Detecting Metal

Fred Bonnie


 In this, Mr. Bonnie’s sixth story collection, you’ll quickly see why Erskine Caldwell called Bonnie’s third collection, Too Hot & Other Maine Stories, "a masterful achievement." The praise for Bonnie’s work has continued, for Publishers Weekly called him "a master raconteur." Why? Simple enough: Bonnie is a writer who’s not afraid to write a story that’s a story. With loving strokes he depicts character, plot, conflict, and resolution-a combination all too hard to find in contemporary short fiction.

160 pages

ISBN 0-942979-53-2, quality paper, $9.95    Sale $5.00

ISBN 0-942979-54-0, cloth, $19.95                Sale $10.00

About the Author: 

Fred Bonnie’s published work includes six collections of short stories, the most recent of which is Detecting Metal, which was placed on Booklist’s Editor’s Choice for 1998. During Bonnie’s five-year tenure as garden editor of Oxmoor House and Southern Living Magazine, he also published six how-to books on gardening.

     Fred Bonnie often sets his stories in the workplace, drawing on varied backgrounds to provide material for his fiction. He has, since the age of 11, been a paperboy, caddy, dishwasher, mailroom clerk, book store clerk, short-order cook, milkman, factory worker, busboy, campground custodian, library assistant, professional conversationalist, janitor, bookkeeping supervisor in a bank, country-western singer, city directory canvasser, pizza deliveryman, horticultural journalist, bartender, advertising and PR executive, caterer, speech writer, chef, and teacher. He currently lives in Columbiana, Alabama, where he makes his living as a freelance writer.

 Excerpt from the Book:

     I was once father to forty babies. I was thirteen at the time, theoretically aware of the basics of procreation, but unconvinced that people actually committed such a vile act, even in the noble goal of perpetuating the human species. The prissy girls in my eighth grade class certainly didn’t exude any species-perpetuating awareness, but on those evenings when Sister Lilian and I stood in the doorway of the orphanage nursery surveying all the cribs just before we flipped the light switch and a soothing ultraviolet tint fell over the sleep-bound babies in their cribs, I began to sense exactly how the species survived, and my role as after-school daddy to the babies felt, at moments, vaguely erotic.
    The only problem was that Sister Lilian couldn’t be the mother—she was a nun. I’d grown up thinking that nuns came prefabricated from some nun factory, probably in Massachusetts, and that they were distributed about the state of Maine pre-aged at about fifty. I assumed that the factory did not bother to install species-propagating equipment on its products. Nevertheless, Sister Lilian was the youngest nun I’d ever seen, and she was the first nun I ever found beautiful, although that judgement was based on nothing more than a startlingly warm smile in what was probably a very ordinary face. I came to think of her as my own age, more or less, and my assessment of her as terrifyingly and yet comfortingly beautiful was based, as I said, on her smile, the deft movements of her hands as she changed a diaper or negotiated a spoonful of peach mush into a baby’s evasive mouth, the light-stepping, boyish swagger in the way she walked—and what little of her eyebrows and chin her stiff white habit pinched out for the world to see.
    During the day as I sat through classes, I wondered if Sister Lilian would eventually turn out as ugly as Sister Geraldine, our teacher, in her old age. Sister Geraldine was the oldest nun in the school, over seventy, very kindly but also a bit senile. Her face was pale and cracked and seemed to have been pulled forward by the eruption of her enormous nose. The eighth grade boys, not a group noted for kindness, had nicknamed her “The Beak.” She treated us like second-graders by reading to us a good portion of…