ISBN: 978-1-60489-104-1 Trade paper $16.95
ISBN: 978-1-60489-103-4 Library binding $28
Bram Riddlebarger is a writer and musician from Southeastern Ohio. He has stapled together a number of collections of poetry and short stories for his family and friends, often around the time of gift-giving. In 2008, he published a poetry chapbook, Chez Filthy, in 2009 He holds a BA in Creative Writing from Ohio University. Earplugs is his first novel.
(JKPublishing). He has been published in 17 1/2 Magazine, the Wittenberg Review of Literature and Arts, the Aquabear Reader, RocknRoll Purgatory zine, and the Logan Daily News.
I lived in a small town, so went to buy earplugs. First to the north side and our dying strip mall, littered with the refuse of ancient names and outdated lives. Hmmm, Sporting Goods and Hardware, aisles ten and eleven.
“The trees are fruitless and out of season,” said the clerk. “But I could sell you some wonderful apples.”
“No thanks, I really just wanted earplugs.”
“Well, OK, but my apples are really delicious!”
I saw that this man knew his fruit, but what this town needed, I told him, were earplugs.
I walked to the Hardware Store. The smell of our Hardware Store was renowned in the state. A sign hung over the door that said:
and many did. Despite our forests and our caves, our hardware store on Main Street was a beacon of smell and a must-do for any
serious newcomer. I liked the hammer section the best, but many townspeople could often be seen lounging around the screwdriver aisle a little longer than necessary.
“Yeah, I need some earplugs.”
“Nope, but I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you go try the seed section? The smell of those carrot seeds is just dandy!”
I glanced over. Ten or twelve locals and several tourists were gathered around the seed section in an aromatic orgasm.
“Looks tempting,” I said. “But what I need are some earplugs.”
“Earplugs, huh? No, I never much cared for the smell of earplugs,” he sniffed.
I returned to the north side of town and into the Relics for All Purposes Store. One room full of shoes, guns, hardware, beach balls, and any number of such items except earplugs. The employees had not even heard of earplugs yet.
“In your ears, huh?”
She was amazed.
“Well, I’m not sure really. I just wanted some good earplugs,” I said.
I beat a quick retreat past throwing knives and hickory axe handles.
Perhaps earplugs were just some crazed children’s author’s idea of a good joke.
“My, what big earplugs you have!”
I uneasily peeked into the Chainsaw and Heavy Equipment Store just outside town, only to be exposed by the deafening roar of a chainsaw motor rigged up to the door.
“Oh, yeah . . . you here for the weed-whacker special?”
I silently drifted aloft, now a turkey vulture soaring on a small-town thermal on a very loud day. From this vantage, the smell and the volume of town became faint and almost bearable. Across the Meandering River, I could see past our town limits and out into our lovely rolling foothills.
The view was a postcard.
Lisa was not around.
Tourists marched hither and yon, traipsing like schoolchildren in search of candy over forest and dale; but I could see no farther. I could not see Far Away. But I was not a turkey vulture, and my feet were again in search of earplugs.
“I should find some earplugs,” I said.
A quaint town overtaken by a new order. Antique dealers selling off the living room. Relationships that fizzle. Ensconced biddies with their Eau du Auld fighting the newest mayor, Ms. Service Industry. Who will win? And will Lisa, the young woman jogger with the Band-aid and the pink bandana ever return? In this novel a quest for earplugs tries its best to defy old age, young love, and the burden of change.