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Chuck Kinder's long-awaited and critically acclaimed magnum opus chronicles the misadventures of best friends Ralph Crawford and Jim Stark, two of the most promising writers of their day, and the wives with whom they have spent the best years of their lives raising bad judgment to an art. Kinder captures the late 60's and early 70's in all their splendor and as pointed out in The New York Times Book Review, "It is undoubtedly possible to read this book without knowing that Kinder was a close friend of Raymond ...
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Chuck Kinder's long-awaited and critically acclaimed magnum opus chronicles the misadventures of best friends Ralph Crawford and Jim Stark, two of the most promising writers of their day, and the wives with whom they have spent the best years of their lives raising bad judgment to an art. Kinder captures the late 60's and early 70's in all their splendor and as pointed out in The New York Times Book Review, "It is undoubtedly possible to read this book without knowing that Kinder was a close friend of Raymond Carver. But many of those who pick up this volume about two bad-boy American writers in the making will recognize the general outline of Carver's life."
With affection and self-savaging wit, Kinder captures the siren song of the writer in all its squalor and glory. Honeymooners is both an homage to and a debunking of that mythical figure-the alcoholic, womanizing, swaggering male author.
Ralph and Alice Ann had been mere kids and mostly innocent of any adult sense of dire consequences when they first met, fell head over heels in love, and married, using the pressures of pregnancy only as an excuse.
Ralph was eighteen, fresh out of high school, and working in a sawmill to save college money, when one summer evening, after an afternoon of driving around drinking beer, he and some pals pulled into a thunderbeast theme park on a whim. They sat there for a time in the gravel parking lot in Ralph's old rattletrap Ford polishing off their beers and lying about babes. Ralph sipped his suds and stared up at the blue face of a brontosaurus looming above the trees like some strange, low moon with unfathomable yellow eyes.
Ralph and his pals lurched along the park's gravel paths among plants and trees strangely tropical for the Northwest and totally unknown to Ralph. Ralph picked leaves shaped like birds or bats in flight, and he sniffed them and held them up in the evening light. Ralph and his pals climbed great blue backs, swung from blue necks, took leaks on legs like blue tree trunks. Playing monster movie, Ralph and his pals split up, stumbling among the narrow paths grunting like goofy Godzillas.
Deep into the park, Ralph rounded a bend in a gravel path to discover the most beautiful blond girl he had seen in his life. She stood in a small clearing, hosing down a dinosaur, the dusk a haze of light about her as she sprayed prismatic mists of water over the beast's blue back. She wore red short-shorts and a white halter top, and the ends of her long blond hair were darkened with water. Her tanned shoulders and long legs were wet and shining. The leaves of the trees and bushes about the clearing dripped, and water dripped from beneath the blue dinosaur, and the air smelled as rich as any rain in Ralph's memory. Ralph could hear the soft hiss of the hose and from somewhere in the tropical trees around him muffled laughter, as though from another life. Small, bright rainbows glistened over the blue beast, and through the glowing bell of mist and light the girl's long, lovely, tan face floated before Ralph, and the air captured in his chest was like an ancient caged breath. Ralph could imagine this beast the girl watered moving off in the next moments under the dripping trees to disappear.
When Alice Ann was ten her mother died after a stroke, and Alice Ann hated her for doing it, for leaving her like that, leaving Alice Ann and her half sister, Erin, to live with Alice Ann's crummy stepdaddy in his hot, cramped trailer at the edge of her stepdaddy's dinosaur park.
Alice Ann would grow more and more to look like her mother, tall and slender, with small, delicate breasts, boyish hips, that cascade of blond hair, even the voice, deep without resonance, a voice screaming would destroy for hours.
One afternoon soon after the memorial service, Alice Ann's crummy stepdaddy picked Alice Ann and Erin up after school. Lookit in the backseat, he told them. Your momma's riding in the backseat, he said, and snickered. Alice Ann looked in the backseat, where she saw a silvery canister with her mother's name and dates of birth and death etched on its shiny side.
Alice Ann thought Ralph looked like a young Abraham Lincoln. Ralph was the smartest boy she had ever met. Ralph wrote poems and he had big plans in which that sawmill played no part. Ralph had dark brown eyes that widened and flashed when he talked about a future to be fished like shining, deep water. The first time Ralph kissed her, Alice Ann thought about how fateful it felt, the way their bodies, both tall and lean, seemed to fit like pieces of a puzzle, bone against soft place, convex against concave, the perfection of dark hairs on the back of Ralph's huge, gentle hands as they caressed Alice Ann's small blond breasts. Alice Ann's stepdaddy hated the sight of Ralph.
Late one summer night, a month after they met, Alice Ann and Ralph made love for the first time in the darkness beneath the blue brontosaurus. When Ralph opened his eyes finally, he said, Holy moly, I'm in love. Alice Ann did not move. A faint breath in her throat told Ralph that she knew what he meant. Ralph had been a virgin. When Alice Ann skipped her period, Ralph bought her a tiny diamond ring. Years later, when Alice Ann finally broke down and told Ralph who had done it to her before him, Ralph told Alice Ann it no longer really ate his heart out that she hadn't been a virgin, too. Besides, her rotten, lowlife stepdaddy was by that time dead as a doornail.
When they were first married, Ralph and Alice Ann did not have the proverbial pot to pee in, so they could not set sail like some lucky honeymooners to exotic spots to launch their life together. Forget any thoughts of Hawaii, Niagara Falls, any Caribbean cruise under a yellow, tropical moon and countless stars to romantic ports of call, forget Disneyland. No, Ralph and Alice Ann had to launch their life together at the Dixie Court Cabins and Trailer Park at the southern edge of town. Their cabin had a tiny black-and-white TV set which worked well enough, though, and there was a tiny swimming pool out front, and down the road there was a discount liquor store with an adjoining lounge, and they had enough money for two nights alone before they would move into the small back bedroom of Ralph's mom's trailer.
On their second and last evening there, Ralph had splurged on a bottle of high-class Scotch, and as he walked back to the cabins from the liquor store, he had felt enormously happy. He was looking forward to another long night of abandoned love-making. Abandoned, a word he liked the sound and taste of and said over and over to himself, rolling it over his tongue like a cherry-flavored LifeSaver; abandoned, the only word to describe what it had been like, throwing caution to the wind, and good manners, making all the noise they wanted, making juicy sounds during sex that were, well, so abandoned they were downright animal. Alice Ann, Ralph had gasped at one point while they were taking a breather, this business sure is, you know, abandoned. Alice Ann, Ralph had said, let's always be abandoned.
As the Dixie Court came into view, Ralph saw that Alice Ann was standing beside the little pool in front. She was wearing her new red bikini and she was wrapping her wet hair into a white towel. The early-evening light seemed to shine off her beautiful brown skin, and Ralph felt a flutter in his stomach. There she was, he thought with pride and wonder and lust, his new wife, his bride, the new Mrs. Crawford. Alice Ann was motionless except for her lifted slender arms and her hands folding her hair into that towel. It seemed to Ralph that even from this distance he could catch the scent of her flesh. She was standing slightly on tiptoe, so that the sleek muscles of her long, tanned legs were flexed and lovely-looking. Ralph felt his weenie wiggle.
Alice Ann seemed to be staring at something in the distance, something in the line of pine trees at the darkening edge of the woods maybe. Ralph looked past her, in the direction of her intent gaze, but he couldn't see a thing of interest. When he looked back at her, he noticed for the first time that the two men who were staying in the cabin next to theirs were sitting out front in metal lawn chairs. These men were on a fishing trip, and Ralph and Alice Ann had spoken with them briefly the night before and then again this morning, when they had run into each other at breakfast in the little diner down the road. Ralph had given them a tip about a spot he knew on a nearby creek good for brown trout, and then he and Alice Ann had chowed down on a breakfast of a half-dozen pancakes and three over-easy eggs with extra bacon each, before they had raced back to their cabin to make lots more abandoned love, their fingers and mouths still sweet and sticky with maple syrup.
Both the men were bareback, and they were sitting there in the metal lawn chairs sipping from cans of beer and staring at Alice Ann, and Ralph wondered suddenly if Alice Ann knew this. Although Alice Ann was but a few feet from Ralph, he had the weird feeling that he was observing an image of Alice Ann that had been in some way magnified from far away, as though he were watching her from the wrong end of a telescope. As though it was not the real Alice Ann standing there but some sort of aura of her. The more intently Ralph stared, the more rarefied with clarity and sharpness her features became, yet always with that sense of magnified distance. Who is she? Ralph wondered. Who is she?
Ralph had stood there, frozen to the spot, as he wondered if Alice Ann was posing for those perfect strangers, and the intense, peculiar desire he felt for her gripped his groin and made him both giddy and sick to his stomach. It was as though some beautiful but terrifying image of great portent were being projected before his eyes, the sort of image a story might turn upon.
Copyright © 2001 ChuckKinder