Down from the Dog Star

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In his debut comic novel, Daniel Glover shows us what it's like to grow up gay in a small Southern town. Jackson K. Luden, spoiled, rich, handsome, is the last male heir of the ancient and mysterious Luden family, of Ludens Bend, Alabama. When his German Shepherd, Honey, dies of an undiagnosed illness, Jackie believes she has been poisoned. He finds a suspect, and although Jackie is in recovery in a twelve-step program, he disposes of the dog-killer by pushing him into a flaming, methane-smoke-filled sinkhole. ...
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Overview

In his debut comic novel, Daniel Glover shows us what it's like to grow up gay in a small Southern town. Jackson K. Luden, spoiled, rich, handsome, is the last male heir of the ancient and mysterious Luden family, of Ludens Bend, Alabama. When his German Shepherd, Honey, dies of an undiagnosed illness, Jackie believes she has been poisoned. He finds a suspect, and although Jackie is in recovery in a twelve-step program, he disposes of the dog-killer by pushing him into a flaming, methane-smoke-filled sinkhole. With the authorities in hot pursuit, Jackie flees Quarter Pine, the family estate, for the Amazon rain forest. Here he becomes a medical missionary for the Gungari Indians, a tribe of elegant, nomadic cannibals. After many unusual adventures, he returned to Quarter Pine with a new lover in tow.

Some questions arise: How will Jerry Flem, Jackie's new lover, be received by the loving but tyrannical matriarch of Ludens Bend, Minerva Luden? Will the loutish town sheriff, Beebus McCloud, win the hand and heart of the faded Southern belle, Neva Jean Wulmothe, sister of Jackie's favorite cousin, the portly Junior Wulmothe, who lives in constant fear of the miniature blind albino goats that dwell in the deserted coal mines beneath Wulmothe Manor! Will the women of the local Third Church of God, Delivered, rescue their faltering church with their new project, the Eternal Life Cafe and Souvenir Shop for Jesus?

About the Author:

Mr. Glover, a third generation Alabamian, offers his first novel. When queried about education and previous literary efforts he said, "Education? Well, I got out of high school with my life. They finally invented a special diploma just to get rid of me. As far as other writing goes, nothing. I DID send a rather severe note to Nancy Reagan once explaining why 'Just Saying No' had never done a lot to help me stay clean and sober." Mr. Glover and his dog, Dinah, spend winters in Phoenix, AZ and summers at Quarter Pine Farm in central Alabama.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Purporting to be a goofy collection of letters written by zany, aging gay man Jackie Luden to various friends and fellow participants of Narcotics Anonymous, this debut effort is less a novel than a collection of eccentric vignettes. Jackie lives at Quarter Pine, the Luden family's ancestral home in Ludens Bend, Ala., with his son-worshipping aristocratic mom, Minnie, and Minnie's best friend and constant companion, Helen, an old black freedom fighter who has posed as the Ludens' maid all her life. Ludens Bend is also home to beer-bellied redneck Sheriff Beebus McCloud, who, out of old loyalty to Jackie's mother, mostly looks the other way when Jackie misbehaves. Jackie's non-NA pen pals include Junior Wulmothe, his obese, gay lifelong friend; the good Sisters who run the Eternal Life Cafe and Souvenir Shop for Jesus, and a missionary outreach program in the heart of the Amazonian jungle; the dead "Walter" Disney; Dr. Jack "Snuggles" Kavorkian (sic); and the Coca-Cola Company. In his first letter, Jackie describes how he murdered the nasty kid who poisoned his saintly dog, Honey. Neither dog nor kid were actually murdered, but murder does play a part in the desultory plot. The only real action comes when the sheriff seems to get serious about pursuing various investigations and Jackie flees to the Amazon, where, surrounded by friendly cannibals and aliens, he writes more letters. In the last quarter of the book the author inexplicably presents the voices of other characters, and the reader wishes he had integrated them from the beginning. Though overly long and often tedious, the "not-so-thinly-veiled autobiography" occasionally offers up a bone-ticklingly funny morsel off smalltown Alabama life. (Oct.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579660239
  • Publisher: River City Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/1/1999
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.21 (w) x 9.16 (h) x 1.02 (d)

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Excerpt


March 1


Stephanie Cost
6465 Tiverton Court
Louisville, Kentucky


Dearest Steffie,


    In March, especially, I miss you and the Wet Weasel Gang badly. You probably don't know how much it meant to me when you took me into your home and life after that fiasco with my last "friend."

    Yes, perhaps I jumped just a bit too quickly into that relationship. I met John Bigbow on a street corner in Toronto around nine in the morning, we were in bed by noon, and by eight that evening we had moved in together, married.

    Yes, perhaps it was a mistake for me to sign my car over to him and to put him on my gold card. And it certainly showed a lack of healthy boundaries on my part to allow myself to be separated from all my friends.

    The thing, Sterile, is that those changes happened so gradually, so slowly, that I didn't realize I was giving my freedom away until I ended up in a tent in the Canadian wilderness. I still believe I must have been under some dark native mojo.

    If you hadn't sent Bill to rescue me, I might still be there pounding our blue jeans in that muddy, chilly stream.

    I've always jumped into almost everything too quickly. All some cute crunchy-mumble has to do is smile at me from across the room and in my mind, we've married, moved to a house in the country, gotten a dog, joined the grange, he's died, I've collected his insurance, and the dog and I now live in Miami in deep mourning.

    I've learned why I do this. Mydisease tells me that I'll always be cold, always be hungry. It tells me that there will never be enough of anything, that I had better hold on to whatever I have managed to catch, even if it hurts like the devil. I'm getting better with it. At least I'm aware of the behavior.

    Went to Dr. Wulmothe last week. He found what he thought might be a little skin cancer. He had me shave my head so he could do a better examination. I actually became a vegetarian and quit smoking for a few days. The biopsies all came back negative and, of course, so did the beef, the cigarettes, and my hair.

    But I'm living a slightly healthier life style. By the World Convention of NA, I hope to be a sleek, mean, recovery machine: some great, deadly, puma-like cat lurking through the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous giving huge loads of guilt to newcomers and old-timers alike.

    Somebody once told me, jokingly of course, that in our program, if one managed to pull six months together, one was an old-timer. That's changing.

    My sponsor told me that I've been getting a bit self-righteous lately. He's unhappy with my chip spiel. You know how we give out chips or key tags at our meetings to allow people to stand up and be recognized for their amount of clean time. Each key tag or chip is a different color and everybody has a different spiel to give them out. I say, "And here's an orange chip for thirty days clean, orange you glad you're here" and, "here's a blue chip for six months clean, it's a piece of the sky." Corny but sweet.

    Well, nobody had really come up with anything that seemed to me to be effective for the gray chip, the eighteen-month chip. So I started saying, when giving out chips, that gray meant that there were no gray areas in recovery; we are either living in our disease or in recovery. I wanted to say, "Either YOU are living in YOUR disease or in recovery," but it seemed that might be going a little too far.

    My sponsor is working on resentments now. He seems to want to pick a fight with me so that he can get a resentment going between us. This game is not acceptable. Today, I have resigned from the debate committee. This all bores me to tears, and I bet after fourteen years clean you've been there and seen it.

    Speaking of the word "share," isn't it odd how we use that word? When I think of the word "share," I think of you giving me a slab of your chocolate cake or perhaps a bonbon, something pleasant.

    What usually happens in meetings, however, is that I get shared upon by people who have lost their jobs, lost their families, lost their lives and blame everyone under the sun but themselves! Here! Share this!

    I bought a neat word processor and, as you can see, am typing. I told my friend, LZ, I wanted to write a book, that if I only had a typewriter I could do it.

    "Can you use a typewriter?" he asked. "Have you ever used a word processor?"

    Noticing the vulpine look on his face, I should have been very careful at that point, but was too busy prattling on about my vast experience as a stenographer to remember his usual reaction to bullshit.

    So he called me on my literary ability by telling me that his wife, Charlotte, had a word processor for sale, cheap.

    Luckily, she had already sold it to her brother. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. No word processor, no need for me to prove to the world that there was no book in me. Logical, yes?

    But then, the next day, the disease of addiction began to talk. It told me that I NEEDED a word processor, HAD to have a word processor. I went out and bought one.

    Obsessive-compulsive thinking goes deeper than drugs with me. We say in the program that powerless means using drugs against our will. I can even be powerless over a word processor.

    Hope to see you all in the fall. The World Convention of Narcotics Anonymous is calling.

    Much Love,


Jackie


March 2


Becky Bright
61 Lamont Street
Phoenix, Az.


Hello Becky,


    Yes, I am sure that you are furious at me for not writing you sooner and I know that you feel deserted and unloved. Don't give people that much power over your feelings. Nobody is worth a smidgen of your serenity.

    I'm happy for you about your son. Finding your birth child after eighteen years is sort of like being given a fully grown, fully trained German Shepherd. No house breaking, no chewed slippers, no howling in the night. Write and tell me how that came about.

    I had to shave my head for some biopsies. I looked just like Uncle Fester from the Adams Family. My friends used cute names. Junior Wulmothe called me his "Little Kiwi Head." But even I can't sink that deeply into denial.

    Becky, I want to talk seriously to you about Honey. I know how she died.

    You know, I got her when she was just a few weeks old, when I was trying to get clean. She slept in bed with me every night. She would put her little snout under my chin and just snooze and snooze.

    Then she began to grow. And grow! By the time she was about a year old she was a great big seventy-five pound dog. She learned that if she waited until I was asleep, she could put all four of her feet into the small of my back and nudge me off my bed. That's when she got the upstairs guest room for her very own.

    I tell people that my first year clean was a breeze. I don't know why I lie. It wasn't as hard for me as it is for some, because I took the suggestions. I made my ninety meetings in ninety days, got a sponsor, worked the steps, hung with winners. So it wasn't too bad for me. Once past the withdrawals from opiates, I started making friends and actually had some fun.

    But I wasn't Alexis and it wasn't Dynasty. I cried into my dog's fur on several occasions. And now I think that she was poisoned. I hope not. I hope that if it's true, I never find out.

    It's sunset now. In a little while Helen and Mother will start their rounds around the house, locking doors, closing windows and drapes. It's cool and damp.

    I've set my writing table up in a bay window overlooking the horse barn. Beyond that, in the valley, the pines begin. They shade from bright distinct greens, just beyond the barn, into hazy blue-greens and deep purples far away where the mountains begin. Canecutter Creek wanders in and out of view.

    Sunsets are incredible from this window, every shade of pink, blue, salmon and violet imaginable. And then the brief flash of green on the horizon when the sun finally falls into night.

    "A green flash? Only on the ocean," you say. Well, where do you think this is? We live on the shore of an ocean of pine. It covers the state of Alabama like a carpet. Mile after mile, acre after acre of pine trees rising and falling like the waves of the sea. On the coast you find a tree called Slash Pine. It is unhappy here in central Alabama. There is a White Pine that's a Yankee tree. We sometimes buy them for Christmas trees but they never thrive when planted outside. The trees that make up the ocean surrounding Quarter Pine are Loblolly and Long Leaf. Loblolly are fairly nondescript, but oh the Long Leaf! As babies they stick up out of the ground like cheerleader's pompoms, pea green and courageous, stiff, and sure of their place in the scheme of the Alabama wilderness.

    I have seen that green flash on our horizon. The legend says anybody who sees it will have love and luck in his life. I know for a fact that luck and love are both manufactured items, like toasters or space shuttles. I don't trust to fate, my dear.

    Life can take a man down unpleasant roads if left to its own devices.

    I don't feel totally safe out here without a watch dog. We need one, but I don't see the point of learning to love another dog when she just might die.

    The price I pay for love is sometimes tears.

    Write me, love,

Jackie


March 2


Penny Warshack
22 Castlerock
Scottsdale, Arizona


Dearest Penny,


    I'm so sorry about your dad. You've had a lot to deal with lately. I know your program is humming like a floppy disk in a thunderstorm. I heard somebody say in a meeting once that they didn't pray for lighter burdens, they prayed for broader shoulders ... What I seem to be getting are broader hips and breasts.

    Finally I am able to write. I'd gotten so depressed that I was starting to freeze the dishes again instead of trying to wash them. Helen became alarmed and snitched to Doctor Wulmothe. He put me on this wonderful, new experimental anti-depressant.

    I like it better than the last med I was on. There is no nausea or sweating or anything like that. Just minor hallucinations, breast development in men, and I seem to be developing the ability to astral project. My physical body doesn't even have to leave the house any more to go to meetings. I just send my mind. The only problem is, I can't share or drink coffee or smoke when I get there. I must get some loose shirts. Some folks just don't understand the sacrifices one must make for medical advancement. Doctor Wulmothe, my M.D., has been taking care of us for three generations. He is really more of an old family friend than a doctor. Oh, how we used to love to eat at the Wulmothes'! Dear, funny Aunt Bessie and her homemade cheese! Imagine, eighty-four years old and still able to catch those goats. Those goats ... They ran and frisked all over the grounds of Wulmothe Manor. There wasn't a blade of grass or a tree in sight. Those bastards ate everything but the `26 Packard that Wooley (what we always called Doctor Wulmothe) drove on his rounds. When the sinkhole finally opened up the old coal mines behind Wulmothe Manor, Junior Wulmothe (who absolutely HATED those goats) discovered that if he threw bales of hay down it, the goats would skip down the sides of the hole, burst into flame or be suffocated by the methane, and never be heard from again. I can't blame the dear boy. It really is a shame that he had to end up like he did.

    My pawpaws are growing nicely. I hope to have a contract with Lilly someday to sell them pawpaw extract. It seems to have a lot of medicinal values. Grandpa Luden's old pharmacy is one of Mom's prized possessions. That's an odd thing for a recovering addict to have in the family! But it was Gramp Lude's old impotence formula that started our family fortune. No, it was not used to help men get erections. Gramp Lude sold it to women who would slip it to their men so that they COULDN'T get erections. Side effects, side effects.

    I hear a car pulling in. Mom and Helen are back from grocery shopping. I'm gonna set this word processor on "print" and go help them unload the supplies for the week. We're really stocking up on groceries. Helen is leaving for Meridian, off on her yearly pilgrimage — her homage to integration.

    Here's all my love, Hunny Bunny.

    Write me,

Jackie


March 7


Becky Bright
610 Lamont Street
Phoenix, Az. 25601


Hello Becky,


    Yes, I was very glad to get your nice note. You do indeed have more than a year clean, you certainly have worked decent fourth and fifth steps, and you do have a remarkable program. On your side of the fence, you can have a relationship. I wonder, however, why you would choose someone with only twelve days clean, on house arrest, with no job, and facing twenty-six years in the pen if he screws up one more time. No, I don't mind the tattoos. I have a tattoo. And there's no objection that he only has one tooth. At least it's a canine. If one is to have but one tooth it might as well be a fang, I always say. YOU'RE the one who has to kiss him. It might be a good plan to wait until his divorce is final, his wife moves out of his house (his mother's house, actually, but why split hairs?), or until their baby is born. I know your sponsor is jumping for joy.

    Helen is back from Meridian. She spent three days there with her sister for some esoteric African-American holiday. She always comes back from Meridian full of fire and brimstone. If she shows me that picture of the Freedom Bus one more time I will self-destruct. This morning, when she served my waffles, she told me that I was the bastard child of George Wallace. Mother just grinned at me from across the table and tried to sneak some sugar for her coffee.

    Helen and Mother were girls together here at Quarter Pine. Helen's mother cooked for Mother's mother. Helen's title is cook, and she is the best cook in the county, and she does indeed cook for us, but mostly she and Mother sit in the den and watch soaps and torment each other. Helen protects Mother from food she shouldn't eat and Mother complains. Mom's diabetes is getting pretty bad. Mother protects Helen from faulty thinking and Helen complains. If anything happened to Helen we would all collapse.

    As for the Freedom Bus: Helen claims to have been on it. She has a picture of the bus and it is autographed by someone whose name I cannot read. She has a face in the bus window circled and says it is she. I asked her where the Freedom Bus went and from where it came. She mumbled something about "having to work for an ignorant fool" and "even LOOKS like George Wallace" and something about "big-butt, pill-popping, fat, ugly sissy-boy." We were both well aware that she was talking to and about me, but since this was mumbled barely within range of my cat-like hearing, Helen had some leeway. Besides, as you well know, I look nothing like the Governor. I am classic Luden: blonde, with cobalt blue eyes, strong, cleft chin, and a perfect, straight nose.

    I said, "Beg pardon?" Helen gave me the smile of an escaped serial killer and said, "Be sure and take your umbrella, Mr. Jackie, it dooo look like rain!" She has never forgiven me for stealing all her pain medicine when she had her surgery.

    Oh, I heard some news. I hope nothing comes of this, but this morning I heard Mother and Helen talking about poison. This naturally aroused my curiosity. They were shelling beans on the back porch. I sneaked, very quietly, under cover of some camellia bushes, right up under said porch, and this is what I heard: Helen was at The Eternal Life Cafe and Souvenir Shop For Jesus (more about that place later) when she met her friend Estelle. Estelle was helping Louise Pierson with some spring housecleaning and she said that she heard Mr. and Mrs. Pierson talking about Honey's death. Mrs. Pierson was terrified that "he" (he being me) would find out little Jimmy Pierson's part in the matter. Jimmy is their nineteen-year-old lout of a son. I threw him off our land once. He was hunting and I don't let people shoot on our property.

    Is it possible? Could this monster have poisoned my baby? I'm trying to let this go, but I feel the obsession moving in me. I'll have to get little Jimmy alone somewhere and have a talk with him.

    Poor Junior Wulmothe is back in the sanitarium. He claims that some of Aunt Bessie's goats escaped the fire and methane gas in the sinkhole, entered the mines, and evolved into miniature, blind albinos. He says they come out of the mines at night and look for him. He also says that they search for automobiles and trucks with open windows so that they can eat the upholstery. Yes, this may sound a bit bizarre, but the old caverns run for miles under this part of Alabama. There are many entrances to the tunnels. And just last week the upholstery DID vanish mysteriously from a Blazer over in the village.

    But I need Junior Wulmothe's support when he gets out. He and I have been working on a project: Cemetery Golf. I'll tell you more next letter.

    Hugs and Kisses,

Jackie

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Table of Contents

PROLOGUE 11
BOOK ONE: JACKIE
Part 1—Quarter Pine 15
Part 2—The Amazon 81
Part 3—Quarter Pine 139
BOOK TWO: A FEW OTHER OPINIONS
Beebus McCloud 223
Junior 235
Neva Jean 241
Besandra Wulmothe 246
Thomas Blaylock 248
Honey 250
Helen 261
GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 272
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 1999

    WOW!!

    Mr. Glover has totally surprised me with his exceptional knowledge of writing. He piants a very vivid picture for the imagination of his readers. I laughed at some parts of the book & have even bookmarked them to read to others.I can't wait for the sequel!!

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