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SEED WHEEL
APRICOTS OF DONBAS
Masquerade
ECCENTRIC DAYS OF HOPE AND SORROW
Like Men, Made Various  
|
  Paul Bowers

ISBN 978-0-9762114-2-6     $18  /  $21 (Canada)     6 x 9       

124 pp      
PUB DATE: March 2006       Fiction





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Here’s a writer! Paul Bowers’s Like Men, Made Various is aptly titled—a “biological philosopher” seeks the essence of Life, only to be overwhelmed by the sonogram vision of his soon-to-be-born daughter; a Vietnam vet eccentrically acts out his post-traumatic stress; the father of a cancer-stricken child rages against the conventional concept of God’s Providence; the president of a failing small college stages a desperate sit-in to revive it; a man commits suicide by drowning as he kills the mule that killed his wife . . . Bowers’s range is seemingly limitless, his stories intelligent, imaginative, profound, and polished to a compelling luster.

—Gordon Weaver

The men in Paul Bowers’ debut include an unlikely hero and a university president, a farmer (and his deadly mule), an expectant father and a father preparing to grieve. These characters know something about hope and anger, duty and powerlessness, loneliness and love. Bowers knows something about telling stories that are absolutely true.

—Diana Joseph, author of Happy or Otherwise

In Like Men, Made Various, Paul Bowers writes with compassion, wit, and wisdom, giving us a glimpse of humanity and an undercurrent of dark humor. . . . What I love about these stories is their variety and the artistic manner in which they are made.

—Allen Learst

About the Author

Paul Bowers

Paul Bowers lives with his wife and daughter in Enid, Oklahoma, a town in northwest Oklahoma situated along the old Chisholm Trail. He is an avid horseperson, and enjoys training both equines and canines. He is a certified therapy dog evaluator and, along with his seventy-five pound canine partner, Buddy, makes frequent visits to assisted living centers and long-term care facilities. He earned a B.A. from The University of Tulsa, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University, and currently teaches writing and literature at Northern Oklahoma College.

 
From "Mule"

Burgess, feeling pinched in his old joints, left the pasture gate open, hoping the mule would leave of its own accord. He sat on the porch all day, his bare feet caked red in pasture mud, and carved away and chewed up two plugs of Bull Twist tobacco, but the mule simply rested in the shade, relaxed in a three-legged stance. Tommy Phillips left off hoeing his purple hull peas the day before just to drive over and volunteer to shoot the mule himself, but Burgess told him to mind his own business. Tommy cradled the stock of his new .22 semi-automatic in one hand, hugging the butt of the rifle under the stump of his other arm that was pinned up in a shirtsleeve. The rest of his arm was lost somewhere along a corn row, taken off above the elbow by a stripper, and Burgess knew he was just looking to try out his new rifle on something other than tin cans and skunks. Tommy settled the freshly oiled gun over his good shoulder, leaned over so as not to spit on his own boot, said, “Suit yourself, but I wouldn’t let that animal live for what it done if it was mine.”

Burgess wanted to tell him to go shoot that stripper that took off his arm if he needed to blast away at something, but he held up and stared at the puddle of drying tobacco juice at his feet until Tommy finally climbed back into his rust-pocked truck and drove away. Burgess busied himself slicing away a thick callous on his thumb with his Barlow knife, hoping Tommy Phillips would keep to his peas and tin cans for the day while he considered what to do about the mule.

She was still holding the snake, a big glistening black racer, when he found her face down in the turnips. It had curled itself around her arm, its head squeezed tight in her dead hand, its slim tail tucked under the sleeve of her cotton blouse, like the staff of Moses in the bible, waiting patiently to be turned back into wood.

Burgess figured it was the snake that made the mule kick, that Vess had raised it up and was about to throw it out of the turnip row and her head just got in the way when the mule saw the snake hanging long and black in the air. Nothing scares a mule more than a snake. And he knew Vess wouldn’t just grab the racer and sling it away. She would have looked at it to make sure it didn’t have a white milk spot on its mouth, which would have meant it was the soul of a still-born child looking for its mother’s breast. A black racer with a milk spot must be let go on the road, otherwise it won’t travel on and the woman who finds it is sure to have it crawl into her bed before the third night.

Burgess hadn’t bothered to look for a milk spot when he unwound the snake from Vess’s arm and ground his boot heel into the creature’s head. The snake coiled and roped into knots, then froze belly-up against the slope of a furrow. He focused, instead, on Vess’s swollen face, plump and yellowed like a cantaloupe that seemed to roll at his feet when he turned her over. Her lips were twisted and bruised, her teeth unbroken but stained red in between like she had been eating raspberries. The mule’s hoof caught her just above her left eye, and her eyebrow, misplaced by a bloodless gash, lifted into an arch just as it did when she puzzled over some stubborn but unimportant problem. Out of habit he had whistled for the mule to come just as he would any other time he had a load to carry to the house, but he stopped mid-shrill. Vess wouldn’t like being jostled onto the back of the animal that did her in; and besides, despite the weakness in his aging knees, Burgess needed some counterweight in his arms to balance the grief that threatened to topple him. But Vess was not a large woman, and when he wrestled her roughly into his arms her slightness didn’t stand up well to the heft of loss and he stumbled to the hard ground several times, once into a stinging bull nettle that burned his arms like match flames. He laid her out on the bed and draped her with a quilt. Before the Sheriff came, he cleaned her face and hands with a washrag and a little Ivory dish soap, careful to remove the dirt in the wrinkles around her eyes. Then he brushed her teeth with baking soda that left a salty white ring around her mouth.

The Sheriff, Bill McGowan, square-bodied and rugged, but cursed with the high-pitched voice of a woman, was the first to offer to shoot the mule—in fact, he told Burgess he thought there might be a legal obligation to destroy the animal since it showed signs of a vicious nature. “‘Course, I can’t say that don’t only apply to mad dogs, but I’ll take care of it for you without consulting the books.”

Burgess told the Sheriff he didn’t want anybody wasting bullets on his account, and since it was his mule and his wife, he figured the law shouldn’t have much to do with it. And he had a gun of his own, an old ten-gauge double-barrel that belonged to Vess’s daddy that would do a better job than any county-issued .38 revolver. McGowan settled his hand on the leather flap of his holster, as if to protect his gun from further insult, and left Burgess to do as he pleased. . . .

© 2006 by Paul Bowers