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LIKELY STORIES - Five Skies, by Ron Carlson

Interesting story of the west and some interesting workers.

I’m Jim McKeown, welcome to Likely Stories, a weekly review of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

Ron Carlson is the award-winning author of four story collections, two novels, and a young adult novel. He is currently the director of the graduate writing program at the University of California at Irvine. He lives in California.

Carson’s Five Skies is a modern Western. Three men work together and tell their stories while they construct a ramp for a dare devil motorcycle stunt. Darwin is the work leader, stunned by his wife’s death; Arthur is a drifter puzzling over his brother’s death; and Ronnie is a young man with an uncertain past and future. Five Skies is a dark tale illuminated by searing insight.

The story begins: “It was a cold May in all of Idaho, and as the month began there were only a few short stacks of lumber and construction gear on the plateau river gorge, along with all the game trails and the manifold signs of rabbits who were native to the place and who now moved cautiously around the three men sleeping on the ground” (1).

“The first time Arthur Key saw the plateau at the far edge of the ranch called Rio Difficulto, he was lying in a sleeping bag in the frigid open air at dawn, or a little before it, in the deep gray light through which so many creatures jostled in the sage. He was a big man and had slept in rough sections, shouldering the oversized Coleman sleeping bag up over his right arm and then his left by turns. A screaming rabbit had woken him, the cries thin and shrill in their extremity sounding only like a woman to him, only like a crime” (1).

“Darwin Gallegos, still in his sleeping bag, had watched the young man move to the gate and run away. He’d already seen the big man, Arthur, move to the canyon edge. The sun was up now, but it was not warmer, and the frost filled every shadow and coated the glass of the two vehicles. He crawled out of his sleeping bag and laced up his boots and put on his jacket. He was unfolding the metal stove table and opening the stove when the big man, Arthur Key, came back from his tour. // ‘Where’d Ronnie go?’ Darwin was a little sick now that he realized he’d made a mistake by hiring these two. He’d been desperate—it had been late in the day and the country was full of men who couldn’t work, wouldn’t, and they were hard to get rid of. Just driving back to Pocatello would cost him more than a day. He’d been tired and he was fooled by the big man’s size, he knew now” (3-4).

Ron Carlson has displayed a western story any reader can admire. Five Skies is a surprising story. 5 Stars!

Likely Stories is a production of KWBU.  I’m Jim McKeown.  Join me again next time for Likely Stories, and happy reading!