I’m Not From Here

This month Cascade publishes my second novel, I’m not from Here. It’s a parable, in Southern idiom, the Don Quixote-like adventures of Felix Goforth Luckie who, while attempting to be a salesman in a small town, Galilee, Georgia, discovers himself, the world, and God. Here is an excerpt from an early chapter of the book:

The neon sign over the front door read, “ROBER D IVE-IN.” Pulling into the graveled lot, as a cloud of gray, dry dust settled, Felix was relieved to see an ancient Chevrolet truck out back. Can’t beat a small-town eatery.

As he opened the restaurant’s front door a couple of large flies seized the opportunity and buzzed in before him. Said Felix, smiling. “I’ve just driven all the way from North Carolina without AC, so I’m fine. I really like things kept natural.” 

“‘Not to decide is to decide,’” mumbled the man. “John Paul Sawt. You sweatin’ almost much as me. Sit up here to the counter. I won’t have to walk so far to hep you.”

“Sure,” said Felix cheerfully. “Just looking for home cooking. May I see a menu?”

“We got hot dogs, some meatloaf, and”—here he turned his ample torso slightly and with a minimum of motion opened the refrigerator behind him, peered in and pronounced—“a bunch of spaghetti from our last Eyetalion night . . . ‘Hell is other people.’”

Luckie played it safe with a couple of reliable American hot dogs.The cook waddled into the kitchen. Should I have risked the meatloaf? Felix mused.

When the cook emerged with two hot dogs in buns indistinguishable under reddish brown chili, swiping the sweat from his forehead with his free hand, he looked beyond Felix and warned, “Better watch your stuff. ‘No exit.’” The man wordlessly gestured with his rag toward the front parking lot. 

Wheeling around, Felix saw two guys busily pulling clothes out of his car, hauling plunder toward their old pickup. Felix bolted off the stool. “Hey, hey! What are you doing?” One of the thieves was holding a stack of Felix’s shirts, along with some of his inspirational CDs. The other was bent over the car, digging through a pile of briefs and socks on the backseat. The one standing next to the car and receiving the goods stared dumbly at Felix. The other, after hearing Felix’s cry, carefully pulled his body out of the back of the car, hoisted up his jeans, turned and looked annoyed, as if he had been thoughtlessly interrupted. He laid the discs on the roof of the car with a sigh, reached into the front right pocket of his tight, faded jeans, and extracted a black-handled knife, flipped it open toward Felix, pointed the long, silver blade at him and asked, “Now what the hell it look like we doing?”

Felix froze but finally managed to find the words, “You can’t . . . you can’t just take my stuff. Guys, I need that.”

“Oh yeah? How come you think you need this shit more than us?”

The question gave Felix pause. “Maybe you have something there. I do believe that rights ought to be balanced with need.”

“Here’s my damn right, fool!” the thief responded, thrusting the knife up in the air in front of Felix as if he were going to shove it up his nose. 

A huge black Chrysler with dark tinted windows appeared out of nowhere, skidding up behind Felix’s car in a roar of gravel, a wave of dust and blinking blue lights. The fat man behind the counter had called the law.

Seeing the cops, the thief with the knife turned and shoved the clothes he was holding back into the car, but he did so in such panic that he accidentally stabbed his left arm, crying out in pain and dropping the knife in the dust. 

The cop screamed to the wounded thief, “Hit the ground, sucker! Now!” He fell to his knees, weeping, holding his bleeding arm. Felix also fell to the ground. “Not you! Him!” the cop said to Felix. 

“I’ve done killed myself,” wept the thief. 

The cop looked down at him and pronounced, “Damn. Guess we’ll have to take you to ‘mergency room. And on a Satiday. You ain’t dead. That patrol car there is brand new. Put some of them old clothes on the backseat so you won’t bleed on county property. If you do, by God, you will pay for a new backseat!” The thief struggled to his feet, sniveling, whimpering, pressing the wound on his arm.

“Them seats is real leather,” said the cop proudly.
“But . . . but I didn’t call the police,” Felix protested.  “Officer, can’t this be settled in another way? I don’t want these guys charged. I don’t want retribution.”

The cop slammed the back door on the laments of the bleeding, weeping thieves, wheeled around, and grabbed Felix by his sweat-drenched shirt. “Where you from?”

“Salisbury,” replied Felix weakly. “North Carolina.”

“Well then maybe that explains why you are stupid,” said the cop. “We got laws in this town. Don’t tell me how to do my damn job. You hea’ me?”

“But I don’t want these guys’ lives ruined just because they made a mistake,” Felix protested. “What is the long-term good of punishment?”

“Shut up!” the cop commanded. “I come out here and put my ass on the line. Give a hundred and fifty percent. Here we are trying to do our job and some stupid” (he spit out the words exaggeratedly for rhetorical effect) “smartass from Sawlsberry damn, North damn Carolina thinks he knows more than accredited first responders. Well, in Georgia, stealing, with a knife too, is a helluvalot more than a ‘mistake.’ The American Way is alive in Galilee. Now you just git back on your way and mind your own damn business and we’ll mind ours, got that?”

“I hope you’re happy for destroying a young man’s life!”  wailed one of the weeping thieves from the backseat of the patrol car. “The NRA says we could have had a gun. All we had was a knife! Oh Gaaawdd!”

“Shut up!” the fat cop ordered.
“I so wish we had another way . . .” pled Felix.

“Don’t blaspheme the NRA!”
I’d be happy to send you an autographed copy of I’m Not from Here for Christmas giving. Send your name and address to me at will@duke.edu and I’ll sign a copy of I’m Not from Here and charge you later.

I’m Not from Here: A Parable https://www.amazon.com/dp/1625641850/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awd_hagBwb3TGRFG9


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