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Nothing More To Tell

Elizabeth Buzzelli - August 22nd, 2011
Author has Nothing More to Tell

Nothing More to Tell
Stories by George Dila
Mayapple Press

By Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

Once in a while you come across a book of stories so true you convince
yourself you’re reading memoir and you get mad or sad for the writer until
you remember this is fiction and you’re only getting pieces of a life and
maybe a made-up life. Then you get upset that you’ve been had so easily.
Then you understand what a good writer this is and you’re happy to be in
the hands of this magician and go on to the next story, the next life, and
the next twisting of your emotions.
Nothing More to Tell, stories by George Dila from Mayapple Press, is like
that. Small town Michigan life, rural life and Detroit life. And you’re
going back and forth between a 15-year-old being introduced to a life of
petty crime by his father, then off to meet a hardened Detroit killer,
back to a small town barber doing a haircut he might not want to do, and
then a retired electrician taking a creative writing class along with a
man from his childhood; a man who may have stolen his mother’s love when
they were little.
Big stretch. Big reach. All of it real and alive. Nothing predictable.
Nothing comfortable here where people are just people without deep
messages carried in on their backs. Just people. Heartbreaking.
Honest. Cruel.

Back to the first story, “Lessons My Father Taught Me.” And back to when
I still thought I was reading veiled memoir and I got furious with his
father — the small town crook, an often unemployed jerk, with a good kid
who he forced into petty theft and treachery. But then I started to not
like the kid either — did he rat his father out on purpose? Too much like
the real life we try to pretend away. Fiction doing what fiction does
best — telling truths we’d rather not have to look at; those small things
that eat away at our souls and drive us into churches.
Like the Detroit killer story, “Pizza Pie.” “Jablonski always gave his
victims the final word.” That was just before he shot them in the head.
All in a day’s work for this Hamtramck Pole who figured one day it could
be his turn unless ‘with a little luck, he’d die of cancer or a coronary,
or maybe even old age, rather than a bullet in the brain.’ He often
thought what his last words might be. Not the ‘Eat me’ of one of his
victims, nor the ‘f*ck you’ of most of the others, but something better.
A thing to dream on. And then the moment: ‘Well, Kielbasa man, now it’s
your turn. Anything you got to say?’ Ridiculous; a tour through
Jablonski’s memories: ‘pizza and golabki’; with a bunch of ‘St. Florian
kids in Schostak’s Buick, going to Buddy’s on Conant.’ Jerry Lewis and
Dean Martin—an unfair God: “cut Dino off and give us thirty more years of
Life’s not fair and here he is on his
knees and his last words are…
well, you read the story.

Surely we’ve all met the woman writing “Four Letters to Angelina Jolie.”
A single mother with hopes of schmoozing her way into someone taking care
of her and her kids. A woman who thinks subservience leads to the easy
life. A woman who gets led around by God passing on this or that
self-serving suggestion. In this story it is Marie Piemontessa who is
after Angelina Jolie, with flattery, with a description of her own
wonderful kids: “The less said about their so-called fathers the better.”
Maria tells Angelina, “I believe in my heart God has a purpose for me in
life and that purpose is to help you with your kids.” She wants to go
live with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and bring her kids with her. When
she gets only fan photos as answer, after three letters she decides maybe
God’s got another plan for her; life with another movie star. Tom Cruise
watch out. Poor Maria Piemontessa.
And “Valentine’s Day.” A sad and happy story. Two unhappy anniversaries
on the same day: Valentine’s Day. Twenty years ago Walter’s wife left him
“to discover who I am.” And one month ago “Darlene, our little baby girl
now all grown up and feisty, had gone off to live with her boyfriend,
Roland.” So we have a new anniversary, a day when Walter dares tread off
into the cyber world of porn and new pleasures and possibly new
anniversaries. This is a day when Jay Leno leans toward him on his TV
set, winks at Walter, and says, “Reach out and touch someone, Walter.”
Which he does.

Then comes “Mares Eat Oats” and that writing class where the retired
electrician comes to learn to write a memoir only to meet a kid from his
childhood, Witski, now in his 60s, who forces the electrician into knowing
more about his past than he’s happy knowing. Witski — whose mother left
when he was a kid: “That was unheard of back then. A mother never walked
out on her kids, for Christ sake. The old lady never left the old man.”
Witski could only adopt the mothers of his friends as his own. “ …I
adopted a new one every year or so. Did you notice one year, maybe sixth
grade, maybe fifth, I was at your house almost every day?”
The electrician remembers. “One year we did seem to be best friends.
Then we found new friends.”
New friends after the electrician’s mother, a cold, uncaring mother to
him, bent to kiss Witski fully on the lips and sing a nonsense song to
him: ‘Mares eat oats, and does eat oats, and little lambs eat ivy…’”
These are satisfying stories delivered in clear, brightly lighted prose.
Well worth a read.
George Dila lives in Ludington where he directs the Ludington Visiting
Writers, a literary program he founded in 2001. His stories and essays
have appeared in North American Review, Driftwood, Traverse, Christian
Science Monitor and other publications. A native Detroiter, George is a
graduate of Wayne State University.
He will be making appearances at bookstores around Northern Michigan.

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