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Welcome Thieves: Stories
     

Welcome Thieves: Stories

by Sean Beaudoin
 

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Black humor mixed with pathos is the hallmark of the twelve stories in this adult debut collection from a master writer of comic and inventive YA novels.

A young man spends a whole day lying naked on the floor of his apartment, conversing casually with his roommates, pondering the past, considering the lives being lived around him. In the odd and

Overview

Black humor mixed with pathos is the hallmark of the twelve stories in this adult debut collection from a master writer of comic and inventive YA novels.

A young man spends a whole day lying naked on the floor of his apartment, conversing casually with his roommates, pondering the past, considering the lives being lived around him. In the odd and funny, sad yet somehow hopeful conceit of Sean Beaudoin’s story “Exposure,” are all the elements that make his debut collection, Welcome Thieves, a standout. In twelve virtuosic stories, Beaudoin trains his absurdist’s eye on the ridiculous perplexities of adult life. From muddling through after the apocalypse (“Base Omega Has Twelve Dictates”) to the knowing smirk of  “You Too Can Graduate with a Degree in Contextual Semiotics,” Beaudoin’s stories are edgy and profane, bittersweet and angry, bemused and sardonic. Yet they’re always tinged with heart.

 Beaudoin’s novels have been praised for their playfulness and complexity, for the originality and beauty of their language. Those same qualities, and much more, are on full display in Welcome Thieves, a book that should find devout fans in readers who worship at the altar of George Saunders, Kurt Vonnegut, and Sam Lipsyte.

“A deviously spellbinding collection of short stories in which strange and beautiful worlds, creations of Sean Beaudoin’s dark and sometimes brutal imagination, emerge as part of a tapestry so finely woven that we don’t see the thread. In the end, we can only stand in awe of Beaudoin’s immense talent.” —Garth Stein, author of A Sudden Light

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
03/28/2016
In his first collection of stories for adults, YA author Beaudoin (Wise Young Fool) captures the sardonic exasperation of late adolescence and early adulthood with sharp dialogue that's strung through set pieces, mixing the everyday and the absurd. Many of the characters are contumacious dreamers. In the opener, "Nick in Nine (9) Movements," a teenage boy in a hardcore band begins reluctantly to accept the responsibilities of adulthood before an offer from erstwhile bandmate Duff brings on an ironic revelation. The lingo is snappy in sections, but often falls flat: "He's won a partial scholarship to a place in Ohio... Something State. Dude name of Pell good for a grant." In the later stories, Beaudoin leaves behind the acerbic wisenheimers for more reflective, truly humorous characters such as young Krua in "Base Omega Has Twelve Dictates," who lives in a surreal, dark encampment run by Larry Our Leader. In the standout, "Tiffany Marzano's Got a Record," Jake and Tiffany haul donated belongings of the recently deceased amid an unnamed health crisis in 1992 San Francisco. Jake, who worries that "the virus is secretly eating into his brain, occluding his thoughts," finds an ally in fellow outsider Tiffany. Beaudoin is a clever, if sometimes cloying, guide to the comical, awkward, and revelatory cusp where youthful levity becomes maturity. (Mar.)
From the Publisher
“Thrilling and mercilessly readable, the stories in Welcome Thieves go off like a string of firecrackers, sizzling and popping with a narrative velocity that is equal parts grit and polish. Beaudoin is definitely a writer to watch.” —Jonathan Evison, author of This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance!
 
“Sean Beaudoin’s stories are funny and propulsive. The voices of his narrators are truly live. Welcome Thieves is a remarkable and welcome book.” —Sam Lipsyte, author of The Fun Parts
 
Welcome Thieves is a deviously spellbinding collection of short stories in which strange and beautiful worlds, creations of Sean Beaudoin’s dark and sometimes brutal imagination, emerge as part of a tapestry so finely woven that we don’t see the thread. In the end, we can only stand in awe of Beaudoin’s immense talent.”  —Garth Stein, author of A Sudden Light
 
“Beaudoin's stories are hilarious and charming, also intimate, and yes they're also definitely dark, but not in a way that I needed to go take a regenerative nap in the middle of reading. No, I exited this brief avalanche of stories feeling even more awake, and full of delight in this ridiculous world we inhabit." Peter Mountford, author of The Dismal Science
 
“Seattle’s Sean Beaudoin strides past his young-adult novelist niche with Welcome Thieves, a collection of 12 deliciously dark short stories.  Get a sampling of Beaudoin’s ex-rocker vibe, which permeates each strange story with profanely humorous and raw musings on modern adulthood.” Seattle Metropolitan Magazine
 
“Funny, daring, alarming, sweet— how this book fills the mind and the senses with life.  Beaudoin's language is so original and fast that it gets very close to experience, handles it so loyally and beautifully.”Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories
 
“(Beaudoin)  illuminates in his reader the unseen, casting light in corners we did not even know were there, lighting up levels of feeling we either forgot about or never knew existed. And, crucially, under Sean’s hyper-alert gaze, all are beautiful.” Robert Burke Warren, The Weeklings
 
“A ragtag collection of challenging, off-the-wall, brilliant tales.” Joe Dell’Erba for the Washington Independent Review of Books
 
“A good short story collection maintains a common thread, compiling stories as one would compile an album, so that reading it from beginning to end offers a sustained exercise in meaning. It’s satisfying to turn the last page and feel it intertwine with all those that came before it. Sean Beaudoin’s Welcome Thieves is one of the best examples I’ve come across.” —Samuel Sattin for Fiction Advocate 
 
“The character-driven tales are darkly comedic, filled with misfits like Primo and The Albatross, Danny and Steak, Sad Girl, Razr and Roy Boi, and Butterfly and Cher — characters so compelling that they are at once savage and powerless, redemptive and sardonic…. (They) fill the pages of Welcome Thieves, their complexities and frailties enough to recommend Beaudoin as a student and brilliant interpreter of human nature.” Kansas City Star
Kirkus Reviews
2015-12-22
Sad sacks, troubadours, and other beautiful losers populate this debut collection of short stories by YA novelist Beaudoin (Wise Young Fool, 2013, etc.). About half the tales in Beaudoin's quiver have some real grit, like Springsteen or Bob Seger songs written about the travails of Gen X-ers back in the golden days of flannel. That vibe is better than it sounds but it's too often derailed by postmodern sarcasm and juvenile wit. The first two stories are pretty typical Midwestern Americana. In "Nick in Nine (9) Movements," we follow a guy who thinks he's going to grow up to be Slash (and doesn't). In "The Rescues," we pretty much meet the same Everyman, here finding his humanity in helping people fix their beater cars. Things take a darker turn in "Hey Monkey Chow," mostly about a guy who has a near-miss sexual encounter with his adopted sister. "It's weird how almost everyone does the worst thing, every time," Beaudoin writes. "Gives in to their essential natures without thought or complaint. Our little brains suckered in by the first shiny thing. And then, when we have a chance not to be, a real and obvious chance to prove we're actually half-human, still fuck it up." In these and other tales, there's also a perplexing and persistent immaturity that probably works well in the author's novels but less so here. Only in "You Too Can Graduate in Three Years with a Degree in Contextual Semiotics" do we see a real portrayal of adulthood, and it ultimately finds its protagonist pining for the one that got away. Just to show he still has some tricks up his sleeve, Beaudoin slips in a mickey with "Base Omega Has Twelve Dictates," a really funny satire of teen dystopian fiction. A clever but uneven story collection that reads a bit like a present-day Replacements concert: you never know from page to page if you're going to get the melancholy poet or the drunken joker.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781616204570
Publisher:
Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
Publication date:
03/01/2016
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
1,406,224
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.00(d)

Related Subjects

Read an Excerpt

The Rescues

1995 Ford TraumaHawk SL Ambulance

The third game of the season Danny took a cheap shot in the crease, bled out like a pig. Time was called. His teammates put on a show, kicked at the dirt, and swore revenge without the sac to follow through. So he sat for forty-eight stitches with a fish hook and no anesthetic, sprinted from the locker room, and doled near-Balkan retribution. The Cornholers won by eleven. Even Coach was like, “Bring it down a notch, Danny. They’re gripping their pearls.” And it was true, the other team, full of guys with something better on the side, prelaw, premed, all of them suddenly asking,Who needs this madness?

Danny did.

Every second, minute, inch, foot.

Sweat and uniform and pads and stick.

The Cornholers rose in the standings, playoffs in sight for the first time in decades. Then the last game of the season a big-name Ivy rolled in, none of their players much except the midfielder, all jaw and shaved head. A towering Cossack with three-day stubble and yellow breath. His eyes were empty, lips flecked with blood.

“I’ve heard of you,” the Cossack said.

“No you haven’t.”

“I’ve seen you play.”

“No you didn’t.”

They danced and hacked and elbowed all the way across the field.

It hurt.

Danny watched as he clotheslined their forwards, dished cheap shots to the fullbacks, delivered pain with pro efficiency. With a radiant grin. There was no hesitation, no nuance. It was almost like being in the backyard with Dad again, running drills, pushing limits. Exploring the fine line between Just Doing It and puking a streak of Gatorade across the neighbor’s fence.

“You and me? We could be friends,” the Cossack whispered, as they chopped and muscled in front of goal.

“Let’s hang out, go to dinner and a show.”

Danny knew he had to quip back. Be funny and casual. Arch and bold. But his shit talk was gone. The Clint stare, the Bruce smirk. He wanted to take off his spikes, feel his toes in the grass. He wanted eat graham crackers dunked in milk, go home and lie under a quilt, watch something old and dumb like Melrose Place, the episode where Heather Locklear wears tight pants.

During timeouts the guys punched Danny’s arm and shouted encouragements, confused by the loss of their beautiful madman.

Smack him! Shut his mouth, Junk!

Even coach wadded an entire pack of Dentyne.

Christ on a stick, Danny. You waiting for an invite?

In the third quarter he stole a pass and raced up the left sideline. A breakaway. Just the net and thirty open yards. The goalie waited, resigned. They both knew Danny was going to score and then pretend like he couldn’t control his momentum, feed the dude sixty pounds of marinated shoulder.

There was no sound, no sweat, no grass.

Just his feet, just his breath.

And the Cossack coming.

Fast and from behind.

A low giggle, the heavy tromp of cleat.

They connected with a slobber-crack that echoed across the field, rose through the stands, halted the game.
An hour later Danny woke up in the ambulance while a nurse with a Kid ’n Play lid hooked him to a tube. It felt like he was wearing himself sideways.

“Did we win?”

“I doubt it.”

“There a problem?”

The nurse slipped Danny her phone number. “After the surgery? You decide you don’t need them leftover Oxys, you give me a call.”

That night the entire squad gathered around the bed, stared at his leg in traction, the pins in his hip, said all the things you say, relieved when the orderly finally kicked them out.

The article in the campus paper was intentionally vague, combed by a paralegal for liability.

A week went by, then three, then six.

Six teammates visited, then three, then none.

Some pimply kid cleaned out Danny’s locker, dropped off his gear jammed into two Ninja Turtles pillowcases. He was allowed to stay enrolled, but no more scholarship. “The good news is you can concentrate on your classes,” a counselor of some sort suggested. Friends stared at their onion rings while Danny limped through the caf. He’d pass the team on the quad, all the chillaxers and brohmen lowering their eyes, his torn gait evidence of something damning.

Maybe even contagious.

Transformation was, according to a textbook he’d partially read, inevitable.

The walker became crutches became a cane.

He dropped out, put on weight.

“Oh, wow!” people said in the produce aisle, at the movies. “You still in town?”

Danny found the ambulance chick’s number, called her up. The next day he got a job delivering pizza, put a deposit on an apartment off campus, right above a comic book shop. The owner tended to frown while he limped though the stacks, showed off his scars, winked at nerdy girls, lifted a few Green Lanterns.
Is the Fist of Power lost forever?!!? the covers asked. Will a monarch emerge from within the Demon Chrysalis?!!?

1983 Plymouth Scamp “Pizza Monster” Delivery Truck

It was nearly midnight on a rush order, window down, radio blaring. The classics. Verse, chorus, verse. Buh-buh-buh Bennie and the Jets. The DJ complained about the heat. The stink of pepperoni rose from the floorboards. Zeppelin was next, with their grunts and squeals, their Middle Earth routine. It was like, if the dude was such a Druid, why was he trying so hard to sound black?

Danny spotted a glint of chrome on the side of the road, locked ’em up. In a clearing stood an ultimate Frisbee squad, coed, mud-flecked, ponytails, and orange slices. Their van steamed, hood propped with a Wiffle bat. He wanted to give them all a hug for thinking that ironic things had actual meaning, their discounted sneakers and sailor tattoos and patchy facial hair.

“Y’all need some help?”

They cheered.

He eased out of the cab, limped across the double yellows.

The cheering stopped.

“Holy shit,” someone said.

Danny tended to forget he was him. Broken. Looming. Might as well rock a leather apron and a chainsaw.

A girl in hot pants stepped forward, aimed something shiny and black.

“Shoot,” he said.

Her lighter illuminated the engine, a knot of rust and ticking heat. Danny leaned over and pretended to tighten a hose, spelled out his name in crankcase grease.

“Okay, fire it up.”

Hot Pants slid behind the wheel and jammed in the key. The van magically roared to life, air thick with ozone and the tang of high fives.

“Oh, fuck it,” Hot Pants said, and jumped into Danny’s arms.

Everyone laughed. Beers were retrieved from the cooler, the radio cranked. Bros danced with bros, whitely and without shame. Danny stood in the middle of it all, drinking in just the sort of love that can only come from an ultimate Frisbee team on the side of the road in the cricket-heavy dark.

2009 Black Acura “Sport Package” ZDX

By August he was resurrecting two cars a week. Sorority girls and math department heads. Adjuncts and transfers. The occasional rumpled provost. It was a small college town, dark country roads, way too easy to get stuck or stranded.

Word got back to Pizza Monster.

Mikey Atta spun dough on his middle finger, dared Danny to charge fifty a car. Hippie Tim buttoned his tweed jacket, said it was a lawsuit on a platter. Gail, sweaty-pink and nearly poured into her waitress uniform, said everyone had one important skill in life and Danny’s was to rescue people.

“You’re an automotive Saint Bernard.”

Mikey Atta leaned through the pass and air-wristed a blow job. The busboys fell out in hysterics. A woman looking at the menu frowned, took her son by the elbow, let the screen door slam.

“So what’s your one important skill?” Danny asked.

“Folding napkins,” Gail said, finishing another pile. She had short bangs and cat-eye glasses, spoke out of the corner of her mouth in a sardonic way that waitresses with advanced degrees now living off campus with a guy named Zach sometimes tended to. It was no secret that Danny wanted to spend entire shifts carnally entwined, locked in the walk-in while Gail’s hot breath and cries for mercy defrosted several flats of ricotta. It was also no secret to her boyfriend, Zach, who didn’t like it a bit, but got one look at Danny’s enormous shaved head and swollen knuckles and decided to be evolved about the whole thing.

“You got something for me?” she whispered.

Danny took the cash and slipped a baggie into her apron pocket.

“Incoming!” Hippie Tim yelled. It was his one important skill: radar. Ten seconds later a booth’s worth of sorority girls gaggled in, ordered a round of side salads, and then went to town on free breadsticks.

Mikey Atta flicked his tongue between two fingers.

Tom Petty oozed from the juke.

Danny stood out on the deck, where a black Acura circled the lot, laid a patch all the way down the street.

“Delivery up!” Hippie Tim yelled, sliding round glasses back up his nose. “You think you can you handle this one, Danny, or should I call in the National Guard?”

1993 Nissan Pulsar NX

A mile down the road a car was pulled over, hazards on. A girl stood embossed in brake light. Tall, Persian, smirking. Born to ruin teachers and preachers, mock family values on yards of thigh alone. Or maybe just really pretty.

“Need a hand?”
“Nice hat.”

Danny turned the purple cap around. Nothing to be done about the rest of the uniform, khakis and a polo shirt. Even the truck was purple, a graphic of Frankenstein on the hood going, “Grrr . . . Me no skimp on toppings!” He rolled out jumper cables, trying not to limp.

“Hey, I recognize you.”

“Texas Chainsaw? That was someone else.”

The girl laughed. “No, I used to come to games. Up in the bleachers, a bunch of us with a jug of wine.”

“Cheering away?”

“Depended on the score.”

Danny clamped the batteries together, as always expecting a sudden jolt to fuse his teeth. Instead, the Nissan roared to life. Flowers swayed in the halogens. The radio kicked in, a dissonant trombone blaring out of speakers more expensive than the rest of the car put together.

“Who’s this?”

She cranked the knob, drowning out frogs and grasshoppers nestled in the weeds.

“Sun Ra.”

They faced each other, covered with sweat. Haze hung like a wet sheet above the oily grass and between the oaks.

“What’s your name?”

“Steak.”

Danny knew it was a test. If he made a dumb joke, like medium rare or well done or grass fed, she’d immediately cross him off the list, the same method she’d erased four years’ worth of frat boys with.

“Hey, Steak?”

“What?”

“Wanna go out sometime?”

She smiled, hair Nile black, swung it out of her face like a flag of victory. “We’re already out.”

Danny watched as she folded herself back into the car, spun the wheel, fishtailed away.

The next day, he found her in an old student directory. Stalled for an hour then dialed.

Meet the Author

Sean Beaudoin is the author of five young adult novels, including The Infects and Wise Young Fool. He is also a founding editor of the arts and culture website TheWeeklings.com, for which he has written more than fifty essays. Sean’s stories and articles have appeared in numerous publications, including the Onion, the San Francisco Chronicle, and Salon. He lives in Seattle with his wife and daughter.

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