Clown Girl author Monica Drake absolutely nails it with this piece, “Dearest Dear,” published in the summer edition of Menacing Hedge. It’s about a young woman whose love and devotion to her man are unmatched by anything but her total erraticism, which makes for a strange and very funny monologue. Unreliable narrator? You bet. Her excuses seem to be largely olfactory in nature: smells remind her of her man (or former man), people and objects give off pheromones that compel her to do things she (allegedly) wouldn’t ordinarily do. Throughout, there’s a perceived tension between the speaker’s party-girl inclinations and what seems to be her more settled-down or domestic situation with her significant other, a relationship that we easily infer is rocky at best. But the speaker in “Dearest Dear” doesn’t waste much time on vacillation or deliberation, which is what makes her such an entertaining train wreck of a character. Whether downing booze and Oxycontins with total strangers or simply going on a quest for a tortilla-maker, the speaker/protagonist lets us enjoy her whimsical irresponsibility vicariously.
The piece is a very polished example of those “I’m Sorry, But…” excuse stories I used to do in a couple different creating writing/poetry workshops I taught. The premise of “I’m Sorry, But…” (you may know this exercise by a different name) is simply to explain and make an excuse (or series of excuses) for something you have done. The more ridiculous and convoluted the explanation, the better. I’m sorry I burned down your house, but I know you weren’t particularly fond of your home or personal effects and much preferred the insurance check. I’m sorry the cookies have gone missing, but I believe we have a rodent problem–big, cookie-jar-proficient rodents, and I say we hire an exterminator and buy more cookies, preferably chocolate chunk this time. Etc.
Another example of the excuse narrative is the McSweeney‘s piece “Before You Ask Me Why there’s a Buck Shooter Pro Arcade Game Where the China Cabinet Used to Be, Let Me Put Things into Perspective.”
All in all, Monica Drake’s “Dearest Dear” is one of my favorite stories published online so far this year.