Saturday, March 11, 2017

American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell

These stories are about desperate, blue-collar workers. Written in 2008, these stories still seem completely fresh because it's easy to feel desperate in any age.

In "Yard Man," Jerry and his wife live in a salvage yard. She had been his high school sweetheart but they have only recently reconnected and married. 

They can live in the house rent free; in exchange, Jerry watches over the other seventeen buildings. He also works part-time as a school janitor. 

Money is tight and the man knows his wife isn't happy with the living arrangements. The junk bothers her because she looks at life simplistically. She can't see the prism of colors that Jerry can see on the skin of the snake.

The wildlife bothers Jerry's wife. Recently a bat and a swarm of bees entered the house. A red, yellow, and gold snake, that also has a prism of blues and greens, has been sliding around the garden. Something white--possibly an ermine--enters the house and spooks her.

The snake, however, is the central metaphor that carries the story. The snake stands for her--how Jerry is enchanted by her and afraid of her--afraid of losing her the way he had before.