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Authors: Craig Lancaster

This Is What I Want

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PRAISE FOR CRAIG LANCASTER’S BOOKS

600 Hours of Edward

“Mr. Lancaster’s journey . . . into the imaginative pages of fiction was one well taken, for himself, for readers and certainly for the lovingly created Edward Stanton.”


Montana Quarterly

 

“A masterful blend of character and action.”

—Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

 

The Summer Son

“A classic western tale of rough lives and gruff, dangerous men, of innocence betrayed and long, stumbling journeys to love.”


Booklist

 

Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure

“Have you ever felt in your pocket and found a twenty you didn’t know you had; how ’bout a hundred dollar bill, or a Montecristo cigar or a 24-karat diamond? That’s what reading Craig Lancaster’s
Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure
is like—close and discovered treasures.”

—Craig Johnson, author of the Walt Longmire novels

 

Edward Adrift

“Mr. Lancaster has triumphed again. With remarkable speed, he has made himself into one of Montana’s most important writers.”


The Billings Outpost

 

The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter

“This story ties it all together, from the boxer and the writer’s eyes—the struggling middle, the bright beginning, and the path toward the end for Hugo Hunter and this Montana collection of characters. It’s about the fraternity of the lost, and the tales they tell each other on their way back.”

—Tim Kawakami, award-winning sports columnist,
San Jose Mercury News

 

“To describe
The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter
as ‘a story about a boxer and a sports reporter’ would be too limiting. It’s a story about the human condition, and about how, for better or worse, we all need each other.”

—Elisa Lorello, author of
Faking It
and
She Has Your Eyes

ALSO BY CRAIG LANCASTER

600 Hours of Edward

The Summer Son

Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure

Edward Adrift

The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

Text copyright © 2015 Craig Lancaster

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by Lake Union Publishing, Seattle

www.apub.com

 

Amazon, the Amazon logo, and Lake Union Publishing are trademarks of
Amazon.com
, Inc., or its affiliates.

 

 

ISBN-13: 9781503945111

ISBN-10: 1503945111

 

Cover design by David Drummond

For Angie, my friend. Still. And for the Buckley and Pederson clans. Thank you for letting me be part of your lives.

CONTENTS

The New York Times, Saturday, August 1, 2015

THURSDAY

SAM

NORBY

PATRICIA

THE MAYOR

MAMA

SAM

NORBY

PATRICIA

THE MAYOR

The New York Times, Saturday, August 1, 2015

FRIDAY

THE CHIEF

THE MAYOR

PATRICIA

OMAR

NORBY

THE CHIEF

SAM

PATRICIA

OMAR

THE CHIEF

MAMA

NORBY

THE CHIEF

PATRICIA

OMAR

MAMA

RALEIGH

PATRICIA

The New York Times, Saturday, August 1, 2015

SATURDAY

THE CHIEF

THE MAYOR

SAM

NORBY

DOREEN

OMAR

THE CHIEF

MAMA

THE MAYOR

NORBY

MAMA

PATRICIA

SAM

THE MAYOR

THE CHIEF

The New York Times, Saturday, August 1, 2015

SATURDAY NIGHT

THE MAYOR

SAM

MAMA

NORBY

OMAR

THE CHIEF

NORBY (SAMUEL)

The New York Times, Saturday, August 1, 2015

SUNDAY

PATRICIA

SAM

SAMUEL

MAMA

SAM

THE CHIEF

THE MAYOR

OMAR

SAMUEL

RALEIGH

PATRICIA

SAM

THE CHIEF

PATRICIA

The New York Times, Saturday, August 1, 2015

MONDAY

THE CHIEF

SAM

PATRICIA

THE MAYOR

OMAR

SAMUEL

RALEIGH

DOREEN

SAM

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The New York Times
,
Saturday, August 1, 2015

 

In Oil Country, a Struggle to Maintain Tradition Amid Change

 

GRANDVIEW, Mont.—Fifteen years ago, this town of 600 people, in the northeast corner of the fourth-largest state and a stone’s throw from the North Dakota border, put up signs on both ends of the highway that passes through it. The signs herald it as “Montana’s Original Article—Where the Past Is Always Present.”
Town leaders say the signs were meant to entice passers-through to stop and visit the charming if a bit rough-hewn burg, which was founded 100 years ago on sugar beets and a can-do spirit.
But the year 2000 was a different time, and Grandview, sitting on the edge of the biggest domestic oil play since Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay, is a different place.
Those differences, some say, threaten to transform Grandview, and the region, into something that can’t be reconciled with what came before. Those fearful of such changes say it’s already happening, pointing to a free flow of oil money and the associated social ills that have irreparably blighted the local economies of scale and the region’s cultural heritage.
Others, some of them prominent leaders of not only Grandview but also the region at large, say progress cannot and should not be derailed, that the issue facing the area is one of managing the changes.
Whatever the case, it prompts the question: How does a plucky town such as Grandview, invested in its past as much as its present, find its way in this brave new, oil-soaked world?

THURSDAY

SAM

Even at eleven in the morning, the distant badlands shimmered from Sam Kelvig’s vantage point on Telegraph Hill, the refracted heat waves licking at the horizon like a campfire. He tugged the bill of his ball cap low over his eyes, then reached for the binoculars and drew them up. Not even noon, ninety-two degrees, the hottest part of the day still to come, and the blast furnace of August lurking in the near future.
Damn,
Sam thought,
a guy could almost wish for October and an early snow. Almost.

He started his scan from the northeast, as always, where the edge of town eroded into the bend of the highway. A half mile down the road, a flashing yellow light signaled Williston to the left, Watford City straight ahead, two boomtowns tucked into the folds of scoria far beyond Sam’s searching eyes. North Dakota. The Bakken oil formation, and all that goes with it. In all his fifty-three years, Sam had been happy to keep his feet largely in Montana, thank you very much. He’d enjoyed the innate superiority of being a Montanan in a border town. He might well be a farm boy, but at least he wasn’t some mud-hut dweller from across the line.

That kind of self-regard was a product of another time, however. Now, the rush was on, and it seemed that every eastern Montana kid with a willingness to work—and more than a few shiftless layabouts—was being pulled across the border, drawn by oil that never ran dry and the promise of ninety grand a year. It made Sam sick sometimes to think of this: how easily the money flowed out there, and how hard he’d had to work throughout his own life to make that kind of dough. He remembered well the first year he and Patricia had seen more than fifty grand on their tax return, the way they’d looked at each other as if their fleet of ships had come in. Now the dropout kid next door made more than Sam did.

With that came another shift in thought, and he was back where he so often landed these days. It seemed sometimes that Grandview High pumped out the kids onto a conveyor belt to the oil fields, but his own son had run, hard and fast, in the other direction. Patricia, ever the optimist in the ways of family, kept saying Samuel Junior would be coming home this weekend. Sam wasn’t inclined to believe it until he saw it.

Just beyond the state line lay the nest of simple white mobile housing units, the man camp for the rig that rose like a ship’s mast on the flat land in the middle of Sam’s view. He telescoped in. “Sonsabitches,” he said. “Gonna have to keep an eye on them.” He said it aloud, as if he weren’t alone on Telegraph Hill, as if an absent conspirator might intuitively understand the rotten trade-offs inherent in an oil play. By night, the men shuffled westward into Montana—more particularly, and more galling to Sam, into Grandview—to drink whiskey and chase women, and while the Double Musky and Pete’s Café might enjoy the fattening bottom line, others in town were paying the freight. Sam himself had found a nineteen-year-old kid up from Oklahoma curled into a ball in his garage one morning, sleeping off a drunk. While the young man was properly apologetic in his startled sobriety, that experience had changed things. Sam locked his doors at night now, and so did his neighbors. Parents told their children not to talk to strangers and to avoid certain parts of town after a certain hour—in a burg of six hundred souls, who would have imagined that a town could be so segmented? Not so long ago, there were no strangers, Sam often lamented to his pals down at the Country Basket.

He let the binoculars drop to his chest, then he pulled a bandanna from his back pocket and wiped his brow. At the Farm and Feed, before leaving on an early lunch break for this reconnaissance mission, Sam had looked up the ten-day forecast on the office computer and braced himself for the result. The third week in July was reliably a cooker, and this year looked to be no exception: high nineties across the board for the weekend, with brief scatterings of rain in the evenings. Good for the sugar beets, but not so for the humidity. It was a reminder that they’d need to double the number of water stations around the park. Last year, a few biddies were laid low with heatstroke during the homecoming parade. Sam didn’t want that to happen again, not on his watch.

Binoculars up again, he fixated on Clancy Park. Some of the heavier set pieces had already taken root—the dunking tank, the kiddie Ferris wheel, and Alfonso’s Funky Taco truck, on the corner adjacent to the Double Musky so Alfonso Medeiros wouldn’t have far to crawl every night while Dea, bless her heart, ran things. Every year, it seemed, Alfonso engaged in some bit of inebriated foolery that put him in dutch with the town fathers, and every year poor, sweet Dea made a successful plea to keep the family’s festival permit. They stayed afloat on a summer’s receipts, hitting the various eastern Montana carnivals, and losing Grandview would be a crippling blow to Alfonso and Dea, and to their four kids.

Sam panned around the expanse of green. His mind’s eye held the layout. In two days, the town would swell to about three times its normal population, and the park would be the center of it all, the venue for a weekend of community breakfasts, sack races, bingo, face painting, a quilt auction, food, drink, merriment.

The official name of the weekend party was the Greater Grandview Old-Timers’ Jamboree, but nobody called it that anymore. It was, simply, Jamboree, no definite article needed. Sam had inherited the leadership mantle from his Uncle Rick, who took it from Sam’s daddy, Herschel, when Big Hersch up and died in ’86 of the throat cancer nobody saw coming. For the better part of that summer, Big Hersch had nursed a wicked cough that no one really noticed, and then—boom—he finally sees a doctor and gets a death sentence. In the aftermath, Sam guessed everyone just figured his daddy was invincible, until it was obvious he wasn’t.

Next, Sam examined the knot of streets adjacent to the park. There, at the abandoned grain bins, was the parade staging area. He had commitments from twenty-four Grandview High classes to build floats or, more likely, to use flatbed trucks that would allow the returning grads to sit up straight in their folding chairs. Once Sam figured in the rest—the police car and the water tender and the American Legion and the classic-car club and Bobby Jensen’s rusted-out ’77 Bronco that had become a stale joke and everybody else—this year’s parade stacked up as the biggest ever. They’d have to snake the lineup clear back to Dawson County, he’d joked to Patricia that morning.

Sam capped the binoculars and set them on the hood of his F-150, then he checked his watch. 11:21. Time enough to scoot down to Pete’s for a patty melt before he had to be back at the store. He leaned against the grille of the pickup, content with his progress. A lot of work went into this thing, much more than anyone outside of Patricia could even imagine, but it satisfied him just the same. Big Herschel used to tell him that it took a certain kind of man to make things move in a town like Grandview, and Herschel Kelvig would have known, because Herschel Kelvig was that kind of man. That was the model, the expectation, for Sam. So he’d enjoy this, the realization of all his hard work, same as he basked in the opportunity to address the high school graduates at the baccalaureate service every May. He’d earned the good tidings coming his way. The uncertainty, too, for that matter.

A series of honks—like a car alarm but syncopated in a way that suggested a manual application—invaded his reverie. Sam cupped his hands around the bill of his cap and ran his eyes along Main Street, looking for the source. Alongside the Country Basket, he found something familiar, the green Dodge pickup belonging to Henrik. A window came down and an arm emerged, waving wildly as the honking resumed. From his viewpoint a good 250 yards away, Sam couldn’t make sense of the gesticulating.

He reached back, shucked the binoculars out of their case, and brought them to his eyes again. Some minor adjustments zeroed Henrik’s arm into sharp relief. At the end of it waved a middle finger. Sam couldn’t see through the windshield for the glare, but he could make a pretty good guess what was going on inside the cab. Henrik would be scoping Sam out and shouting invective as if Sam could hear him, the dumb lug.

“He’s glassing me,” Sam said as he raised his own middle finger to the breeze. “Well, up yours, too, big brother.”

BOOK: This Is What I Want
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