“We will live on mangoes and love.”
There are few things I love more than a good short story, but when you combine geology and a bleak coming of age tale – I am sold. Although I am a bit ashamed to admit that I first became interested in this collection because of the author’s unusual name, I am so glad I did. Colly is the unhappy star of Breece D’J. Pancake’s opening story Trilobites. He is stuck in his small hometown, his girlfriend has moved out and on, and he’s realizing he might never get the chance to leave.
“I see a concrete patch in the street. It’s shaped like Florida, and I recollect what I wrote in Ginny’s yearbook: “We will live on mangoes and love.” And she up and left without me—two years she’s been down there without me. She sends me postcards with alligator wrestlers and flamingos on the front. She never asks me any questions. I feel like a real fool for what I wrote, and go into the café.”
As he tries to manage his family’s failing farm, he realizes he does not want to be there, even as he thinks back on the plans he and his ex-girlfriend made to start a family and stay. Taking place in the failing towns of Appalachia in the 1970s (specifically the author’s native West Virginia), Pancake writes with an exquisite flatness that doesn’t sound like it would be wonderful, but it very much is. While the tale is gloomy and dark, it is not overly so – despite the author’s own back story. Despite being set several decades ago, the stories feel very accessible and authentic. It’s a bit Midwestern, a bit southern Gothic, and entirely worthwhile. The story that opens this collection – Trilobites – is available for free via The Atlantic. If you like the first story, you’ll like the collection.
“When I was a young punk, I tried to run away from home. I was walking through this meadow on the other side of the Hill, and this shadow passed over me. I honest to god thought it was a pterodactyl. It was a damned airplane. I was so damn mad, I came home.”
Pterodactyl. Trilobites. Mangoes. What’s not to like? Eat this one with mangoes and love.