In Jay Atkinson’s riveting new story collection, Tauvernier Street, the writer that Men’s Health magazine called “the bard of New England toughness” uses a variety of narrative voices, characters and styles to express a single, central truth: you are where you came from. “Jailbird” won Boston Magazine’s fiction prize. “The Tex Cameron Show,” appeared in Shenandoah, and “The Tigers in Argentina,” from MacGuffin, was nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
ISBN: 978-1-60489-061-7 Trade paper $17.95 Sale $9.00
ISBN: 978-1-60489-058-7 Library binding $28 Sale $14.00
Jay Atkinson is a novelist, short story writer, essayist, critic, investigative journalist, and itinerant amateur athlete from Methuen, Mass. He is the author of two novels, a story collection, and three narrative nonfiction books. Atkinson's latest book is PARADISE ROAD: JACK KEROUAC'S LOST HIGHWAY AND MY SEARCH FOR AMERICA (John Wiley & Sons, 2010) His book, ICE TIME, was a Publisher’s Weekly notable book of the year in 2001, and LEGENDS OF WINTER HILL was on the Boston Globe bestseller list for 7 straight weeks in 2005. A former two sport college athlete, Atkinson has competed in rugby for three decades and continues to play in exotic locales with the Vandals Rugby Club out of Los Angeles.
From the Book:
Eddie Trembley was over six feet tall and wore his black hair with a curl in front and slicked into a duck's ass at his collar. Standing in the doorway with an old seabag over his shoulder and his eyes darting back and forth, he looked like he was going to prison, not getting out.
My father said Eddie was my cousin and would be staying with us for a while. I didn't know whether to clean my room or what—I had never met an ex-con before.
"Hey, chief," Eddie said to me. He didn't offer to shake my hand. "How's it hangin'?"
Eddie was 35, with deep lines in his face, narrow brown eyes and a panther tattooed on his left forearm. In the mornings, he shaved over the tiny sink in our bathroom, stripped to the waist, hunching over to see himself in the cloudy mirror. I was 15 then and a great collector of muscle magazines, thick glossy ones with advertisements for the Charles Atlas Dynamic Tension Program and different kinds of protein powder and "How To Build Unbelievable Calves Fast!" Each month there would be some new giant splashed across the cover, with bulbous forearms and a deep chest and abdominal muscles that looked like glazed kitchen tile. But I had never seen anything like Eddie Trembley. He was a monster.
The muscles that started halfway up Eddie's back flared outward to his shoulders. Each fiber in his torso and down the arm that held the razor worked like a little mechanical wire as he scraped the shaving cream from his chin. And although Eddie put away huge greasy meals at our kitchen table and never worked out, there wasn't a speck of fat on him.
I pounded the heavy bag in my bedroom and curled over 75 pounds, but next to my cousin I was a little white smudge, floating in and out of our tiny apartment while Eddie occupied one spot for hours, his long legs thrust out beneath the television set.
My mother died when I was two and I lived at my aunt's house most of the time. Because of his night job at the Fruit Salad company, my father couldn't take care of me until the weekends. Then I went home to my dark little room and my weights and Manson, my Burmese python.
My father got up one Saturday afternoon to work an extra shift and found Eddie snoring in my bed. "That's my son's room," he said. "You sleep on the couch." Eddie rose up, wearing jeans and nothing else, his eyes hollow from sleep. He loomed in the doorway, towering over my father who was dressed in his rumpled gray work uniform.
"Sure thing, Uncle Lou," said Eddie on the way to the icebox.
My father followed Eddie into the other room and sat opposite him at the kitchen table, slumped over his potbelly. He took out a pack of Camels and offered one to Eddie, and he and my father sat there for a few minutes smoking in silence.
"You been home two weeks and you haven't even looked for a job," my father said. "You're a big strong guy, when you gonna make something of yourself?"
Eddie stiffened at the mention of the word home. He cupped his cigarette and smoked it in a quick tender fashion like he expected to have it snatched away from him. "When I have a job, I work," Eddie said. "When I don't, I don't."
"Come with me Monday night and talk to the foreman. Maybe we can get you in," my father said.
"I don't like working nights."
My father kept his weak eyes fixed on Eddie. "Nobody says it has to be nights. I'll introduce you and you take it from there."
My father had two rules for Eddie staying with us: no drinking and no drugs. That weekend, Eddie pushed things a little bit. My father couldn't get to sleep on his nights off and sat up watching movies and eating cookies from a bag. I heard Eddie come in around 3 a.m. He lurched up the stairs and then banged the door open, stumbling in the hall. My father clicked off the television.
"One more time like this and you're out," my father said. "I won't allow this kind of behavior in my house."
Eddie sneered. "This house don't belong to you," he said. "It belongs to the man. Just like the fruit company and everything else."
"I pay my bills and this here is mine," said my father.
Behind the closed door in my room I could imagine him pointing at the floor but meaning the apartment, his car, his job—all the things he worked so hard for. "That's your problem, Eddie," my father said. "You don't respect other people and what belongs to them."
Eddie's voice dropped low, like he was tired or just sad. "I got nothing belongs to me, so what’s the difference?"
On a wicker stand beside the sink in our bathroom was a huge dusty bottle of red mouthwash that had been full for over a year. In the space of only a few days the level of the bottle dropped to practically nothing. Eddie had lousy teeth but he sure used a lot of that mouthwash, his breath coming out in sweet fiery clouds.
United Fruit Salad offered Eddie a janitor's job on second shift. He started working, and things went well for a few weeks. Eddie didn't like wearing the gray custodian’s uniform, but he had a few bucks in his pocket, giving my father a little toward expenses and buying himself two beautiful rayon shirts. One was beige with yellow palm trees and the other had a brightly colored pattern of musical notes and piano keys.