Beaut: A Novel

Beaut: A Novel

by Donald Morrill

Paperback(New Edition)

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"The monster called my cell phone this morning, demanding money." So begins Jill Lundgrove, the unforgettable protagonist of Beaut. Secluded in a cheap apartment on a ring road of Des Moines after a fire has destroyed her house--a blaze "the Monster," her drug-addicted, adult son might have caused--she confronts her precarious circumstances. "I'm in great need of reckoning," she writes, partly to herself and to another initially unnamed. What of that fire, the Monster's criminal companions, and the surprising prospect of a love affair after years of widowhood? And what of her three other children, who have variously sought to protect her, flee her, dominate her? The haunting story that follow vividly illuminates the discordant accords of marriage and madness, the ambivalence in motherhood, and the mysteries of inheritance--and bestows a strange, unexpected gift on those closest to her.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780932112743
Publisher: Blair
Publication date: 05/01/2018
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 184
Sales rank: 623,435
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)

About the Author

Donald Morrill is the author of the nonfiction volumes Impetuous Sleeper, The Untouched Minutes (River Teeth Nonfiction Prize), Sounding for Cool, and A Stranger's Neighborhood, as well as three collections of poetry (among them Awaiting Your Impossibilities, a 2015 Florida Book Award recipient). He has been the Bedell Visiting Writer in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa and writer-in-residence at the Poetry Center at Smith. Currently he teaches in the Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at the University of Tampa.

Read an Excerpt

The Monster called my cell phone this morning, demanding money.

That’s how he asks when he’s in trouble. He doesn’t know where I’m living right now. I felt the impulse to pick up and tell him, but I’ve let Petey think I’ve promised not to.

Petey wants to bring charges against him, for burning my house down. I was in the hospital at the time, just after New Year’s. You could say I was lucky my granddaughter, Kate, found me lying in the hallway. She’d stopped by on her way to classes at the community college. The Monster was home, too. Petey rants at me over and over that the Monster wouldn’t even go in the ambulance with me, that he just stood there stoned-staring, licking an ice cream cone while the emergency team shocked me back. And then he went into his room.

It’s true that if Kate hadn’t happened by the house when she did, I’d be dead. (I almost wrote that I’d be with you. Not true. Not ever. I’d just be in your realm, if the dead share a realm.) I can see the Monster standing in the doorway, blank as a bull’s eye. I know at that moment neither of us has a chance. Kate used to have a knee-hugging love for him, until he and her mother separated for the last time and she hit puberty, and the pain came between them all. He used to take her fishing when she was a child.

I don’t remember a thing about my collapse. I’d felt shaky beforehand, a little queasy, flu-ish, maybe. Then I was out. There was surgery, of course, right away, and the recovery room―so cold that room, and then the phone call. I was swimming in and out of the situation, you could say, given the painkillers and whatnot. The Monster was shouting at me through the receiver, crying and high. He needed money and he needed it now, and if I didn’t give it to him, he’d torch everything.

It’s not as though he hadn’t threatened this before. Or stolen pieces of my furniture to pawn. Or written bad checks from my account and even from Ray’s a year after he’d died. I wonder if one of his so-called friends heard his threat and decided to make it happen. More than one of those cretins have used him for their fun. He’s sentimental, the Monster is. He doesn’t learn.

But it’s not clear any fire was deliberately set. The whole thing could have been sparked by a cigarette fallen from an ashtray. He was lucky to be away and not passed out there.

This morning’s rant finally wound down to a pause, as though a revelation were in store, and then . . . “I’m trying my best, Mom, I really am. You know that. . . . I’m sorry . . . Ma, I can’t keep sleeping in Fred’s car! C’mon, pick up!”

He must be quite lonely, wherever he is.

I know, Petey has a point. The Monster is thirty-eight years old and has no business being so afraid, or being so skillful at it.

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