There's a new writer that I'm fond of named Ben Stroud. He has been called an Americanist, and his stories demonstrate an interest in historical figures. But its his language that grabs me, because it exhibits a definitive sensitive ear for the accoustic potential of words, so much so that I could detect a Ben Stroud story from its first sentence the way some might detect a song by the Rolling Stones in the first five seconds.
Two Deadly Fish
I lift up the lid of the livewell and look inside. A couple fish—bass, largemouth—sit in place, not really swimming.
"What's up, fish?" I say.
The fish open their mouths and close them, which is about all they do. You can't tell by looking at them, but they're poisoned—like, if you eat too many, you go blind, or crazy, or you become sterile or someshit. They've got signs at the pier and boat ramp, no more than two fish a week. It's their revenge, I guess, even though it's really the big power plant that sits on the side of the lake that does it.
"Fish don't need hassling," my stepfather says to no one, meaning me.
I close the lid.
Usually, whenever my stepfather wants to tell me something, he'll make some general comment or filter what he's got to say through my mom instead of just talk to me. Not that I'm complaining.
I go sit behind the steering wheel and look at the screen mounted there. It shows how deep the lake is below the boat, and the size of any fish passing below. I wonder if it would show a dead body, if there's a picture programmed in it for that. See, son, a dad'll say, tapping on the screen, that's a child. We only need the small net.
Ben's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Pindeldyboz, Subtropics, and Fiction and now in One Story. There is an interview with Ben about Eraser here. Check it out. You will, no doubt, be hearing more about this writer.