“A dour sky hovers above the jagged rock shore and hints ominously at storms. Salty ocean spray rises from turgid white-capped waves that crash unrelentingly on the gray Maine shore. The spray collects and drips from straggly pines that line the craggy shore. A lonely boy standing underneath the trees stares at a world he finds mean and uncaring. He has found solace in this forbidding landscape. In his shelter he plots revenge for all those who have tormented him.”
These words, as they have for his forty previous novels, open Maine Writer Steven LeRoi’s latest work, The Maine Squeeze. In this book a young Jewish boy who is teased for being “too scientific” has created a giant atomic lobster. He paints the crustacean green and yellow and disguises it as a lawnmower that he brings with him on his lawn mowing route. With his giant trained lobster he is able to rain terror on the tiny town and wreak vengeance on his tormentors. The lobster develops a taste for young boy flesh. The boy feels he is immune to the flesh lust of the shellfish because of centuries of abstention by his progenitors. Will the pincered predator return the favor?
Mr. LeRoi though, fears that this may be his last work. The problem as he sees it: there are so many godawful weird things happening in real life that a fiction writer is unable to come up with anything new. Because this situation potentially will cost him (and other writers) income, he has launched a class action lawsuit against various people in the news.
“I’ve got my family to feed,” says the writer unattributively quoting Latrell Sprewell. The craggily bearded writer is ensconced in his table at the Lincoln Café in rugged Kittery, Maine. The cafe owners are the flinty Newcombe and his apple-cheeked wife, Dottie. They keep a close watch on their star customer. No one is allowed to sit within five feet of the famous man. Newcomers are advised not to stare into his black, brooding eyes. “Don’t look at Mr. LeRoi,” is Dottie’s kind admonition.
On a dark Monday morning the writer is asked about his looming lawsuit. He toys with the stone graniteware mug in front of him. He slides the mug back and forth over a Formica table etched with favorite adjectives and adverbs from his oeuvre. “The reasons are obvious. I write books about strange people doing strange things. I can get three fifty, four hundred pages out of a guy who believes his parakeet is possessed by the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt. But I can’t make up something like this.” Here he brandishes a newspaper folded to a second page story about the hobo face-chewer in Miami. What’s this? A hundred words! I could get a trilogy out of something like that.”
“You see, you see the effect. So if I sue a couple of these idiots maybe they’ll cut back a little. I mean what’s wrong with just choking the fucker. If you’re hungry, that’s what the soup kitchens are there for.”
“Remember this prick?” He reaches into a worn leather satchel that is bulging with newspaper clippings, articles cut from magazines, and what appears to be an assortment of sandwiches wrapped in waxed paper. A white mouse with brown spots darts from behind the bag into the dark recesses of the diner. The writer slaps down a yellowed newspaper article about the Santa Suit Killer of Covina, Ca. “I had three hundred and forty seven pages in the galleys about a boy who dresses in a Santa Suit and terrorizes his town on Christmas Eve. I had to shitcan the whole project!”
He smacks his mug on the table and earns a glare from Newcombe. Dottie looks up from her pie dough with small white hands resting on a white rolling pin; small rivulets of purple berry juice appear on her hands and the pin. The old café operator avers in broad Mainese that he “would rather not have the author disturbed”.
The writer is asked about his book, Phillip, that is about to be released as a major movie. The novel, one of LeRoi’s early works, follows the fortunes of a young boy who befriends a gas pump. At night the boy sneaks out of his home and using the pump as a rocket-pack flies over and terrorizes his small town. Numerous fires of a suspicious nature start to occur and some boys from the hero’s middle school start to disappear sending the hamlet into a tizzy. Alas, the boy’s arrogance takes over and he begins to act like the missing bullies who once hounded him. He takes up smoking.
Papers have been filed in New York naming the two above persons and a host of others. Though the two men are dead, LeRoi hopes to draw attention to the problem as he sees it: “This is theft, pure and simple. The same way you would walk up to a carpenter and suck up all his nails with a magnet. It’s an injustice!”
“This country will be better off when these amateurs stop acting out and let the writers think up the weird shit.”
The writer leaves the café by indeterminate means as Newcombe and Dottie shutter the place and hang a Closed sign.
If America can be said to be a village then Maine is its haunted house. A foreboding hangs over the small city. As outsiders pass curtains move and doors open a crack. Jittery visitors are relieved when cars start in the moist air. They drive away on a twisting seaside roadway and wonder as they pass the wet needle pines if underneath the trees a small boy watches. And plots.