A Crushing Boot of Futility by Jesse Hilson

Marigold. Troy James Weaver. King Shot Press, 2016. 114 pages.

The nameless narrator of Marigold is somebody we are placed in an uncomfortable proximity to, somebody who has reached the end of his rope. Everything is told to us matter of fact, there is a minimum degree of layers between us and the emotion of the book’s protagonist. We see him at the extremity of life flirting with the abyss—not because of any affectation, but because of stark reality—and turn back to life over and over again. He rejects suicide but there is hardly any sense of relief after doing so. He frequently calls suicide hotlines and has numerous absurd conversations with the voices on the other end, sometimes getting real human warmth but often there is a crushing boot of loneliness and futility that descends as individuals spoken to on previous occasions have moved on or are no longer taking phone calls; the ability to forge a meaningful, understanding connection is thwarted, with a black humorous touch. But it’s not funny in the big picture.

Weaver gives us brief glimpses of such futility from the arrow slit incised in the corner of his castle: the chapters are very brief and sometimes have the quality of furtive notes scribbled on scraps of paper on the sly, while at work, when a supervisor is not watching. The narrator works at a florist shop, and it is a surprise that none of the happiness, emotion, and natural beauty of flowers seems to be present in the man’s life. It’s a job. It requires dealing with awful people, like any other job.

Suicidal depression vacuums all the meaning out of life, and cuts the man off from his fellow human being, even to the point where he does not realize others are suffering too, and are possibly worse off than him. The theme of how to help other individuals when you are yourself in a tragically self-involved pit of despair returns again and again like a chorus. There is a message of bitter perseverance threaded throughout the book but you as a reader must fight hard for it, as the author evidently did. No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. 

If the book had been longer it might have been abrasive. As is it’s the perfect length to soak in the cold bath of these feelings and retain the chill as you get out. I read it in one sitting, and it has stayed with me in spite of the brevity. That may be because it is earnest and real and no bullshit.

This passage, which should give a flavor of what the book is like, stays with me most of all, from page 66:

“I go over to my best friend’s and sneak into his closet. I pull out the little .22 handgun he has tucked under some shoes. Put it in my mouth and pull the trigger. Nothing happens. I’m not even scared. I pull it again, nothing, wipe my spit from the barrel and put it back. I walk back out into the living room. They’re singing the last lines of Happy Birthday. I’m late to the party. But the baby, it’s a healthy first birthday. I smile and watch as everybody who’s of age gorges on food and beer, while the infant stupidly stares at a lightbulb. Drawn there like a moth.”

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