My lips were stained emergency orange
Electric Lit relies on contributions from our readers to help make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. Please support our work by becoming a member today, or making a one-time donation here.
We’re delighted to present this week’s Recommended Reading, “A Good Deuce.” Guest editor Rob Spillman of Tin House says this short story — set in the “lower-class world of emotionally stunted teens, a bleak yet vibrant land a million miles away from the shiny, happy America of TV and advertising” — blew him away. It’s not hard to see why:
“I was on my second bag of doritos and my lips were stained emergency orange when my best friend, Phillip, said he knew a bar in Hallelujah Junction that didn’t card, and maybe we should go there. We had been sitting in my living room for eighteen or nineteen hours watching Robert Redford movies, where Redford had gone from square-jawed, muscled, and rugged to looking like a blanched piece of beef jerky, and we had watched it go from dark to light to dark again through the break in the curtains. The coroner had wheeled my mother out all those hours ago and my grandma Hannah had stalked down the sidewalk with her fists closed and locked at her side, insisting that a dead body had every right to stay in the house for as long as the family wanted it there.”
— From “A Good Deuce” by Jodi Angel
Editor’s Note — Rob Spillman:
Two years ago at the Tomales Bay Writers’ Workshop, north of San Francisco, I went to a reading with Tin House favorites Ron Carlson and Dorothy Allison, both of whom we’ve published multiple times… Another author was sandwiched in between whom I had never heard of — Jodi Angel. Carlson and Allison are both astonishing, captivating readers, yet Angel somehow upstaged them both with her reading of “A Good Deuce,” her story of a rural California teen dealing with the aftermath of a mother’s overdose… I was blown away.
But I wondered if it was only her delivery — deadpan, direct, through a veil of dark hair hanging over her face, her leather jacket adding to her overall vibe of “Why’d you drag me out of the biker bar to make me tell you this story?” Afterward, I took the story out of Angel’s hands to see if it was as good on the page as it was in the ether. It was. And is. Later, she told me she wrote the story in one sitting, only a few days before, because she needed something new to read. Angel works stories over in her head, sometimes for months at a time, without writing down a single word, then, when she can’t take it anymore, gets it all down. “A Good Deuce” needed hardly any edits or copy edits. Her “first draft” was nearly flawless.
About Recommended Reading:
Great authors inspire us. But what about the stories that inspire them? Recommended Reading, a magazine by Electric Literature, publishes one story a week, each chosen by today’s best authors or editors.