Told in three acts, “The Getaway” is the story of a young writer’s toxic relationship with The Author, a famous older male writer whose confidence and narcissism draws in our narrator, eighteen, still unsure of herself. Natalie Storey inverts the tropes of a familiar narrative to great effect in this story, our New Voices entry this week! Get away into “The Getaway” below.
The thing about Westerns is that they almost never make it to Act 3. They never tell the story of what happens to the hero, how his rage eats him alive until he shakes every morning and can’t fuck any more. They don’t show the hero when he’s become no one’s lover or father. They don’t show John Wayne’s teeth. They don’t show Steve McQueen beating his wives.
I met The Author the summer before I left that small Montana town for college. That was the liminal period of impossibly long, bright days wearing cutoffs so short the pockets hung out on our thighs. The days of perpetual sunburn from floating the Yellowstone River in old black inner tubes. The days the river flowed through town so slowly it was as if it too had the doldrums and was just waiting to move on to more exciting seasons.
That summer I had an internship at the newspaper, circulation 2,000, which came out in the afternoons. When I was younger, Livingston seemed retro in a way that wasn’t cool, in a way old people enjoyed because it comforted them to have a newspaper that came out in the afternoon and a drive-in burger joint where the carhops wore roller skates. Back then, that town was a stop along I-90 that most people passed by on their way to Billings, Bozeman or Missoula.
The last summer I lived there, it was my job to cover the county fair, the 4th of July Parade, everything cute children and pets did all summer long and, as it happened, the release of The Author’s first book. According to the New York Times, he represented the new masculinity in literary fiction. He was the new Jim Harrison, the new Thomas McGuane, the new man of the West. I interviewed him in the coffee shop downtown. He wore aviator sunglasses, ripped Levi’s, and a leather cuff around his wrist. He was well over six feet tall and had an athlete’s build. He bragged that he played college baseball, a detail I never bothered to verify. In the beginning, it thrilled me to believe everything he said.
The Author talked exclusively about himself. Technically, in an interview, the reporter asks the questions, but with him I hardly had to ask anything. All I had to do was listen and then choose the details I wanted to save.
“I’ve had every job under the sun,” he said. “I’ve been an ambulance driver, a poker dealer, and a fishing guide in Cuba. I used to think I wanted to be a religious scholar. I even went to divinity school at Yale for a few years before I got bored and decided to write instead.”
When I was young and still unsure of myself, this sort of narcissism quelled my anxiety. If he talked about himself all the time, it meant I didn’t have to talk about myself. I was keenly aware of my status as a small-town girl. I had never gone to Yale or Columbia and knew I never would. I had never even been on a plane. My mother had left years ago and my father, a railroad mechanic, worked hard for our rent and grocery money. I nodded along and wrote what The Author said in my skinny reporter’s notebook.
“So I live in Peck’s Place now,” The Author announced. “You know, the director, Sam Peckinpah? He used to live in the Murray Hotel. The suite still has his cross-country skis. It’s a bit like living in one of his movies or maybe a part of his mind. Maybe you’d want to come see it?”
I stopped writing and looked up. Of course I did. I’d heard about the crazy director, how he spent his last days on the third floor of the hotel, shooting mirrors and the ceiling when the ghosts in his brain startled him from sleep.
“Okay,” I said.
“I must be about twenty years too old for you,” The Author said. “How old are you? Eighteen at least?”
I nodded. I was, at least.