Deal Me In 2020 – Week 5
Friday night and Earl has a taste for chicken. The craving slipped up on him, fox-like, sometime late in the afternoon. Tonight, he doesn’t want Ruth’s Crispy or Wanda’s Golden Fried or chicken from any of the other joints in town.
In Lisa Koger’s short story “Bypass”, Earl is trapped in a loveless marriage and a small town he had hoped to leave a long time ago. And she brilliantly encompasses these unfulfilled desires in Earl’s craving for fried chicken on a Friday night. He eagerly buys a chicken that he hopes he and his wife can fry together. Of course, this doesn’t happen; however, Earl doesn’t let this keep him from doing it himself.
As odd as this sounds, Koger makes this story work. I couldn’t help but root for Earl as he attempts to do something that might at least temporarily bring him out of the doldrums in which he finds himself. Earl isn’t just grabbing a frying pan. He’s taking one step, even if it’s a small one, away from the depression that can keep him locked up and tied down. Though the ending doesn’t reveal how far Earl gets, I feel there’s hope somewhere in the future for him.
The title refers to the highway that goes around Earl’s hometown of Farlanburg but it might represent more:
Earl didn’t want the bypass, and he has nothing to sell. He’s suspicious of people who spend millions of dollars to take him around something when he can see more by passing through.
Going only by my personal enjoyment, of the five stories I’ve read so far in 2020, this is my favorite. It’s one of the best stories I’ve read about middle-age. It’s included in Home and Beyond: An Anthology of Kentucky Short Stories edited by Morris Allen Grubbs. I read it when I selected the Jack of Clubs for Week 5 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.
Have you read any stories about middle-age? Which ones would you recommend?