By Ben McFadden
Key Themes: fiction, OCD, mental health problems, family, relationships
Three Novellas are, respectively; Soft Copy Revelations, The Young Republican, and House Of Gophers.
All three stories deal with protagonists that are suffering some kind of loss, or betrayal from their past, causing them bouts of depression, suicidal, or homicidal feelings.
The character Autumn in Soft Copy Revelations is an obsessive-compulsive personality; constantly haunted by memories of her father’s death, and unable to break free from the constraints of her mother’s overprotective parenting, even in adulthood. In her attempt to make new friends, and lead an ordinary life, she succumbs tragically to a suicidal kind of self-empathy.
In The Young Republican, the protagonist Josh, a type of sociopathic personality, is in a constant struggle with his family for inheritance from his grandfather, and, in a moral, or possibly immoral battle of revenge and faith with his father. Through Josh, we see the implications of misplaced virtue, misunderstood societal power, and an extreme, prototypical American, selfish promotion of the individual; by the individual, and for the individual, at any cost.
House Of Gophers, the final story in this trilogy, carries on the theme of an individual, a junior high school gym teacher named Larry, obsessed with the failures of his past. His embittered attitude toward his father, who left him and his mother when he was a young man, spills over into a deadly confrontation with his old high school football coach; whom Larry identifies as the positive role model, and father figure of his life. Larry, disabled in a car accident at a young age, battles through life with violent confrontations against all who he believes are oppressing him, or pitying him.
About the Author
Benny A. McFadden is a self-taught writer of poetry, fiction, and a student of media communications. He is a native of San Diego, California. Three Novellas is his first work of fiction in publication.
My life is full of stories. Stories of my family, my families friends, and of people that are impossible to trace because their names and backgrounds not relating to the stories have been lost over time. My mother had a factual mind. She would retrace the roots of each story attempting to uncover exaggerations and falsehoods. That is why I know for a fact that everything my mother had ever told me was not only based in fact, but that the facts had been checked, and the names and places only revealed to me years after any of them happened.
My mother had been a housewife. This had been an easy job for her because she only had one child and when my father was home he did most of the cooking himself. She would knit and crochet, work over crossword puzzles for days at a time, and attend to her cats. As a child, for a brief period, I believed she loved her cats more than I. She spent time chasing them about the yard, feeding and cleaning them, taking them to the vet for their exams. If I raised a fuss about anything she would snap, “Find something to do with yourself, can’t you see I’m…” (Insert anything here that applies to the lifestyle I mentioned above.) That was only for a brief period however. The fire changed everything.
Her favorite story to tell people was about my father’s cousin Lou who had worked in a hardware store for fifteen years. They kept a small safe in the back of the store with the cash they would deposit once a week. Of course, with his seniority, Lou had the combination to the safe. And, of course (my mother’s stories always involved a coincidental truth), the robbers who came in one night when Lou was alone there knew Lou had that combination. You always knew where my mother’s stories were going when she threw out that “of course”. She used to detail everything in a series of notebooks. She even had a title for the stories she had collected over the years. But she never told me what the title was. And it, of course, was also lost in the fire with everything else.
For that brief period when I looked up to my mother’s five or six cats as older, more privileged siblings, I was a daddy’s girl. He would come home from work, kick one of the cats absently with his foot, and scoop me up in his arms, the cats all purring, and hissing, and running away. If he came home and I was not in the front entryway he would scour the house looking for me. Indeed, at times, I hid from him when I knew he was on his way home. He would always find me though, either underneath my bed, or in my closet, or in the pantry. On weekends we would spend time in the garden. (And again, of course, he did all the gardening.) He was proud of his tomatoes and green beans. He had a chapbook filled with pictures of large vegetables. Some of them his own but most photographs of prize winning fauna, even one of what was known, at the time, as the world’s largest prickly pear. On the back patio he had speakers that he had run wire out to and often times he would play symphonies on his record player, the music streaming out through the window meant to help his garden grow. I loved playing in the garden with my toys and picking the occasional weed in the attempt to help him. Come to think of it, the garden was really not more than an ordinary yard with a cornered off section for a few vines to grow. But I was a child and didn’t know what a real garden was or even how big a really big tomato really is.
In those days my mother did not tell stories. She simply collected them. In the end she would say, “Did I ever tell you the one about…oh, wait a minute. I forget. Nevermind.” She told them after the fire because she was trying to remember them herself. She refused to write or keep pets or own property or marry again after the fire. And I became the only thing she lived for. Me, listener of stories, lost soul without a father, with only her to guide me, not realizing over the years there was only one story she had truly forgotten about- The story of Her, of Me, of how she and I were poor substitutes for immediate family without my father.