Posted in Short Stories

Lisa Koger: Bypass

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?

5 thoughts on “Lisa Koger: Bypass

  1. Hi Dale,
    Great review & one that makes me want to read the story. I love it when authors take us places in an ‘unconventional’ mode of ‘literary transportation.’ Who would have thought fried chicken craving would open the portal to a story like this… Good work!
    -Jay

    1. This one did take me by surprise. Based on the title, I wasn’t thinking it would anything special. The story is in a collection by the author called “Farlanburg Stories” published in the 80’s. I’m not even sure it’s in print anymore.

  2. Not going to lie, reading your review made me hungry for some fried chicken! Koger is another author that is new to me so thank you for bringing her to my attention. Admittedly, I have not read many southern writers other than the more notable ones like Faulkner, O’Connor and more recently, Eudora Welty. I tend to be drawn towards these slice-of-life stories about small-town Americana so I’ll keep this on my radar. Thanks Dale!

    1. From what little information I have about her, she gathered some acclaim in the 80’s with a collection of short stories called “Farlanburg Stories” about a small town in Kentucky or West Virginia – I’m not sure which. I don’t think it’s in print anymore and I’m not sure what else she has written. But this was a great story and I might try to find a copy of the collection.

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