Literature mimics life; life mimics literature. This cliche is supposed to elicit respect from one’s audience. So… respect away, dear reader.
Upon reading a not-so-recent issue of The New Yorker, I discovered some eerie similarities between my own experience and those recounted in Brad Watson‘s story titled “Eykelboom.” Watson describes a small town in the distant American past. We assume it is a Southern town, due to the characters’ flippant dismissal of anything “Yankee.” One such “Yankee” is the boy known only by his surname, Eykelboom, a newcomer to town. Using an innovative 3rd person style of narration, Watson delivers the story of this unfortunate pariah, as seen from the POV of a group of boys who spend their days wandering the wooded marshes behind an old man’s sprawling plantation property. The boys investigate the natural world and build a tree house out of dead timber. Wayne, the leader of the gang, decides to deny the awkward Eykelboom membership to their brotherhood, leaving him to watch them sullenly or tag along at a distance. The outcast’s abusive father adds a wrinkle to Watson’s story that makes the ending all the more complex.
I could not help but notice the parallels between this story and my own background. “Eykelboom” takes place in a mysterious, unnamed location. I was raised in an undisclosed location in the Pacific Northwest. The unfortunate character of Eykelboom was spurned and feared by his peer group, just, alas, as I have been. Eykelboom disappears into the forest to salve his wounded ego, as I so often do. He mangles unattended bicycles and other relics of humankind, just as I have done (still no buyers of my “Girl’s Bike Shaped Like A Hot Dog” impressionistic sculpture… sigh).
What peculiar similarities, don’t you think? Next time you see me in the woods, meditating by myself, dig deep down for the compassion to carry out an act of kindness. Just say, “Eykel-BOOM, THERE IT IS!” And I shall know it is you.
Purchase Brad Watson’s story collection, Aliens In The Prime Of Their Lives, on Amazon.