Christie Hodgen’s book Elegies for the Brokenhearted (2010) is a collection of linked short stories with a common narrator. Each of the five sections focuses on an important person in the life of Mary Murphy, the young narrator.
Mike Beaudry (1952–1989)
During the thirty-seven years of Mike’s life, he does not amount to much. He is often drunk or on drugs and does not have enough money to pay rent or even buy decent food and clothing. There are times, when Mary’s mother is between husbands, that Mike lives in Mary’s house and sleeps on the couch. Although Mike’s sister is often irritated by him, Mary and her sister, Malinda, love him. Mike is reckless, which makes him fun for the sisters.
Mike has an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that he names Michelle. It is his favorite possession. He often takes Mary and Malinda for rides in the car, racing down highways with the girls screaming in the backseat from the thrills. He also dons a Santa Claus suit on Christmas, swaggering into the room and using foul language as he hands out gifts.
Then one day, Mike falls in love. The object of his crush is a nineteen-year-old girl who works in a convenience store and is not very pretty. Her name is Sam Keller. Mike thinks she will fall for him, but even after several dates she will not let Mike kiss her. He presses her for some affection and she ends the relationship. Sam no longer wants anything to do with him; she tells Mike he is too old for her.
Mike takes a long time to get over Sam. What finally breaks the spell she cast on him is a trip Mike takes to New York City. He is amazed by the multicultural life of the huge city, the busy traffic, and the way (in his mind) people seem to get along on the street. He decides to move there, and he is gone. He sends no messages back home about where he is or how he is doing. A long time goes by before Mary’s mother receives a letter from Mike and a photograph. Mike said he is in love and has fathered a child.
His mother and sisters think Mike has finally found happiness until they receive word that Mike has died. He had been living in a dingy hotel room and died of a drug overdose. There is no sign of the woman or the child who appeared in the photo.
Elwood LePoer (1971–1990)
Elwood is one of Mary’s classmates. There is not much about Elwood that offers promise of success. He comes to school dirty; when asked to answer questions in class, Elwood’s most frequent response is that he does not know the answer. Elwood is often ridiculed; many students refer to him as the class idiot.
Elwood has no friends until Bill Yablonski shows up at school. Mary describes Bill as another loser. He is overweight and buck-toothed, and he always wears pants so big they are constantly falling down. But over the years, Elwood and Bill became inseparable. Wherever one is, so too will be the other.
In high school, Bill develops a crush on Mary’s sister, but Malinda only feels disgust for the boy, and she boldly lets him know it. During one particular weekend that Mary, Malinda, Mary’s mom, and her new boyfriend spend at the beach, Elwood and Bill happen also to be there. Bill, as usual, is extremely excited to see Malinda and happily approaches her on the boardwalk. Malinda feels annoyed at Bill and does not want to be bothered with his feelings for her, so she publicly insults him. Bill is devastated.
The next day while Mary, Malinda, and their mom are hitchhiking back home because their mom’s boyfriend abandoned them after a fight, Elwood and Bill drive by. Malinda runs to the car as the boys pull over. She is ever so thankful for their help, but before she can get in, the car pulls off. This is Bill’s revenge.
Bill suffers later. He asks Elwood, who has dropped out of high school and is working as a car mechanic, to fix the leaky gas tank on his car. Bill swears to Elwood that the tank is empty. After Elwood scoots under the car to weld the metal casing, the car explodes, and Elwood dies.
Carson Washington (1972–1993)
Carson is a very bright, very overweight teenager who wins a full scholarship to college. Mary meets Carson on her first day on campus when she goes to her...
(The entire section is 1768 words.)