Damage Control: Stories
St. Martin's Press
“Lyndon” is from Amber Dermont’s debut collection, DAMANGE CONTROL: STORIES (St. Martin’s Press). Dermont is the author of the bestselling novel, THE STARBOARD SEA and her short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Dave Eggers’s Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005, Zoetrope: All-Story, and Best New American Voices 2006. Dermont received her MFA in fiction from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Dermont said this about her story: “Lyndon” is the first of several short stories set in Texas included in my collection. Though I grew up on the shores of Plymouth Rock, I’ve lived off and on in the Lone Star State (I teach at Rice University–the alma mater of the great Larry McMurtry). The Republic of Texas sparks the fury of my imagination. I’m transfixed by its paradoxes and possibilities. It’s the only state that was also a country and its outlaw iconoclasm inspires and delights.
While I only ever wanted to be a writer, I often fantasize about a life in politics: the lawmaking, the law breaking and the inevitable scandal that topples my empire. My obsession with presidential history has led me to visit nearly every presidential library, boyhood/girlhood (someday!) home and reconstructed birthplace. “Lyndon” is based on a series of trips I made to the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas (Texas: the only state to kill a President in his convertible) and a road trip along the Devil’s Backbone that delivered me to LBJ’s Ranch. Many of the details–the ladybugs, the ice cream fight, the Victim T-Shirt–come directly from my life while others emerged from the secret compartments within my cabinet of curiosities.
While touring the LBJ Ranch, I witnessed a mother and her adolescent son in deep conflict. The mother was all windbreaker and exasperation as her defiant child campaigned through the ranch in his Bad Religion T-shirt waving a miniature American flag. Fascinated by this duo, I began to write their legend on the tour bus as our guide played “Rain Drops Keep Fallin’ On My Head.”
Mother and son do not appear in “Lyndon” but they are my muses. This is often the case: what triggers me into the world of a story becomes pure pentimento. Ultimately, “Lyndon” is about a young girl, Elise, her grief over the loss of her father and her mother’s sad attempt to parent this loss. Elise emerges as the story’s forlorn heart. She taught me when to deploy the ladybugs and when to light the peace pipe. I elected Elise the President of this pilgrimage, this mother/daughter sojourn, this tribute to Texas politics and America’s high times.