Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week John Fulton writes about The Flounder, his new story collection out from Blackwater Press.
If The Flounder were a fish, it would be the magic one from the Grimm’s fairy tale and it would offer the fisherman three wishes to spare its life. The fisherman would agree and go back to his wife, who is full of desire and designs. Warning: This fairytale doesn’t end well. Or does it? It’s hard to know.
If The Flounder were a car, it would be a 1968 convertible Mustang captained by an eighty-year-old woman with a gash of lipstick on her mouth and a wild, dry laugh. She offers rides to children on their way home from school and invites them over to eat treats and meet her paralyzed husband. Warning: You’ll be tempted to go in her home and eat her treats, but you won’t be the same afterwards.
If The Flounder were a robbery, it would be at gunpoint in old AJ’s pawnshop with his grandson looking on while old AJ demands that the robber please shoot him, Goddamnit, because he’d rather be dead anyway.
If The Flounder were a road trip, it would begin on the hottest day in the Mohave desert, head north to a long winter night in Montana, where a boy is having nightmares about Charles Manson, then go east to Chicago, where two heartbroken lovers make love in a hotel room while thinking about their exes, then head all the way to Boston where an old man about to die looks back on his life and thinks that it may have all been worth something—or not. At this point, we’ll leave the road for the sea, get on a boat, and end up with a young married couple on the coast of France shouting at each other in a cliffside hotel because the wife has just told her young husband that she’s slept with another man. We’ll journey next to Switzerland then to Budapest, where the ghosts of communism mix with young love in the thermal waters of this city’s legendary baths that have brought the sick and the hopeful here for millennia. We’ll stop traveling now, sit in the waters, and wonder about the future as we feel the weight of the past.
If The Flounder were a happy story, it would be a bouquet of red roses and blue violets. It would be like every other happy story. But it’s not happy, which is to say that it’s unhappy in its own particular way. To find out what that means, reader, you’ll have to hold this slippery fish in your hands, crack open its pages, and read.
John Fulton is the author most recently of The Flounder and Other Stories as well as three earlier books of fiction: The Animal Girl, which was long listed for the Story Prize, Retribution, which won the Southern Review Fiction Prize, and the novel More Than Enough, a Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers selection. His short fiction has been awarded the Pushcart Prize, cited twice for distinction in The Best American Short Stories, and been published in Zoetrope, The Sun, Ploughshares, and The Missouri Review, among other venues. He lives with his family in Boston, where he directs the MFA program at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Find out more at JohnFulton.net and follow him on Twitter @FultonWrites.