Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge
“Spokane” is from Peter Orner’s story collection Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge, (Little Brown), which was selected as an Amazon Book of the Month. Peter Orner’s fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the the Atlantic Monthly, Granta, The Paris Review, and McSweeney’s.
His stories have been anthologized in Best American Stories and twice won a Pushcart Prize. His first collection, Esther Stories, was awarded the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and was a Finalist for the Pen Hemingway Award. and the New York Public Library’s Young Lions Award.
Orner talked about how he came to write this story: I remember driving through Spokane Washington in the deadest part of the night. This was years ago. Maybe the mid 1990’s. I didn’t stop. I don’t even remember where I was heading. Montana from California or the other way around, a drive I’ve done many times.
Usually I go right by Spokane, but that night – it must have been three or four in the morning – I got off I-90 and wandered up and down the hilly streets of the sleeping city. Hard to explain but I got a weird but good feeling from the place, a kind of darkness laced with warmth. I don’t know how else to describe it. I felt at home in a place I’d never lived. I think it reminded me of other cities I’ve known and come to love, underdog cities that have seen better days but keep fighting it out: Fall River, Massachusetts, Davenport, Iowa, Stockton, California.
As for where Stace’s voice came from, and Edward’s dark, sad story itself, god knows. And since I don’t believe in god (most days) I’m not sure anybody knows. A voice just starts talking in my ear. I do know that Stace began with the simple line, “If I tell you something, will you listen?” What choice did I have?