mormons in Heat

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pp. 136-152

“More highway company,” Eli says to Sutton, or to the steering wheel—whichever. This latest cache of sightseeing brochures is simply hypnotizing his partner. Sutton holds one by the edges, handling it like a delicate specimen. Splashed across another...


E-ISBN-13: 9781587297755
E-ISBN-10: 1587297752
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587296246
Print-ISBN-10: 1587296241

Page Count: 166
Publication Year: 2007

Edition: 1
Series Title: Iowa Short Fiction Award

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