The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas Stories by Davy Rothbart (21 Balloons)
The Lone Surfer of Montana, Kansas
Stories by Davy Rothbart <
(21 Balloons)

D avy Rothbart's stories make me wanna cry. His mid-west, white boy, thug-with-a-heart aesthetic captivates my brain and stands as the thread that laces together this heartbreaking self-published quintet of short stories. Each piece is crafted, first person, around a soul that is aching to figure out the big picture, but is mired in the here and now with the cards they're dealt.

"Big Lie" is the tale of Mitey-Mike, a lovable liar who plays b-ball with his buddies and tells big stories about robbery, girls and outwitting the cops. The story is told from the perspective of Mitey-Mike's best friend. There is tenderness, frustration, and even a little regret in the narrator's voice.

"How I Got Here", tells, IN ALL CAPS, the story of a man in prison writing an essay about how he got there. Not really understanding the question, he delves into his personal life, happy to have a venue for his unabridged thoughts and feelings. This one had a personal twist that totally freaked my shit. It made me question my own subconscious tendency to racially profile, a phenomenon that, sadly, is not just for cops.

The titular story "The Lone Surfer," the longest by 10 pages, plays out the interactions of strangers brought together by accident during a young couple's road trip through the amber waves of Kansas. The narrator's encounters with strange, sad, mid-west townies help reflect upon his own hurried existence.

These first-person narratives of lives I have not lived, lives of questionable heroes who tell it like they see it, kept me up late to finish the whole book in one lovely gulp. Davy has got style to burn. Each story has a payoff, but it's not gimmicky; more like an emotional punch line that aims for the gut.

On the back of this book, a Michigan vanity plate says, "THG LFE." On the front, an old sepia-toned LTD, looking like it has driven a few dirty roads, purports to be the owner of that plate. Step inside, Davy seems to be saying; let me take you on a little ride. You'll be glad you went. (The book is available at Reading Frenzy and Powell's). BRIAN BRAIT