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My collection Degrees of Elevation: Short Stories of Contemporary Appalachia (edited by Charles Dodd White and Page Seay) includes a story by Mindy Beth Miller entitled “Real Good Man”. I’m not familiar with the author and could not find much on the internet about her other than she has connections to Hazard, Kentucky and Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky. I read this story when I selected the Queen of Clubs for Week 20 of my Deal Me In 2017 short story project. My Deal Me In list can be found here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
“Real Good Man” comes as a pleasant surprise from a new-to-me author even if it wasn’t a story with a pleasant topic. Paul and Desta live somewhere in the mountains (I’ll guess its Kentucky but that’s only a guess) and Paul has had a difficult time holding down a job. While this frustrates Desta, she appears to want to stand by her husband.
The majority of the story comes from Paul’s point of view as he wanders around town trying to make sense of things and trying to find a job – not succeeding at either of them.
Miller grasps the complexity of the unemployed as Paul teeters between comdemning himself and condemning others. As with many of the stories I’ve read that are set in Appalachia, the landscape and natural world play an important part but the beauty of the stars in the night sky doesn’t take away the desperation Paul feels during the day.
As Paul wanders the almost deserted town, he stops by an antique shop because Hess, the owner happens to be sitting outside. Much like a sage, Hess offers Paul his point of view:
“People just flat don’t care,” Hess said, holding out his hand. “Their world is not your world. They don’t see you in it.”