Black Lawrence Press
November 14, 2017

Welcome back, Bryan Furuness!

This month we are celebrating the titles that we’ve acquired in the past six months. These manuscripts came to us through our open reading periods and our 2017 Hudson Prize. Today we bring you Bryan Furuness, author of the novel Do Not Go On, which will be published in late 2019. This will be Bryan’s second novel with Black Lawrence Press.

Have a manuscript you think we’d like? During our November Open Reading Period we are looking for poetry (chapbooks and full-length collections), short fiction (again, both chapbooks and full-length collections), novels, novellas, nonfiction (CNF, biography, cultural studies) and translations from German. Also, our Big Moose Prize for the novel is currently open to early bird submissions.

Portrait of Bryan Furuness with head turned

The Author

Bryan Furuness is the author of a couple of novels, The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson and the forthcoming Do Not Go On. He is the editor of the forthcoming anthology My Name was Never Frankenstein: And Other Classic Adventure Tales Reanimated, and co-editor (along with Michael Martone) of Winesburg, Indiana. His stories have appeared in New Stories from the Midwest and Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere. He lives in Indianapolis, where he teaches at Butler University.

 

 

On writing Do Not Go On

Why did I write this book? I didn’t really know until I thought of it as a weird kind of companion to my first novel, The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson. That book ends with a family leaving their hometown and basically saying, Let us never speak of these events again. They try to bury their past, leave it all behind. This new book opens with a different family in the Witness Protection Program, trying to escape their past and start a new life. The books feature totally different characters, but both stories deal with similar questions and obsessions. Is identity a choice—and if so, how many times are you allowed to make that choice? Can you reinvent yourself? Ana, the seventeen-year-old girl at the troubled heart of this novel, certainly hopes so.

 

Excerpt

There are things the Program can change, and things that can’t be changed.

The Program couldn’t do anything, for example, about the fact that Ana was seventeen, a junior in high school. Or that she was tall enough to look most men in the eye, and not too shy to do so. She was narrow but solid, like a Doric column.

The Program has sent a few witnesses in for plastic surgery, but it wasn’t warranted in this case. A few easy alterations were enough to make the Easterdays unrecognizable. For Ana, it was a matter of subtraction. They bobbed her hair and stripped out the highlights, and the end result was a drab shade she thought of as Mouse Poop.

No tanning beds in Morocco, Indiana, and the only sun she saw came through the plate-glass window of Karen’s Kitchen where she waited tables, so by the end of the summer her complexion had sallowed beyond peaches and cream and was now more like milk flecked with dirt. She felt as plain and worn as an old undershirt. Her disguise, in short, was her natural state.

Then there are things that can be changed, but the Program elects not to. A piece or two of their old lives for witnesses to cling to.

Ana was always her name.

It wasn’t a kindness, letting her keep her first name. Merely a practicality. Hesitate when someone calls your name, and that invites questions. Questions breed suspicion, suspicion leads to exposure.

The real trick of reinvention is to change a person enough to make her new, but not so much she becomes unrecognizable to herself.

Ana awoke in the laundry nest to the sound of her alarm blaring upstairs. The storm was muttering in the distance. Wrapped in an old beach towel, she made her way up to the kitchen and peered through a ragged peephole her father had cut in a roller shade. Sunrise was an hour away, but the yard was lit up by the twin halogens of a security light. Through the peephole she could see the shingle tab driveway, winding down to the road like a black river of forgetting. The rustbucket Fairlane her father hadn’t driven in a month. The thistle and volunteer sunflowers in the yard her father had mowed once, just after moving in, then never again. Out there in this new meadow, at the edge of the light, was the tall red oak.

And something else, too. Something new. Midway between the farmhouse and the oak, standing in the rain-bent grass, was an armoire.

 

***

 

Like most of their outsized furniture, the armoire wouldn’t fit in the cramped cells of the farmhouse, but her father couldn’t bring himself to let it go, so he’d stowed it in the outbuilding. After a season of sheltering mice from the leaky roof, it was no mystery that the armoire was warped and gray. But why was it standing in the middle of the yard like a cheap magician’s prop? Or like something from a bizarre horror story: But an armoire, once loved, can never truly be cast off. It will find its way back to its owner. And when it gets there . . .

Ana stepped out to the porch. Fat drops of water dangled from the porch ceiling, trembling with each step she took on the swaybacked boards. “Dad?” she called out to the yard. “This shit is not funny.”

Back home, her father had been a tender wiseass, a charm monster. He couldn’t pass her hostess stand at the Tip Top Lounge without delivering a wry joke or a cup of coffee, or pulling a stack of singles from the register to play Liar’s Poker. Ana never beat him, but sometimes she found a roll of bills stuffed into her coat pocket at the end of her shift, anyway.

Pulling the towel tight around her shoulders, she stepped into the yard and sucked in her breath when her feet touched the wet grass. “Dad?” she called again, hoping against hope to see him come around the outbuilding with some explanation about a yard sale or a bonfire and ask her why the heck she was traipsing around the yard in her bare feet. It was one thing to keep her only pair of shoes dry, but didn’t she know she could step on a rusty nail and get tetanus? Risk versus reward, Bug. Then he’d tip his head to the side, considering, and say, Though if you got lockjaw, it would be kind of peaceful around here.

That fantasy flickered out like the tail end of a filmstrip. He wasn’t that guy anymore. And whatever this was, it wasn’t a joke. As she waded through the long grass, the image that came to mind was her father inside the armoire, small and naked and curled up like a bean.

She was about to reach for the knob when she saw a smear of dirt on the double doors. A rough circle with two dots inside. Was it . . . a face?

A door flew open with a loud crack. The world seemed to tilt, but no, it was just the armoire tipping over. When it hit the ground, Ana saw a ragged black hole smoldering in the side.

“Goddammit!” she screamed at the tree. “You almost shot me!”

Movement in the leaves. A rifle dropped to the ground. A few seconds later, a man followed. Her father, Ben Easterday. Wearing a brown dress shirt and tan slacks, the closest thing he had to camo, though he looked mostly like a wet paper bag. He had to be cold, he had to be hungry, but he didn’t seem to mind any of that as he walked toward Ana, cradling the rifle. “I needed to see if I could protect you when he comes,” he said, like it was the most reasonable thing in the world. Like he was a little hurt, frankly, by her ingratitude.

 

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