Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“Chuck’s Bucket” by Chris Offutt
Card picked: King of Clubs
From: Mc Sweeney’s Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, edited by Michael Chabon
Thoughts: After a few not-so-thrilling tales, this is more like it.
Offutt goes meta with this story. The narrator is (presumably) Chris Offutt. He’s the son of genre writer Andrew J. Offutt and has been asked by Michael Chabon to write a genre tale for a McSweeney’s anthology even though he’s spent his entire career as a writer trying to be as little like his father as possible. Things are not going well for story!Chris. He’s recently divorced, he’s stepped on his glasses, his car has crapped out, his bike has a flat, he can’t finish the damn McSweeney’s story (about clones…maybe?), and he’s being haunted by ghost.
It’s the ghost aspect that piques the interest of physicist Prof. Charles Andrews, a poker buddy of Chris’s. Since there are no such things as ghosts, it’s obvious that Chuck’s newly built time machine has worked and that Chris has volunteered to be the first human subject. Why on earth would Chris volunteer? Because maybe the time machine can dump him in a future “bucket” and Chris can read the end of the story he’s supposed to be writing.
The last story I read from Thrilling Tales was Michael Crichton’s “Blood Doesn’t Come Out,” which has a similar starting point: a guy for whom things are not going well. It occurs to me that I might have been unfair to Crichton. He took crime noir to its inevitable blood-spattered conclusion. Offutt goes a pulpy sci-fi route. What’s more pulpy and sci-fi than time travel? And it might be that I simply prefer sci-fi to noir.
About the Author: I had deja vu as I looked up Chris Offutt’s biographical info. I had googled him before and recently. Why? And why hadn’t I added some of his books (involving rural Kentucky) to my TBR-eventually list? (Probably because that list is already stupid long.) A time-based Google search revealed all. I had read “Trash Food” back in April.