Monday, February 1, 2010

Steve De Jarnatt's "Rubiaux Rising"

A Gulf-War, drug-addicted, amputee vet returns to his Aunt's house.  She locks him in her attic, during Hurricane Katrina, until he rids himself of his "demon," addiction.

(from Best American Short Stories 2009)

"When he slowly open his eyes again an hour later he sees them--the unholy menagerie.  All down on the ledge, crowded near him in awkward proximity, are: a large king snake; two smaller water snakes; four fat nutria; a half drowned feral cat and two shivering kittens; three pitiful brown rabbits...His eyes dart.  Theirs do too...Nobody is eating anybody this morning.  They share the same fear and confusion--orphan brothers in the storm." (38)

There are many aspects of this story that I enjoy; however, my favorite is its quirkiness.  I was not prepared to have a Gulf-War amputee vet to be locked in an attic during Hurricane Katrina with a menagerie.  I have read numerous stories that discuss the grieving process for amputees but they remain in a somber tone.  I was also surprised by the fact that De Jarnatt permits Rubiaux to experience a sense of community because of his disability.  After all, if he had both legs then the critters would not have a safe refuge, a Noah's Ark, to keep them out of Karina's rising flood waters and he would not experience a sense of community, albeit a dangerous one.

There are also a couple issues with this story that I feel are not resolved: Why would an Aunt leave a disabled vet alone in an attic during a hurricane?  Why would a vet permit himself to be "boarded up" in an attic?  These combined with Rubiaux's animal community definitely lend this story to humorous side of writing.  This leaves me to wonder, "How do veterans view this piece?"

No comments:

Post a Comment