One thing I tend to dwell on while reading is language. An author’s language is his music; it carries the story across the page in rhythms, fluctuating in tempos between and within sentences. Language creates texture. So I was thrilled to read “Broadax Inc.” from Bill Roorbach, an author whose language has carried me before. Roorbach writes:
“We liked each other fine, had a nice lunch after the court date that had sundered our marriage, went home and made love for two hours (effects of wine)—we’d never lost our lust for each other, a kind of proof of the divorce: it wasn’t about your everyday death-of-sex issues, but about a lack of love between us. I don’t remember being sad, though I must have been.”
The reader feels the pile of language, compounding detail until the speaker evaluates himself. This piling guides the reader through the sentences, as the speaker moves through the ended marriage, until the evaluation is completed on a calm, but total, note. This stimulating use of language exists throughout “Broadax Inc.”
But language isn’t the only reason Lookout chose “Broadax Inc.” for inclusion in Astoria to Zion: Twenty-Six Stories of Risk and Abandon from Ecotone’s First Decade. Without giving the plot away, the premise is this: a man helps a friend in need, though his charity may be less benevolent than perceived. Help between friends can sometimes stem from a selfish mitigation of guilt, and, as Roorbach writes, “The lies in friendships are generally small.” But what happens if these lies become large and unyielding, and what if these lies become known? “Broadax Inc.” unveils this façade of charity, and creates a journey into contradiction and the questioning of what is truly won and what is truly lost.
Those who know me know my fascination with the multitudinous of self. What we proclaim to be our true self is often only the self we desire to uphold, and we hide our other selves beneath this. Mike Broadax proclaims himself a shark, a hyper-competitive and prosperous business man. Not only does Mike exist as a shark during business hours, but also within his personal relationships, most notably with his dear friend in need. In “Broadax Inc.” the reader sees Mike step out of his identity of a shark after it destroys him, and dons a more accepting, near Zen, attitude, creating a final and quiet conclusion.
“Broadax Inc.” is an accomplished short story, and interestingly enough, it was the first piece of fiction from Ecotone I ever read, back when I first arrived at Lookout and began poring over the archives. To love it from first read and see it find its home in the anthology has been fulfilling.