Rubiaux Rising by Steve De Jarnatt

Wow. I'm not entirely sure what I just read, but the imagery was terrible. And wonderful. I'm overwhelmed by how heart breaking the story is and how grossed out I was at some points. It's not like De Jarnett spent a lot of time trying to make his story visually stimulating with lots of words. Maybe that's what made it so powerful - the lack of extra.

Rubiaux Rising is a short story about a double-amputee soldier who is being forced to detox in his aunts attic after returning from "New Babylon" (presumably somewhere in the Middle East). The story completely takes place in the attic, which is itself located in a house set in St. Louis. That's where he is when Hurricane Katrina (never called by its name) hits, the levies break and the house and attic are flooded.

There's way too much to talk about concerning the story, so what I'll mostly continue saying is - wow. I'm not one to do anything but sit quietly when lost in a story, usually. It only took me three sentences to gasp in shock for the first time with De Jarnatt's story. God, what an opener! Just a few pages later and I was grimacing as Rubiaux ripped the metal plate from the back of his head to set the roof on fire. It took me a second reading of that sentence to verify - yes, he has pried off a metal patch in his head with a rusty nail. Just seconds later I was making more disgusted faces as I read, "something sinister in the water brushes between his thighs, then comes back to nibble at his suturing" (39).

And I don't think I've ever felt so bad for anyone as I felt when Rubiaux, with his brain damage, was trying so hard to sing 'Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'.

What an amazing story. I really enjoyed it while being disgusted and creeped out.

Sebold, Alice, ed. The Best American Short Stories. 2009 ed. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Company, 2009. Print.


KP said...

O my goodness, yes! I feel the same way you do about this amazingly disturbing short story! I was also swiftly swept away by the dramatic yet simple literature. Too good and strange for words. I am still perplexed that Aunt Cleoma actually locked Rubiaux up in that attic to detox him! O! And did you know that Rubiaux is French for rubies? I think it is so fitting to describe this character! Rubiaux truly is a ruby that has been trampled and bruised and still shines brilliantly.

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