ABOUT THE BOOK
BOOK: FOLK SONGS BY TRAUMA SURGEONS by Keith Rosson
RELEASE DATE: FEB 23, 2021
GENRE: Collection / Speculative Fiction / Magical Realism / Literary
BOOK PAGE: https://meerkatpress.com/books/folksongs/
With Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons, award-winning author Keith Rosson delves into notions of family, grief, identity, indebtedness, loss, and hope, with the surefooted merging of literary fiction and magical realism he’s explored in previous novels. In “Dunsmuir,” a newly sober husband buys a hearse to help his wife spread her sister’s ashes, while “The Lesser Horsemen” illustrates what happens when God instructs the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to go on a team-building cruise as a way of boosting their frayed morale. In “Brad Benske and the Hand of Light,” an estranged husband seeks his wife’s whereabouts through a fortuneteller after she absconds with a cult, and in “High Tide,” a grieving man ruminates on his brother’s life as a monster terrorizes their coastal town. With grace, imagination, and a brazen gallows humor, Folk Songs for Trauma Surgeons merges the fantastic and the everyday, and includes a number of Rosson’s unpublished stories, as well as award-winning favorites.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Rosson is the author of the novels The Mercy of the Tide (2017, Meerkat Press) and Smoke City (2018, Meerkat Press). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.
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Excerpt from “The Lesser Horseman” by Keith Rosson
THE LESSER HORSEMEN
Call Him whatever you want: The Good Lord, Jehovah, Yahweh, The Beginning and The End, God; we loved Him and we feared Him, and perhaps it was intentional but when He was in human form, we were also a bit disgusted by Him. Disgusted because He seemed, in all honesty, like a cad. A scumbag. Seemed, in fact, to revel in it. To become so abjectly the type of man who sucked his teeth and followed with his small and shiny doll eyes as young girls passed by on the street, his hand in his pocket; the type who relieved himself at bus stops and shouldered old ladies aside for a better seat somewhere; a man who when in restaurants left very small tips, in coins, as some kind of statement. A man who stank of cheap cologne and had hair, probably, riding up his back in the shape of a Spanish moss.
Our palaver had long become toxic.
The handouts He gave us featured a smiling cruise ship amid a cobalt sea, a smiling sun perched above, and smiling clouds scattered around. There was even, I saw, a smiling seagull perched on the deck’s railing. He sold it to us as part vacation, part team-building exercise. He used those exact words. His office sat across the street from the methadone program they ran out of St. Joe’s, and you could see the clusters of addicts hanging out, bullshitting out front after they’d gotten their dose, people loose-limbed in the sun and happy now to be alive again.
It was a five-night, six-day cruise from Portland to Glacier Bay, Alaska, He said. “Real nice. All the amenities. Shuffleboard, Wi-Fi, breakfast buffet. They even got a little paintballing gallery below deck. You guys can get some of your aggressions out, shoot each other in the beanbags and whatnot.”
“This an optional trip?” I asked, and the Good Lord laughed.
Famine said, “Death isn’t coming, I take it.”
“Don’t worry about Death,” He said.
There were four of us, of course, but you’d never know it—Death for millennia now on his own trip, the three of us continually left in his wake.
War said, “Don’t worry about him? And that means what, exactly?” and the Good Lord fixed him with a warning look. Quick enough, but filled with that terrible distance that none of us, not even Death on his best day, could come close to matching.
He pointed a finger at the three of us. “Listen. Death isn’t the problem here, okay? You dicks got me?”
Was I pissed, hearing this? I mean, do I even have to say it? When had Death ever been a problem, right? No, the impetus was always on us, the fractured thirds. This trio of recalcitrance.
War couldn’t help himself; he snorted contemptuously, exhaled a cloud of anthrax that settled on his shoulders like dandruff.
The Good Lord popped a butterscotch candy into his mouth, cracked it like a femur between his teeth. He shook His head. “Nah, it’s you three I have issues with. The sniping, okay? The constant infighting. It showcases a serious lack of cohesion as a department, is what I’m saying. Even now? Handing Me this attitude? It’s bullcrap, is what. So here’s the deal: you go on the cruise, you eat some tacos, play some bocce ball, whatever. And do these team-building exercises. Learn to trust each other again. Talk it out. Because as it stands now, you’re just straight up screwing the brand, okay? You’ve become ineffective.”
“Except for Death,” Famine muttered, toeing the carpet with a duct-taped high top.
“You’re goddamn right except for Death!” the Good Lord roared, and slapped his desk hard enough to make his coffee cup jump. The addicts across the street, without knowing why, suddenly remembered pressing engagements and drifted away. All of them unanimously stricken with unease. This one little outburst and I could imagine all too well a mine collapse in some crumbling shithole town in Kentucky somewhere, a tsunami or mudslide enveloping some poor third-world enclave, thousands of bodies snuffed to lifelessness within moments. It wasn’t a heartlessness—you could say a lot of things about Him, but the guy felt everything very strongly, was seized at times with feelings—but there was, what seemed to me at least, an unawareness of environment or consequence that could sometimes be construed as cruel or uncaring.
Then again, he was the Divine Creator and I was but one quarter of the Great Cessation—and a low-ranking one at that—so what the hell did I know?
He said, “Enough about Death already,” glaring at us again while he sopped up his coffee spill with napkins. He ran a pudgy hand over the errant hairs on his dome and smoothed down his wrinkled tie. “Now I want you to get on that boat, and I want you to relax. Look at how pretty the water is and shit like that. But above all: Drop the attitude and learn to work together. Because if you don’t, what’s the saying? How’s the saying go?”
“We perish alone?” Famine offered weakly.
The Good Lord leveled a stubby finger at him. He smiled at us for the first time that day, showing rows of butter-colored teeth. “That’s it. Exactly. You work together or you perish the hell alone.”
• • •
We stepped outside as knives of sunlight winked off every glassed thing on the street. The stink of exhaust enveloped us. Sewage warming in the gutters brought out the scents of the human soufflé: piss, heated blacktop, burnt plastic.
Famine hiked his jeans up—we had our trappings, each of us, our strange cosmic shortcomings that kept us tethered here, not nearly human but certainly more than ideas, and Famine’s was, obviously, his constant hunger. Not so obvious was that he could never find a fucking belt that fit him. He took off down the avenue muttering something about an all-you-can-eat bouillabaisse shop on Mississippi, the cuffs of his pants scraping the ground, arms wrinkled and red at the elbows, striding along with one hand bunching the acid-washed fabric at his waist.
War folded his cruise handout and sighed, squinting at the empty street. “We leave in three hours? Man, He’s not dicking around.”
“He’s not known for that, is He?”
“True. Guess I better go grab my gear,” he said, and then paused. He seemed poised for some comradely dig, but we were long past it. Centuries, at least. “See you on the boat,” he managed.
The Good Lord certainly had a point. I could admit that. We’d long since become fractious, four different arrows arcing toward four different targets at four different times. No harmony, no shared intention. There had been a time when that was not the case, but now? Only Death was constant.
The Good Lord was staring at me through the window, his hands cinched over his little stovepot of a belly. He raised a hand and shooed me along, the look in his eyes absolutely flat, dead as deep space.
I went home to pack.
Like the title the stories in the anthology are quite unusual. Especially the first story where God sends Famine, War, Death, and Terror – the four horsemen of Apocalypse on a team-building exercise in a cruise.
The stories, though of the fantasy genre, project the harsh realities of life and that makes them unforgettable. The humor is gritty and dark. The style is uncanny, full of surprises for the readers.
The stories will make you think and analyse. Yes, it is not for everyone as it deals with sorrow, hardship, pain, struggle. Full of raw emotion. It is not straight forward. There is a lot of implied meaning in it. It is bound to leave you unsettled.
Thank you Meerkat Press for the review copy and for organising this blog tour.