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Hunting in the Dark Paperback – October 21, 2016
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About the Author
William E Burleson’s short stories have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies to date, most recently in The New Guard and American Fiction 14. Burleson has two novels in development: Ahnwee Days, the story of a small town that has seen better days and the mayor who tries to save it, and The Avenue, a story set in a skid row district in 1979. Previous to writing fiction, he had published extensively in non-fiction, most notably his book, Bi America (Haworth Press, 2005). For examples of past work and more information, visit www.williamburleson.com.
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Paul asks Jesse where he has been, and Jesse says, “Huntin.’” Baffled, Paul asks how he can hunt in the dark, and Jesse says, “I’m part Indian” and claims to be able to see in the dark. Paul doesn’t believe him, observing that Jesse looked Scandinavian, with “long blonde hair, wisp of a proto-beard, and a pinkish complexion,” and the reader doesn’t believe him either. Nevertheless, Paul asks him what kind of Indian, and Jesse says, “The savage kind,” tossing a lit roach into his mouth and washing it down with a swig of beer. How could a teenager not be blown away by someone with that kind of panache?
Jesse reigns over Paul. He calls him “kid,” even though they are the same age and would both be high school students, if Jesse hadn’t decided that he “’don’t need no school.’” Paul lives “in a big city filled with experiences,” while Jesse lives “on the edge of a tiny town with his parents and seven brothers and sisters in a house no better than a shack.” The reader sees immediately that Jesse doesn’t have much to look forward to, but Paul, our first-person narrator, is in awe of him. He says about Jesse that “things didn’t just happen to him, he happened to things.” And we see, at the end of this first chapter, just how Jesse happens to things, when he takes Paul hunting in the dark and drives his father’s 70 Ford Bronco down an overgrown logging trail and smashes it into a tree.
In the four following chapters, Paul gets his act together, earns a degree in Art History, becomes a businessman, owner of five coffee shops, and gets married, while Jesse descends into ever-greater insecurity, isolation, and misery. Jesse always blames someone else for the horrible things that happen in his life. He lies to his friends and deceives himself, but nearly everyone—including the reader—sees through the lies and self-deceptions. We also see that Jesse from the beginning was a vulnerable character, who tried to conceal his vulnerability behind his posing and his lies. Burleson’s extraordinary accomplishment is to make the reader feel the pain of Jesse’s gradual descent.
I highly recommend "Hunting in the Dark."