Yesterday I wrote, "One of the great modern novels is Burning Babies by Noah Cicero. It is Noah's best novel [which is saying something, because Treatise and The Insurgent are also excellent]. No one has published it, and someone needs to." Today I'm publishing the first chapter of it here. When I first read it, a friend gave me the galley (a small press was going to publish it, then decided not to at the last minute) at lunch and I opened it, read the first few sentences, and said, "This guy can't even use commas, it looks like a kid wrote it... I'm not reading this." But I took it anyway and happened to pick it up one Saturday and read the whole thing. Seriously, take a few minutes to read to the end of this chapter, which isn't very long. It was when I got to the very end of the first chapter that I was like, "Okay, fair--I need to read all of this." The below is copied and pasted here from a Word doc Noah sent me a while ago.
Death of an Outlaw
“I’m going to kill myself,” said Josey into a cell phone in Kentucky.
“Oh, don’t do that. You’ll go to hell,” said his mother from her house in Youngstown.
“I’m serious you fucking assholes!”
Josey was in a poorly painted gray van that was once red.
He had to paint the van gray because THEY were coming he said.
Josey was convinced people were coming for him.
Josey was right.
Two days earlier THEY found him.
Beat the fuck out of him, busted up his genitals, and left him for dead.
He crawled to the hospital and stayed there for two days.
That was somewhere in Georgia.
Now he was driving his van down the Kentucky highway to Ohio, to Youngstown, his home, where he’d matured into an unhealthy fucked-up adult.
The conversation continued.
“Josey, you can’t kill yourself, I love you.”
“I can’t take it anymore! I’m serious, I can’t fucking take it.”
They randomly spoke like this as he drove home.
Josey screamed in the van, pounded his fists on the steeling wheel, punched himself in the face, wringing his hands, growling, making fists, crying, bawling, screaming, wailing! He screamed, “Fuck you all, who am I! Fuck fuck fuck! WHY! WHY! WHY! How did this happen! Can’t someone make this stop! Can’t someone help me! Fuck fuck fuck!”
He drove for hours and hours like that.
Going home to where he grew up, to parents that never cared about him.
Going home to a place where no one cares about anyone.
There is no time to care, work must be done.
And when the time-clock is punched, errands like going to the bank, writing out bills, sending boxes, buying toothpaste, eating ice-cream, checking your credit report, going to the dentist, back doctor, psychic, and Asian Spa must be done.
Shit must be done; there is no time for friendship, no time for sex, romance, conversations, swimming, relaxation, no time for happiness. Work must be done!
Josey had done his work.
It gave no rewards.
Josey graduated high school with good grades. No scholarship, no money, no sex for that.
Josey graduated from a state university with a business degree because his parents said he should go.
No rewards for that.
What does the world of free-market Information Age business want with a kid who has a business degree from a
state university, nothing, jack shit, no rewards there, no sex, no big house in Burbank, no 1970 mint-condition Camero, nothing but wasted time and money.
So there was Josey a thirty-year-old man wearing dirty underwear, jeans with holes in them, a mullet, and shirt with beer and coffee stains on it driving a shitty fucked up looking van down a shitty highway to his shitty home where no one cared he existed.
Josey continued to scream and holler at the top of his lungs while running the thoughts through his head.
Should I kill myself!
Should I not kill myself!
Josey didn’t recite Hamlet’s speech in his head, but it resembled it. Hamlet’s speech is in no way special; it is what all humans who kill themselves say in their heads while deciding to pop a cap in their face.
Josey didn’t know Hamlet’s speech either.
He went to college but didn’t know shit about literature, painting, or classical music.
He didn’t care, why should he?
A lot of people have read Hamlet and continued to kill themselves.
People committing suicide always make some kind of fantastic wager like if there is a shooting star in the next five minutes I won’t hang myself from this tree, or if the wind blows east I won’t do it.
I assume Josey thought of a similar concept.
He was probably like, “If the next car is blue, I won’t kill myself.”
Well, the next car that passed was blue, but he still wanted to kill himself.
He screamed in horror!
Smacked the dashboard!
Punched his own face!
But there was no answer.
Josey was out there alone..
Full of violence!
Other people seemed like aliens, non-humans, beasts.
How could he feel anything but that, his parents apprenticed him and their other two boys like little businesses competing against each other for attention the parents were never willing to give.
His mother was a useless factory worker who would have worked at a fast-food-restaurant if it wasn’t for getting hired at the factory.
But since she did get hired at the factory she thought she was an elite member of the bourgeoisie.
She wasn’t, she was white trash.
A no-good narcissist who thinks Africa is a country, and Reagan was a great president.
She came from truck-driving stock that voted Republican because the rich do as she liked to say.
She wasn’t rich and neither were her family, they are a bunch of sluts, child-molesters, benny addicts, racists, misogynists, and losers.
Josey’s father was Sicilian mobster trash, the kind who blow buildings up, have people shot in their supermarket parking lots, rob their way into political offices, own booze stores, and basically are lazy and have cheated their way through life.
Which is fine with me, but they make lousy parents.
Josey decided to kill himself, the die had been cast, whatever that means.
He pulled the van over to the side of the highway.
He picked up his shotgun, loaded one bullet, and stepped out of the van.
Went over to the side of the van.
Put the gun in his mouth.
What are the very last thoughts of a person who actually kills themselves, who actually does it knowing there is no escape from the choice they have made. I don’t know.
I’m not going to assume that I know either. I’m not an asshole.
Well, he had the end of the gun in his mouth.
Nothing happened, Josey died, that was all.
A huge hole was in the back of Josey’s head.
Josey no longer moved.
His heart stopped.
His thoughts stopped.
Nothing remained of Josey.
No more fun for Josey.
No more dancing.
Tying his shoes.
Putting on his shirt.
Needing to impress anyone.
Having to care of what other people think about him.
Needing to sell his labor to cheap no-good assholes.
Need to hope.
Saying cheese when taking pictures.
Fourth of July.
Josey died, and the world went on without him.
I don’t know if he has a tombstone I’ve never been to his grave.
Perhaps it is unmarked.
It should be.
It should say:
Here Lies an Outlaw
Because that is what he was in his last years an outlaw.
I think he was a drug runner for the Mexicans.
Don’t know though, but that’s everybody’s guess.
His heroes were from the movies like all good American kids. A lot of outlaws; moon-shiners were his favorite. Being a moon-shiner wasn’t in big demand when he became an outlaw, but drugs were, and that’s what he did.
My mother always said to me, “Monco, when starting a book, always start with a suicide, a murder, or a rape.”
So, I started the book with suicide; it’s her own son’s, so I hope she’s not mad. But since I had the chance of impressing her by using her advice I did it anyway..
I hope she is very happy with that first chapter.