Two excerpts of his debut novel have sold to The New Haven Review (Yale’s Institute Library) and The Misty Review, while a third excerpt was selected as a finalist for the last Glimmer Train Fiction Open in history. He’s also sold poetry, fiction, and nonfiction to TOR (MacMillan), The Anglican Theological Review, McSweeney’s, Poker Pro’s World Series Edition, The Poet’s Market, Writer’s Digest, and many similar markets.
Spark + Echo chose me for their 2019 artist-in-residency, commissioning me to write four short stories.
He has published work in anthologies like Author in Progress, Harry Potter for Nerds, and Of Gods and Globes — the last of which I edited and featured stories by Juliet Marillier (whose story was nominated for an Aurealis award), Anne Greenwood Brown, Dr. Anthony Cirilla, LJ Cohen, FC Shultz, and Emily Munro. Cold Brewed reinvented the photonovel for the digital age and caught the attention of the Missouri Tourism Board who commissioned me to write and direct a second photonovel, The Joplin Undercurrent, in partnership with my friend and photographer, Mark.
WILSON REMUS, 1944
A bus line ran from the Brown shoe company, and from there… well two routes went: one from the park to the shoe company and one from the gasoline station to CNI to the west edge of the business district. That’s where this little burger joint stood, where Swiftie’s gas is now in Bellhamer. Ten cents apiece. Ten burgers for a dollar. Reben’s, they called it. He went there and spent a dollar from his CAMELOT, MY MERRY MEN, AND OUR PRANK fund and got ten burgers and gave two to his sister Gwen and gave a couple each to two of his buddies and ate the rest. Four burgers is a lot of food for a nine-year-old and he felt sick.
Down the street sat a comic book shop, so he spent another twenty-five cents on a comic book and then yet another ten cents on candy from the money that he’d saved. In the comic books, he gener- ally liked the cowboys. He never did go for way out there stuff about Mars and spaceships and robots. He said it would never happen, but it did, didn’t it? Nah, he went for the cowboys, sometimes the detective ones. But he found one that day named THE GLORIOUS DAYS OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRY MEN. It was “A Charlton Publication” and it only cost him ten cents. He couldn’t resist a good rendition of the ranger that robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. Robbed from the rich English and French kings and gave sometimes even to the poor Scotch-Irish-and-Welsh people like the MacGills and Brodys and Dempseys and Foleys and gave it back to the poor. He was a bit of a jester, Robin Hood. Like St. Francis and le Jongleurs de Dieu. Even the cover of the comic book had the shields of the Welsh and Scottish on it, as well as Richard the First and the French Kings with their gilded lilies.
He needed a bow and arrow.
Back in those days, they had these little popup shops, kinda like how outlet malls will do clothes or how some of them master knitters in Brooklyn will do for yarn at the temp stores. Only back in 1944 in Southern Illinois, they sold whatever they could buy in bulk. So if they could get ten tubs of wholesale peanut butter, a bunch of tin toys, and a couple of sleeves of crackers, well they’d divvy those up into sales bins and then sell them all for the same price. The bins were old scrap shivs, the rough wood and the tin tacks you’d get pricked on and splintered carrying bad. Four dollars for a bin.
First time Remmy saw them he said, “I’ll take one of them bins for three.”
“It’s four,” this old haggler said.
“I know, but I’m offering three.”
“And I’m all out of three dollar sales bins. I’m offering four dollar sales bins.”
So since he didn’t have but two dollars and something left in the MERRY MEN fund, he and Gwen went from there to do a little job at that temp store with the sales bins. They said they’d pay them two dollars to take a sales bin to every house. Remmy charged a dollar extra. So he and Gwen split sides of the street and they knocked on doors. Most people were home, and they thought about leaving them bins on the doorsteps where no one’d been home. But they did it. They took the high road and made sure every sales bin got a home. When they came back to the old gal that ran the temp store, the one that’d given them the sales bins to deliver, she asked them where’d they’d gone, and Gwen rattled off a bunch of states: “Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Connecticut—”
“Ain’t no Connecticut street,” the old haggler said.
Gwen blushed. and said, “Meant College Road.”
The haggler eyed her.
Remmy watched Gwen, whose eyes swirled around trying to find purchase on anyone and anything and, unrescued, she contin- ued on with, “Broadway for a little, and Boone and—”
“Daniel Boone. What a man. I would have married a man like Daniel Boone, wouldn’t you?”
Gwen hesitated. “I guess, ma’am. I like boys with an adventur- ous spirit a bit, but I really like men like Thomas Edison.”
“Inventors,” she said. “And you? Would you marry Daniel Boone?”
“I wouldn’t marry a man, ma’am,” Remmy said.
“And why not?”
“I’m looking for Guinivere and Pocahontas and Sacajawea and Maid Marian and Mother Mary.”
“That’s a lot of wives, Remmy, and one of them’s a virgin.” Gwen spat. “I doubt you could handle one woman like that, let alone five.” But the old haggler, she said, “Mother Mary’s single.”
“No ma’am,” Remmy said. “She married St. Joseph. They went together and made St. James, the brother of Jesus.”
“James was his cousin, you little smart ass.”
“Thank you ma’am, and you have a lovely day,” Remmy said and he ran off before she could say anything. And around the corner, Gwen caught up and he gave her half. It was hot and they’d walked pretty far and those burgers started rumbling down in his tummy and he threw them all up right in the lot there and Gwen looked sorry. He felt better, even if sweaty, and a dog ran up and started eating it all.
Gwen said, “No! No! Nasty!” And kicked at the dog.
And the dog growled and then bit her on the leg, right above the knee.
Remmy didn’t know what to do. They ran to the drug store, which had a penny sale on for the methialade. It was this stronger thing to put on cuts that they had back then. Stung a bit. He put it on Gwen and bandaged her up.
They got home and Daddy John said, “What’d you do?” Remmy started, “Well there was this dog—”
“No, I mean why did you buy methialade?” He pointed to the cabinet. “Already have it here.”
“Well how was I supposed to know?” Remmy asked.
“Okay fair enough. But why’d you get two?”
“First one was a dollar and the next was a penny,” Remmy said. “It’ll last ten years!”
“It was on sale. We saved money.”
“You only save money if you save it, boy, not if you spend it.
No sale is worth spending money you don’t have. You have anything left over from today?”
They had most of Gwen’s dollar left, so they gave him that.
Daddy John kept half and gave them half. He turned to Gwen. “Are you okay?”
“Let me know if it starts to hurt, will ya?”
Remmy went back to his can and sat down to add the coins to it, but now it was down to about two dollars and a quarter. That’s what he got for spending his money on the burger deal just cause it was there and throwing it up and getting his sister bit cause of it. Wasn’t worth the sale, none of it. He could have come home with five dollars total and instead he had less than he started with. He sat down and read about THE GLORIOUS DAYS OF ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRY MEN. Those guys in the comic books built a secret fort out in the woods made out of things they’d found. A whole city of people living in the trees by a waterfall, by a living water, all laughing and carrying on. That sounded nice and cheap and a good way to get away with his Daddy John.
Yes. A bow and an arrow and a good hatchet and some really good rope and maybe one of those army pocket lighters and a knife. That’d do it. That and finding his Maid Marian. You could really make a castle pretty cheap in those days, long as you had the strength to save and flirt and a good funny story for gathering your merry men.