Short stories set in the San Francisco Bay Area, exploring what happens when the seemingly fixed coordinates of our lives abruptly give way. The main characters share a fundamental predicament, the struggle to name and embrace some faith that can break their fall.
Catherine gives an overview of the book:
The Mechanics of Falling
Clay wakes up in the bathtub, naked. He pulls himself up on his elbows: he’s bone dry and so is the tub, and his bass guitar is perched upright on the toilet seat. He could try to figure out how he got here, or he could stop at the reason slamming in his skull. He knows what woke him, anyway. Annie, banging a door somewhere in the house, as she does every morning. Sometimes he resigns himself and sometimes he gives her hell. When she first moved in, she used to pound him on the shoulder at 7:00 A.M. and hiss at him to come and watch her ride. To cure her of it, he picked her up one morning and dumped her on the porch and locked the door. She waited for him to come out and doused him with a bucket of water. Later he lay in wait for her with fistfuls of the warm mash they feed the horses. Then she found out he was afraid of snakes. The fields around the stables are full of them. Neither of them is ever going to cure the other.
He crawls out of the tub, rescues the guitar, and fishes a pair of jeans from the hamper. In the kitchen he finds Annie finishing a bowl of Lucky Charms, her hair already knotted in a braid that she can tuck under her riding helmet. She doesn’t look up when he comes in, and he can’t decide if her air of indifference stems from innocence or cunning.
He puts on coffee. She never does this for him, even though she’s always up first. Probably that’s too domestic. At first Annie was just a roommate. Letting her share the house on the property meant he could pay her less for helping him manage the barn and teaching a few lessons. That they ended up sleeping together was about as inevitable as the tit-for-tat escalation of their fights, and yet whenever he wakes to find her in his bed in the morning, he blinks in surprise. He’s never sure it will happen again. It hasn’t, not for a while.
Who took my clothes? he says.
You got your hands on a bottle of tequila.
Roger must have brought the bottle when he and Marty came over to play some music. One practice is so much like another, Clay can never remember too specifically. Maybe he blew out an amp again, and that’s how his guitar ended up in the toilet. Maybe Marty got ticked off because Clay always tells him to shut up when he talks about getting another gig at the bar in town, where they played once for free beer.
Clay dips Annie’s braid in her cereal bowl. Who took my clothes?
You shouldn’t drink till you black out.
As I recall, you had your share too.
I didn’t wake up in the bathtub with no clothes on, she says.
I don’t drink that much.
She considers this. No, you don’t. Drinking’s just your excuse. Why remember every stupid thing you did to end up like that when you can be amazed instead?
Clay can never just have a conversation with her. She’s always ambitious to say something real, in a way that makes him able to imagine her in a college classroom not so long ago, raising her hand in answer to every question. She’s too young for him. That first morning he woke up to find her staring back at him, skinny little Annie wrapped in his arms, she watched him try to work up the courage to speak and then she beat him to the punch. She smiled and said, Look what you got yourself into.
Catherine Brady is the author of three short story collections. The Mechanics of Falling was the recipient of the 2010 Northern California Book Award in Fiction. Curled in the Bed of Love was the winner of the 2002 Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction...