EXCERPT FROM “FRENCH FOR WEAKLING”
On a backroad in southern Ohio, her Volvo judders and pulls like a mule. Whiteknuckling the wheel, she wrangles it off the blacktop into a narrow patch of dirt. All woods and hills, no houses, she hoofs it up to the top of the ridge for cell reception. When the tow truck driver asks if she knows where she is, she tries not to take offense. She always knows where she is. Exactly.
“Eight miles off Green Valley Road on Hooper Ridge Road, headed north toward Highway 32,” she says.
The driver snorts. “Shortcut.”
“Shortcut,” she confirms.
“Take me about an hour to get there. Maybe two. I have to wait on a guy.”
She doesn’t ask what “wait on a guy” means.
“Felt like the axle or the bearing coupling broke,” she says.
“It’s getting dark. I don’t see any houses.”
“Sit tight. Listen to the radio.”
“Might be more money in it if it were sooner.”
“Two hours,” he says, “maybe longer.”
By the light of her phone she returns to the car, its pale features like an old skeleton. The woods speak around her, a crackling and chittering full of mischief. She didn’t grow up here, but she’s grown familiar. Po-dunk villages in backwater counties—trailers, hollers, piney valleys with dogs chained to stumps near the septic tanks. She always prides herself on knowing her territory, being confident, eschewing the good-natured directions of locals at general stores and gas stations. But the dark—the dark has a way of dissolving familiarity and reintroducing fear. The dark scatters contingency plans and grinds them underfoot. A panic boils up in her stomach, creeps to her neck, and settles in her skull.
PRAISE FOR DAVID ARMSTRONG
“With sharp language and unexpected revelations, David Armstrong writes his characters and their stories deep into our imaginations. There’s magic on every page of Reiterations.”
— NOLEY REID
author of Pretend We Are Lovely
“It is Armstrong’s gift to weave the fantastic into the mundane…to show us how ordinary lives are streaked with both terror and tenderness.”
— THE LITERARY REVIEW
“Armstrong’s prose wriggles around narrative expectations, which in turn build toward deliberate payoffs.”
— RAIN TAXI REVIEW
“[David Armstrong’s] writing is full of quiet surprises. I immediately want to read it again to find out how the writer did that—which is the highest compliment I can pay any story.”
— AMBER SPARKS
author of The Unfinished World and May We Shed These Human Bodies
“David Armstrong has that gift of saying so much with a perfectly pitched line of dialogue, a description of the night sky….Mostly I love Armstrong’s disconnected and beautifully unpredictable characters.”
— TOM BARBASH
author of Stay up With Me
“These stories look directly (and fearlessly) at life’s darker aspects with optimism, hope, and a clarity of language that is to be admired.”
— RICHARD WILEY
author of Soldiers in Hiding and The Book of Important Moments
“David Armstrong’s prose is rock-solid, like the landscapes he describes so well, and beautifully, carefully crafted.”
— MAILE CHAPMAN
author of Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto