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May 2008 Mommacrit

First page by S. Ausherman, one writer who dared send work to Mommacrit.


From Typical Pigs, spec. ed. a novel by S. Ausherman (genre: postmodern southwestern gothic)

Chapter 0

What’s the worst thing you could do?

   The body count stands at three. One special, two typical. However, I only have two death certificates as evidence, or souvenirs, depending on how you want to look at it. Here’s the thing: the same name appears on both. What good is that? That hardly counts for anything.

   Furthermore, I can’t in good conscience claim responsibility for any of it.

   My punishment is extremely unjust. Look at me. I think I’m dead. Don’t up the body count yet because I’m not sure about this. Maybe I’m dead. Maybe I’m just in a dying world.

   I can smell it. Death. Smells like the bosque.

   The bosque is dying.

   This is where the whole mess begins, in the bosque, the largest cottonwood forest in the world. It extends a hundred miles along the banks of the Rio Grande. About a quarter of it, a 270-acre corridor that bisects Albuquerque, is home to many homeless, as well as raccoons, beavers, roadrunners, turtles, frogs, rabbits, coyotes and some things few people can explain.

   For thousands of years, the river flowed free. It twisted through New Mexico, leaving cattail ponds, swamps and oxbow lakes. It hauled in seeds and rich soil, and saturated the land with life. When the city pushed up against the river, the river pushed back. In 1874, it submerged the downtown area in a 24-square mile lake. A decade later, it destroyed every bridge between here and Taos.

   It was beyond control.

   Two world wars got people thinking on their feet well enough to come up with a few ideas to contend with nature. When the fighting stopped overseas, the Army Corps of Engineers began their battle against the river. They cut its flow with a dam at Cochiti Pueblo to the north. They dug in deep with nearly 220 miles of acequias to divide its power and drain its strength. They pushed up hills of dirt, creating levees that would force the river to flow in a straight line. To protect the levees, they installed jetty jacks, iron crosses similar to those on the beaches of Normandy.

   They left the bosque vulnerable to invasive species, such as the Russian Olive, with its hairy leaves and long thorns, and the Tamarisk, a thirsty salt cedar that grows densely enough to crowd out native trees. They completed their mission, saved the city. But now the bosque is dying.

   I knew nothing of it during my first years in the city, but eventually I wandered toward the river, following a well-beaten path though the bosque, until I came upon a fork. Being indecisive, I chose to blaze a trail down the middle, trampling down insignificant weeds and saplings, crawling under jetty jacks and climbing over barbed wire. I rested in a clearing about the size of a baseball diamond. A strange noise surrounded me, rising and falling like cheers in an arena.

   Ravens blackened the trees…




Reaction from Mommacrit


First off, has S. Ausherman followed the guidelines?


“Send Mommacrit the first page of your story or novel. It must be less than 501 words. Label it clearly with its title, your name or a nom-de-plume, and its genre.”


This first page is less than 501 words. It is clearly labelled with title, name and genre. Although proclaiming that the genre is postmodern southwestern gothic makes the Momma wonder if S.Ausherman believes he ranks with the likes of Cormac McCarthy. Any hint of arrogance is anathema to Mommacrit as readers of this column well know.


Does S. Ausherman push Mommacrit’s magic button? Does S. Ausherman write a damn good beginning and hook Momma into wanting to read more?


Indeed. S. Ausherman writes tight and S. Ausherman writes fine. A body count of three; two death certificates, both with the same name; a narrator who is either dead or decidedly moribund. The Momma is hooked. Seamless segue into an environmental disaster and the Momma is left regretting that 500 word cut off.


S. Ausherman is a skilled writer. Sentences are active, varied, interesting. There are no wasted words and no jarring repetitions.


The only question the Momma has, apart from where to buy the whole book, is about the chapter heading. This was Chapter 0. Where does Typical Pigs go from here, up or down?