May is Texas Mystery Writers Month, and we’re celebrating with guest posts from Texas authors all month long. Up next, we bring you some thoughts from Minerva Koenig, whose debut novel, Nine Days, wowed us last year. As strong as her characters, Koenig writes plucky heroines well able to take care of themselves – in fact, if you called them plucky, they might throw a drink in your face. Look out for her second novel, coming out in the next year.
– Guest Post by Minerva Koenig
You’re sitting somewhere vast, alone. It’s so quiet you can hear the blood rushing in your ears. You don’t know what to do with your brain. It keeps trying to have a conversation — because you’re human, and that’s what human brains do — but there’s nothing there to answer, not even your own consciousness. It’s busy trying to grok the emptiness around you.
There’s a quiet twitch of awareness that you could die out here with no one the wiser, food for the buzzards. You start to feel the bottoms of your feet, the insides of your thumbs.
“Get a grip,” you tell yourself, and nearly jump out of your skin when you realize you’re talking out loud. A sudden, disturbing affinity for the weirdos you used to see shuffling down Newton Street in mid-soliloquy gets you on your feet.
There’s a roadhouse in the hot distance, a wreck of faded boards and grimy windows that you skipped on your way out, ruling it too sketchy to enter. Now it looks like the Taj Mahal.
“You ever read Dostoyevsky?” the bartender, a fresh-faced tomboy with a tiny diamond in one freckled nostril, asks you as she sets down your cold Lone Star.
You give her a look, and she says, “I never been to Russia, but it almost feels like it, after that dude’s stuff. You know?”
You do know. You felt that way about Texas, reading Goodbye to a River back home in Massachusetts.
God, you love that word: Massachusetts. It makes you remember the ancestors, their warm feet on the cool soil, the sound of that old silence, the way the air must have smelled then. Your sentences used to be like the landscape there; closed and hilly, winding around and turning in on themselves, enchanted and spooky like those girls they burned at the stake.
The conversation your head is trying to have with itself down here sounds different. It’s wider, more relaxed. The words spread out and need more syllables, and the spaces in between keep filling up with these minuscule, unspeakable epiphanies about things that have baffled you in the past. You try to corral them on paper, circle them with words and compress them down into edible parts, but they’re like wild hogs, slipping the noose at the last moment. You start to yearn for the relative simplicity of the things you used to think about before you came down here.
F**king Texas. Between the rattlesnakes, the weather, the long stretches of barren highway, and the freaks who like all of that stuff, the state itself feels lethal. You think about all the ways you could die again, and need half the beer to keep yourself from starting some unholy Socratic dialog with the bartender.
You drop a couple of bucks on the scarred wood serving top and step back out into the blinding heat, grimly optimistic. Somehow, you’ll get it all down on paper. It’s that or lose your mind under this endlessly arching, neon-bright sky.
You can find Minerva Koenig’s debut novel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Look out for more great guest posts for Texas Mystery Writers Month, including a post from Austin-based prosecutor and novelist Mark Pryor.