The Moon and the Stars; New and Collected Stories
Author: Marian Carcache
Introduction by Don Noble
Publisher: Solomon & George Publishers
Price: $15.00 (Paper)
Over a period of years I had enjoyed Marian Carcache’s stories in collections like “Belles Lettres,” “Chinaberries and Crows” and “Climbing Mt. Cheaha,” so it was a pleasure to say “yes” when I was asked to write an Introduction for this volume. In this review I will repeat that these 14 stories are clever, insightful, sometimes touching, often very funny.
Carcache writes almost exclusively about women, not country club women, the ladies who lunch, and not sharecroppers, boiling clothes in a kettle in the yard or picking cotton. These women are the hard-working blue collar women we see every day behind the counter at the Dollar Store, bringing us a meal at the meat and three, standing long days on their feet at the beauty parlor, or, as it is called here, The Beautitorium.
A common refrain in these stories is plain tiredness. By the end of the day, there is little energy for cooking an elaborate meal, going out on the town or domestic romance.
What these women would like most is a quiet evening at home with a husband who pays them a little attention.
This is rarer than you might think. The husbands are mainly a doltish lot, interested in drinking beer and watching sports on TV in their recliners, not talking with their wives. In a number of these stories the husbands have already taken off with much younger women, abandoning their wives and children. In “She Stopped Loving Him Today,” Lenora has been abandoned by Randall for Sheena, a dental hygienist younger than their daughter Mary Joyce. Sheena has silicone breasts “shaped like the Tin Man’s hat.” How could he!
Lenora is hurt but not destroyed. Like many of the women in Carcache’s stories, she survives, works at making herself more attractive by highlighting her hair, walking for exercise, smoking Virginia Slims and drinking Lite beer at a local “lounge.” In the end, she gets over Randall, stops loving him and, unlike George Jones’s hero, she does not have to die to do it.
Sometimes the wife takes off, leaving behind husband and children. Mozelle Skaggs King leaves her home, becomes a masseuse at the Pink Cloud Motel and Massage and then, after a police raid, runs off with the circus, or more exactly, The Chattahoochee Exposition, where she becomes “Cannonball King” and is daily shot out of a cannon. She is the envy of many less adventurous women.
The best story, I think, is “Wingflicks,” narrated by Memorie, a young girl. Eddie Pharaoh, a charismatic wanderer and talented musician, moves in with Memorie’s mother, and the two are a perfect match, making repairs around the house, listening to Rod Stewart. Eddie completes her. “Mama was …glowing,” Memorie tells us.
But Eddie leaves. Memorie wants to track him down, bring him back any way they can. Mama wisely knows Eddie is a free spirit and will return if and when he chooses.
Reader, he does.
The volume is book ended by a pair of epistolary stories with some sharp satiric edge. Patty Fairchild writes to the Krispy Spud Company on her therapist’s recommendation. As a little girl the Krispy Spud delivery man had given Patty presents and tickled her inappropriately. She really has no complaints, insisting she learned skills like how to imagine herself elsewhere when a situation is unpleasant. “That ability has served me well through graduate school, childbirth, an income tax audit, and a divorce,” she says. Patty even wonders whether anyone has ever wanted to “goose” her overweight therapist. Although conventional wisdom might see Patty as a victim, she does not see herself that way and the reader might not either.
What’s true for Patty is true for most of the resilient heroines of “The Moon and the Stars,” who refuse to see themselves as victims.
This review was originally broadcast on Alabama Public Radio. Don Noble is host of the Alabama Public Television literary interview show “Bookmark” and the editor of “A State of Laughter: Comic Fiction from Alabama.”