OUT THERE MIKAEL COVEY
The right of Mikael Covey to be identified as author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. This is a work of fiction. Any similarity of persons, places or events depicted herein to actual persons, places or events is purely coincidental. Copyright ÂŠ 2009 by Mikael Covey All rights reserved Published by Andromache Books, London ISBN 978-1-4092-8869-5 Cover image: For the first time in my life my eyes can see ÂŠ by Olivia Bee, all rights reserved.
to my lifelong heroes my father, Arthur Covey and my friend, Susie Corson (Kyle Oâ€™Learyâ€™s little sister Katie)
Where I was and where weâ€™re all from, now so sullenly removed, I watched it go by like a fat sacred cow swishing tail at everything, sauntering slowly across the dark dusty road in the middle of young night in the middle of summer into a black long row of endless impenetrable fields gone forever, vanished from headlights into memory gone given up lost. But it was wild, sort of. At times, some of the time in between all the slow and dull reality. The feeling of it, the mood of the night people and all that what was going on when you do it or live it like life, like nothing special and never enough. But the freedom, the freedom of being young unbounded and it was all was so easy and peaceful amid all the hurry and stress and bother of whatever older meaningless people were doing in their older meaningless world. And I was always secretly afraid that it might not be. Like my first time in Wyoming, through Belle Fourche hitchhiking with the truckers three days waiting and partying with the kids out there, even some guys from Michigan working in a gold mine, of all places Iâ€™d never seen before or since and wild west
cowboy bars with sawdust on the floor all night in the warm black summer far away from whatever home might be. Then crossing the border into the wild wide-open Montana sky of a million miles of blue, and dark green hills and get this, no fences just wild wide-open, no people, animals nothing, not even birds, just nothing for miles and hours and you better not run out of gas because there aint nothing here, like telephone state patrol and aint ever gonna to be, just so ‚look at it all, what’re you gonna do.‛ And what can you do but just look. Later on down the road there’s maybe a big jackrabbit or two and herds of elk, hundreds of ‘em wild free running alongside the road and open range about half mile away and me being so amazed afraid almost they’d stray in front of us across the empty highway. Finally we stop in Lame Deer for a cold drink. That wild mountain village stuffed full of gorgeous young Indian girls so all hot and sultry and ready in tee shirts and soft cotton shorts or cutoff jeans surrounded by all those hard mean cutthroat young men with their scarred eyes from fighting over all those girls. What I wouldn’t give for a weekend here forever and not get killed, so fresh and wild that even the air is cool and sweet in the pine mountain altitude. Places like that are hard to leave, impossible to stay in like the past like that feeling of when it was now. But that’s all fenced in now. Forget that. Think of the liquid warm summer heat pouring out from the white hot day of prairie dust spilling across the dusty road into a night of running all night long under the black stars with no place to go but back into indiscernible morning. We get out of school in Nebraska and decide to go to California. Not even so much decided as pushed out forced to go like schizophrenic and people understand so little and care so little less. That last year of broken spirituality sitting in the modular study room, the social studies room, not wanting to be there and not wanting to leave. They were mod, hip, and so uncool. The groove was you’d have modular scheduling and aside from a few prerequisites all your classes were elective, like college. Classes were twenty minute
mods, or groups of two or three mods for a test or something. On Friday I had one class all day long, it was religion, twenty minutes worth. Buddy and Deke would just plain take off and go down to the bar and shoot pool. That’s what they learned. Sometimes we’d just take off and go cruising around looking at spring come oozing out of winter snow like being young and dead. But mostly I’d just sit there in the social studies mod that was really history with an uncool name which is all this life trapped inside books with pictures of how I felt sitting there with my desk turned sideways toward the windows watching the grade school kids playing outside. I watch them all day long and that’s what I learned that last year of hard lessons. Can’t open a book or even finish a simple lesson. It’s all gone and never coming back, this place, this time, this life of being here, young old dead and buried. Once they close the doors you can never get back in. And I worship here, me, a godless god in this holy place that nobody knows but me. In religion class we have this retreat thing where visiting young black clothes white collar priests with psychology, sociology, divinity degrees and kind eyes come and talk to us in group discussion about life. The nice young fellow asks some questions about it and nobody says anything. That’s the way it is. Everybody talks and nobody says anything. Nobody ever talks about what’s important. And if someone does, nobody wants to speak up or join in ‘cause it’s uncool and they’re shy, don’t know what to say, don’t want to reveal themselves and be laughed at and dead forever. I speak up ‘cause that’s what I do, it’s all I can do. I tell him life sucks. And he probes like a psychologist, like a young priest who cares. He wants to know why and me and what I don’t like about it as if he could somehow take away the pain or take it upon himself and rid me of that. I tell him it’s dull, boring, meaningless, always the same, the same old shit, pointless, it all sucks. My friend in class is surprised. We hang out together all the time, we do things together. What we do is drink beer and cruise around and laugh and joke and drink beer. ‚You mean you don’t
like...the stuff we do all the time?‛ No, I hate it. It’s killing me, I’m killing myself with my own life. Not what I’d do if I could. If I weren’t just a follower who just hung around with the crowd and did whatever was being done, and not so shy about revealing myself and risking death. Oh well. Now he’s bummed-out and what good does it do to open your eyes when everyone else is blind, or is it the other way around, like taking me years to figure out with logic and research what everyone else already knows without even thinking about it.
The first time I was consciously aware I was dead, I was twelve years old. My little cousin Allie was eleven and so pretty and sweeter than anything else in my life. Visiting us on a warm sunny summer day. Then she and her family left, to go home. Back to Missouri, taking the sun and warmth and life all out of me. Nothing left at all after that. And I never wanted to feel that way again. But then when you’re all grown up in high school, or when I was a senior in high school, football games are all of what life is. I was a player, you see. It’s what I did. It was the only thing I did. It was all I could do. Around Wednesday or so it starts to hit you. That emptiness feeling of fear in the pit of your stomach, that won’t go away. You look at the streaming banners in the hallways in school, about how we gonna do this and that. And you think, yeah, that’s on me. It’s on me to do those things or your silly little slogan signs don’t mean jack shit. This is my gig, my show. Then when you finally get to do it, all that fear subsides, just vanishes away. It’s peaceful, easy, calm out here on the field. The chilly blackness of early winter night. The soft green sod, marked off in white chalk lines. Out here, I’m in charge now, running things, performing, feeling nothing. Just to focus on the play, like I know what they’re going to do. Can even look over at the oh so lovely girls up there in the stands in their red and white uniforms so stark and clear against the night sky. Hear the
announcer’s voice way up there in the booth, hoping he gets it right. Conscious of all these things at once. All so easy to do. I look up at him, up there in the little wooden booth above everyone else. No, you dumb shit, that wasn’t Kleimer in on that tackle. Was me, Doug Rodey, me, I done that. Tug at my jersey number so he knows. Get it right next time bud. This is my crowd, I’m working here. After it’s all done, the hits and grunts and pain and jolts, hardly aware of any of that, hardly feel any of it. Back at the locker room, shower, dress and slowly casually hurry as fast as you can. Downtown to the bowling alley where we all go after the game. Everyone here, the place is packed, you can hardly move. Push a path through the crowd to a comfortable place, a safe place for watching and waiting. Everyone I know is right here, tonight; our time, our place. Warm and friendly and loud with big glass doors and windows all steamed over from the frosty air. Been coming here for years, like coming home. But also like brand new, all shiny and new, spotless and clean. Even the bathrooms are shiny and spotless, clean, deodorized, sanitized. This is a respectable place, a nice place; but it’s still our place. Shiny new pinball machines in the corner, and a foosball table and pool table in the middle of this huge room. Can’t even see them now. So many people, standing around, pushing through, mingling, loudly talking; standing around on the soft carpeting. A long bar runs the length of the room at the far end. They serve drinks to the adults who bowl here, league bowlers. But only soft drinks to us kids who pack this place full on Friday night. All glowing with excitement and nighttime thrills of being young; looking for someone young and soft and sweet. All eager happy faces glowing as much as the bright lights of this big warm gathering place. I stammer around this room where you can hardly breathe, can hardly hear above the chatter and clamor of all these kids. Can’t
even see through the crowd. The lovely young pep club girls with their young girl legs. And all my friends, ball players dressed in school colors and proud, elated at winning, giddy with joy and youth. And all the rest of the kids who look up to us. Pretty girls all over like a blur of color and faces and smiles. They talk to me about our game, our great game. They tell me I did good. Sherry Linten, so dark and slender and pretty comes over standing right next to me. Even Debbie Felber, the sexiest girl in school, sits down on the pool table beside me. She’s never talked to me before. They tell me I did good. I’d tell them how wonderfully soft and warm and wantful they look in their short skirts and creamy smooth legs. But how would I know what to say, just stammer out stupid meaningless words. Things you’d say to the other players, technical things about this or that play. Could have done better. Should have I quietly say to these girls who could care less about a ball game. How would I know. That’s what I do; play football, nothing else. I see her in the corner by the pinball machines, all aglow and smiling laughing happy eager kid. Wearing a tan corduroy winter coat that reaches to the bottom of her short red skirt. Nothing but coat and little girl legs, and her long blonde hair. Laughing as Sammy our quarterback, my quarterback is stuffing snow into the hood of her coat. Some of the snow gets in her hair. She squiggles, squirms, and grabs at the snow and throws it back at him. Little freshman girl, so all confident and alive, enjoying life and being young. I’m surprised, impressed. They’re all so shy, afraid of us. Not her, just fits right in. I envy that. Would like to be like that. Little freshman girl. I’m impressed. Such a pretty smile, pretty little blonde girl. Look for her later on but she’s not there. Somebody mentions her name and I try to catch what they say, listen in and pretend I’m not. Everyone talking about her, what a neat little freshman kid. Yeah, I think so too, but don’t say anything, just listen. And all the excitement and giddiness of the cold black night
and the big football game is now not about that. Just her, that cute little kid so alive and young and free. Must really be something to be like that. Everything else meaning nothing now. Not even enough cold beer and riding around in the cars alone with all the friends talking, drinking. Talking of nothing, not even hearing the words, not even any feeling except a tight uneasy stomach full of emptiness. Thinking of her and nothing else. Unsleeping all night, I wonder about things, and don’t like to. Got this dead all over feeling and nothing but those little rat-like roach-like thought creatures crawling all over my empty little mind. Everything was alright up to now. No that’s a lie. Nothing was ever alright. But I’d been surviving, skating by, as Deke would say. Maybe thinking that’s what I was destined to do, just get by. Be a little ant crawling across the sidewalk of the universe. What was that line from Eliot’s poem, something about a lobster crawling along the bottom of the ocean. Yeah, that’s me, scuttling along, afraid to disturb…whatever, anybody, I suppose. Doing okay at it too, I guess. Maybe do that the rest of my life. Be like one of those minor characters on a tv show. Show up from time to time, say something clever and then never be seen again until whenever the next time would be. Like that was my role; like I was playing my role. I could do that. Then this freshman girl who’s so all into life, like an integral part of it; or more, like it all revolves around her. Like she’s actually living life, and I’m…what, like a side-show freak or something. Hmm, makes you wonder. Maybe there’s more to it than I thought, or was accustomed to. Not that I hadn’t always thought of that. Thinking someday I’d blossom into the worlds greatest…something or other. And here’s this cute little kid already blossomed into more than I was ever going to be ever. How’d that happen. Geez, I remember when I was a freshman, that was pretty terrible. Got all these new kids from all the little schools around the county; and all the upperclassmen all bigger, older than me. Like
starting at the bottom all over again, working my way down. Pretty much afraid of…everything, I guess, all the pretty girls, all the tough guys and bullies. Probably even afraid of the teachers, I don’t know. Like a little timid mouse, a nerdy little geek. I suppose everybody would’ve thought of me that way. I certainly did. In Latin class, I’m flunking, don’t know what the hell’s going on with that stuff. But nice old priest gives me a ‚C‛ anyway, because that’s the way he is. I’m sitting there in the back of the class, quiet as a little mouse, and the lesson’s over for today. Everybody’s talking and laughing, getting ready for the bell to ring. And me of course, I’m studying the Latin book, trying to figure this shit out. There beside me, Carla Berenson’s got these movie star looks, man I aint kidding you. If a producer or director ever saw her, they’d say ‚girl you got movie star looks.‛ Gets up from her desk and straightens up her blouse; tucks it down tight into her skirt, like that. Makes her incredible breasts stick out even more and me sitting there just dumbfounded amazed, like seein a vision from God. Can you imagine me ever going out with a girl like that? No, I didn’t think so. I could never imagine that either. She goes out with juniors and seniors, anyway. I mean if there’s like rungs or an ascending order of society, she’d be so far up there, so high up. Never even be able to see me down here on the bottom. In four years of school we take about all the same classes, I don’t think she ever even said ‚hi‛ to me. Why would she, why should she. Be like not stepping on a bug, maybe. If you think of it, you don’t do it, but doesn’t really matter one way or the other. In football practice back then, little geeky freshmen like me get to hold tackling dummies for the varsity players to smash into. Fun stuff. The coolest thing was, these little canvas-covered inner tubes that you hold in front of you like a target or something. The big mean senior guys run hard as they can and smash into you with such terrific impact, see how high up you fly before landing on your back on the hard frozen ground. See, first your back hits the ground. Then your head inside helmet hits the ground just a
fraction of a second later. Splat and then splat, see. I loved that one, lived for that one. Scary shit. Then Coach decides the linemen are getting nothing out of just hitting into each other. Need an object to focus on, a real live tackling dummy. Picks me. Every play I’m handed the ball to run into the line and get tackled. Play after play, line up and do it again. That was great, perfect. Can’t possibly hurt me anymore than I hurt already just being me. And me not believing in anything, I look up to these seniors like they’re gods, literally, like hero worship. Thinking they be so cool and tough and smart and witty; backtalkin the principal and all that kinda stuff. So whenever they treat me like a piece of shit, I pretty much just agree with them. Now being a senior thinking I’d be all cool and something or somebody like those guys were, and actually have some fun in life. Get something out of it. Problem is, I’m still me. What a comedown that is, not even anyone to look up to anymore. ‘Cause I got about zero admiration for anybody in my own class, except maybe Carla Berenson. She just gets better looking every day, if that’s possible. And maybe Sherry Linten, she’s such a sweet pretty girl, such captivating eyes. You could get lost in those beautiful shining eyes. And there’re other people too, if I’d want to be honest about it, like Lucy Collier. Can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t think that skinny little blonde girl wasn’t about as squeezable as a kid could be. But she comes from a good family, wealthy, not my kind of attainable person. Would be nice though. And of course I still look up to my friend Richie Mickelson. Such a super star athlete, always was, and such a cool guy anyway. I suppose they’re all pretty decent, nice people. But not like looking up to someone, like I always did; like I always felt comfortable with. When I was a junior, all those senior guys were like big brothers to me. They’d take care of me on the football field. And I’d go riding around with them, drinking beer, being cool,
hanging out with all my big brothers. Like fitting in, belonging to something. Now it’s like ‚we here‛ and we nowhere. Geez, school spirit, just can’t get into it. Everybody’s getting somewhere now, becoming something, blooming into whatever they bloom into. But not me. Or maybe nobody’s becoming anything. Just skating by; thinking time and the years gone by done made us into something, whatever it was supposed to. We be the result of that, and must be something good, right, or okay at least ‘cause we here. At least that’s the feeling I get. Let down, expected something better, something magical, something meaningful. A transformation, if you will, becoming something…but just nothing, like being hoodwinked. It never happened, or probably it did and I missed it, was absent that day. So depressing, all I do is stare out the window, watch the little grade school kids playing. Wish I was one of them, knowing it’s not possible, never will be. Why do I do this, why even be…just all worthless to even think about it. And that little freshman girl, her name’s Katie, by the way. About the opposite of me in every possible way you could be. Later I find out she’s the president of her freshman class, and a member of the mathematics team that goes out to competitions or whatever, all that kind of stuff. ‚How do people just fall into that‛ Deke would say. Oblivious to the fact that you gotta go out and do it, actually work for it and attain it, as it were. I mean it doesn’t just happen, I don’t think. But you know, I actually did run for president of the senior class. And this is funny, that girl Katie, her older brother was the guy I chose to be my vice president. Thinking he such a cute kid, all the girls would vote for us, or for him anyway. Had this wonderful campaign concept; running against my old friend Sammy who, like I said’s the quarterback of the football team and all this and that long list of stuff. Got banners and posters on the walls saying vote for him and stuff like that. So I tear off a little tiny piece of his banner, and write vote for me on it. Thought it
was…like kind of an anti-effort type thing. People would be able to appreciate that, right. Well that didn’t happen. We got six votes, I think. So I suppose that’s five votes for Kyle, and then my one vote. I mean, a friend of mine even comes up to me and says ‚Doug, I wanted to vote for you, y’know, but…well this is like a responsible position and all, and…you know it was either you or Sammy, so…‛ God, nice to know you can count on your friends to see your true qualities, so well hidden from my peers. I thought I was gonna win too. What a bunch of…well, it was a good idea anyway. Could’ve gone over to Kyle’s house; discuss school policies and look at his little sister. That’d be nice. Of course I’m too honest or got too much integrity to use people like that. That’s my explanation. Truth is, I’m too stupid to think up clever ideas like that. At least I got to tease Kyle; tell him he cost us the election. No truth to that, either. Makes me stop and think. Yeah…sure, he’s just like his little sister, isn’t he; or vice versa. The kind of people who get somewhere, accomplish things; aggressively pursue getting what they want, what they deserve; getting something out of life. Not just ‚fall into things‛ like me and Deke be thinking’s the only reason why good things happen to other people and not us. I mean, I like Deke’s explanation and all. Fits perfectly with never trying, or not very hard anyway. Never getting anywhere and then thinking those who do are sorta just lucky is all. Waiting on that luck to strike us some day, like finding money on the street. But no, this is different, I got it all wrong. It aint my bad misfortunate no luck a’tall. It’s this anti-effort approach that seem so all cool and everything, but is just really basic failure from the get go. Setting yourself up to fail and then somehow someway being surprised when it happens. A couple of years ago, me and my buds be sitting way down on the far end of the bench on the jv basketball team. Sitting there deliberately ‘cause we good players and all, and thinking
‚yeah coach, we down here, you caint see us, but we down here. And at just what point in losing this game do y’think yer gonna finally put us in so’s we can play, huh.‛ Kyle, he’s sitting there next to the coach, right beside him. Always talking to him about the game. So of course he gets to go in, while we sit there and watch and curse. Used to always make fun of him for that. Even had a routine about it and all, and people got a kick out of it. Then in some intramural-type pick up game, I get to play against him. And you know I gotta prove a point right; make a statement. We get the opening tip, ball comes to me and I go in for a lay up. Cool, except the little rascal blocks my shot. Blocks my goddamned lay up, mind you. Son of a bitch, that aint cool. Then even turns the table. Gots ball goin in for lay up, I block his shot; but no. He holds ball at arm’s length, flips with fingers over and around my outstretched arm. Shot go in, goddamn. Kid got game. My point wholly totally not made. But at least now I got some respect for him as a player. And even then still missing the point. The point is, he wants to play. That’s pretty much what he’s doing going out for basketball in the first place, duh. So he does whatever be needed to get to that goal. Cool, okay, the anti-effort thing aint as efficacious. Why didn’t I think of that. I mean, like last year in football, if we way ahead or got a lead they aint gonna catch, you put the backup guys in, late in the game. And I be still in there too, being only a junior then. So when new guy linebacker waiting to see what runner gonna do, I push him in the back. Like get in there and hit the boy, son, that’s what we do out here. Aggression. Like I said, a one-trick pony. Can only do this one thing. But really, is all the same. Applies to everything. Like I’d a put three entire roles a tape on my knee just to play football. Even stop and add more in front of the pep club bleachers, just so’s they’d know. But what would I ever do to meet Kyle’s little sister,
huh. You see, there’s a point to all this shit and it aint about luck. Them kids, you can learn stuff from ‘em if you pay attention.
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Mikael Covey hails from the genteel old South, where flowering dogwoods come bursting out of spring rain. His family moved north to a small town in Nebraska â€ša garden of eden for kids; until we ruined it.â€› He attended various colleges and universities, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. He studied literature and philosophy, then joined the Air Force and spent a couple of years in Panama, and several more in Italy. Currently he lives in Dakota with his little girl; where he writes books and other stuff and edits Lit Up Magazine. Mikael believes we are what we read, from Homer and the various Bibles, on down through Shakespeare and Hemingway. Societyâ€™s customs, morals, and teachings come to us from literature. And just as there are directions for how to do most anything, writers provide this same guidance for how to live.
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