Saturday, February 9, 2008

"Keeper and Kid"

Edward Hardy has taught creative writing at Cornell and Boston College and currently teaches nonfiction writing at Brown. His short stories have appeared in over twenty different magazines including: Ploughshares, GQ, Epoch, The New England Review, Witness, Prairie Schooner, Ascent, Boulevard, Yankee and The Quarterly, and his short fiction has been listed in The Best American Short Stories. Geyser Life, his first novel, enjoyed wide acclaim.

He applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Keeper and Kid, and reported the following:

Keeper and Kid is the story of what happens when Jimmy Keeper, an ordinary guy happily living his patched together, antiques-dealer life in Providence, is suddenly pulled through the portal of parenthood. This occurs early on when Keeper's ex-wife Cynthia, who lives in Boston, dies unexpectedly and shortly after that Keeper meets Leo, his son, who's three.

To apply the test I turned on the lights, sat at the kitchen table in a comfortable chair and opened the book. Page 69 turns out to be a scene where Keeper and his buddy and business partner Tim are in the van they use for work. They've just left Boston and are heading down through the dusk on I-93, back to Providence with Leo and all Leo's gear. It has not yet dawned on Keeper that he and Leo might actually inhabit different worlds.

Page 69:

Back in the van everything was too loud for Leo. We had to turn down the music and it was only Emmylou Harris. We went to all classical and that still hurt his ears. "It's prickly," Leo said. Then with nothing on Leo told us the road noise was "too rumply." I watched in the mirror. He began to squirm. I had no idea what to do.

"Well," Tim said, "he's strapped in. He can't go anywhere. I'm just amazed he's not crying his eyes out."

"Amazed," I said. "I don't have time to be amazed." I sped into the left-hand lane when Leo began shouting out names.

"There's Clarabel!" he said. "We're passing Henry! I see Diesel 10!"

"Who's he talking to?" Tim asked.

"I think he's hallucinating. I think it's the onset of–"

"That's Thomas." Leo pointed as we passed a blue contractor's van.

"Thomas?" I rubbed my forehead. I started sweating again.

"The tank engine," Leo said.

"It's the train set," Tim said. "Those wooden trains in the bins? He's pretending the cars have the same names as his engines. The engines are all characters."

"How do you know this?"

"They're collectable. But I don't know who buys them. British railroad geeks?"

Leo's hands were in his hair. The blanket slipped to the floor. He squeezed his eyes shut and started to cry.

A few lines later Keeper's lover Leah calls on the cell. She's on a business trip in North Carolina and Keeper still hasn't found a way to tell her about Leo. She thinks he's coming home with Arrow, the dog that first brought Keeper and Cynthia together.

Does the test work? Amazingly enough in this case I'd say it does, as page 69 seems to reach right to the heart of Keeper's newest, most pressing problem.

Read an excerpt from Keeper and Kid, and learn more about the author and his work at Edward Hardy's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue