The bridge where Poison was beaten by Cary is just up the river from this spot.

"So after she beat you up, Poison, what was you thinking?" Bud was making one of his famous shredded beef cheeseburgers for Poison. Just beneath the cheese he placed a dollop of peanut butter the size of a nickel. It was his secret ingredient.

"I was thinking I didn't like her, Bud," Poison said.

"She whomped you good, didn't she?"

"She caused me pain."

"No doubt," Bud said.

Poison held his right arm up then, a slight bend between wrist and elbow, and said, "She caused me crookedness."

"That won't go away," Bud said.

"No, sir."

"A good job," Bud said. "That's what it was."

"I have always been a fan of excellence," said Poison.

A side street in Quilli.

Pistelle Philomene walks down to the last booth in Bud's Bar and sits down opposite Michelle Monelle. Together they weigh over four-hundred pounds, though Michelle carries the double-Franklin on that and sixty more.

"You look worried, little worker," Michelle says. One hand is resting on top of the phone Bud put in the booth for Michelle's taxi business. It has rung only twice today and it's nearly five o'clock.

"I need advice," Pissy, a journeyman carpenter says. "Something about love."

"Clean underwear," Michelle says. It's what her mother always told her.

"I'm not wearing any underwear. Should I tell him that?"

"I was joking."

"I'm not."

Michelle smiles then and says, "Never tell a man you're not wearing underwear."

"Really?"

"Without mystery, Pissy, we're all just doctors and lawyers."

An American Outrage

Main Street in Quillifarkeag, Maine

Night falls up here to the haunting call of unseen loons on the lakes and ponds that are everywhere in this part of northern Maine. It is a lonely sound, as though nature had worked hard to define sadness and had come close in the unforgettable cry of that bird. Nearby, the careworn homes of St. Antoine de Plupart bear human witness to that sadness. This is a rough town of good people who are not strangers to desperation, though it is safe to say that the events of last night will test their fortitude.

Some miles from here is the home of one Ellen DeLay, a reclusive woman in her forties, about whom, so it is said, there were always stories - tales of a sort that led people to question her sanity, or just tales of a woman who'd had enough of life in its conventional sense, who opted out and took to the woods.

Last night this Ellen DeLay was shot and killed by four police officers who stormed her small house. Early police reports have it that she, herself, fired a weapon at some fishermen who were near her home. As the officers, responding to a complaint from the fishermen, approached her house they were met with gunfire. Nearly two-hundred rounds of ammunition were expended in the gun battle ....


Corky Crepiter, Maine Public Radio, August 13, 1994

A little west of downtown Quilli.

"...the saddest thing I think I've ever seen."


Joe DeLay in a letter to his wife, Ellen

"So I stretch myself thin atop dirty dreams, which of course aren't all that dirty even though they keep coming out, just hold me, feel me, love me, talk to me, be right here beside me when I wake and let's have coffee at three in the afternoon. I only wish I could say this really pretty because I think my thoughts right now are up there with the great people.

"Maybe you just don't want to hear my words anymore, you're beyond words and that's dangerous, and you're beyond me, which is probably not hard to do, so all right, Ellen, all right I suppose. Maybe I'm not the jewel I could think I am. I am certainly not the success I always wanted to be, and I even used to be better-looking, so I'm not sure what compelling promise I could lay before you other than saying there isn't anybody on the earth who has been with you longer than this Joe here (me), who truly knows you and knows all the things you're always trying to break out of and why it's good that you try to do that and I think that's something, honestly I do, something of value in a world gone cheap to where it seems like every single thing that's done is planned and plotted and scripted and a man's instincts and a woman's intuitions have been laughed away, a person, one link to other links, to other times and good times, where it's the people who are with you who carry you into tomorrow and without them you hang and all the days are like all the days. I think to myself I'm the fantasy, I'm the dream and I can do it for you because there isn't anything else I'm here for and you don't want it, Ellen, you don't want me and you don't want tomorrow and today doesn't seem all that wonderful and all of that's a sad thing, the saddest thing I think I've ever seen."

Selected Works

Novel
I think this book would appeal to anyone who likes a dark crime story set in a rural, somewhat remote part of Maine in a time when the radicalism of the nineteen-seventies was sweeping the country.
Ellen DeLay, an upstanding citizen of Quillifarkeag, Maine, suddenly and unpredictably leaves her happy, twenty-five year marriage for a lonely cabin deep in the Maine woods, where she makes a living dressing hunters' kill - bears, moose, deer. It seems an idyllic life, punctuated only now and then by rifle fire as she shoots into the air to scare off cheeky teens who come to taunt "the crazy woman."
Novella
A small-town lawyer in the middle of a gruesome murder case finds salvation in the world of a homeless woman and her daughter.
A young woman's morning walk through her small town finds her immersed in a small tragedy, an indifferent government, and the "science gone mad" of her best friend's husband. Quirky, goofy, nutty - yes, but a gentle look as well at some of the values that keep us from falling off the planet
Essay
A hint of generally true autobiography, this piece is part of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill's "How I Became A Writer" series.
Stories
Quillifarkeag is a state of mind, one marked by innocence and regret, by guile and sympathy. The people there will let you into their lives - but not very far. Go too far inside and things start to echo, people get close. Honesty becomes negotiable. Bare all and someone might still say, "Were you naked or nude?" It's an important distinction. In a small place like Quilli the naked truth is hurtful. The nude truth is not so bad.

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