Now available in paperback

51QN5rzHUwL._SX346_BO1,204,203,200_

Fifty-seven years ago I killed a boy. Tonight, Euart Monroe walked into my room with a Mossberg 510 and a stained hobo mattress and fired a shot into my belly. It should have killed me right off, but he didn’t want that. He wanted me to know who pulled the trigger.

***
I’m excited to announce that Ordinary Handsome is now available in paperback. It’s an oversize 6.69″ x  9.61″ book with a matte cover and cream pages. Pardon the indulgence, but it really is quite handsome. Weighing in at a whopping 187 pages, it’s got a spanky new cover and even a tiny author photo on the back for your mustache-drawing indulgence. Please check it out and let me know what you think. As always, thank you for reading. — Steve

Revised cover

ordinary5FINALEb

The big dreamers weren’t anywhere to be found in my bar that day. You know the kind, if you’ve ever been in a saloon. The big talkers who like to think they have life by the throat. If they were just a little luckier, or if fate was a little pluckier, they could improve their lot in life in a minute.

But you hear all those dreams, those half-lit ambitions, and you know they’re not going anywhere but from the bar stool to the privy, and back to their bar stool. And the drunker they get, the loftier the dreams.

Old Walt Zuckerman, who used to manage the Red & White, he always had the dream of buying himself a house boat. Said if he had one, he’d float on the lake all day, drink beer, and enjoy the fruits of his labor. What particular fruits, and what particular labor, he never said, but he was keen on buying that boat. And on what lake, I don’t have any idea. Wasn’t a lake within 200 miles of Handsome. I guess if you’re going to dream something up, the matter of a lake shouldn’t have no bearing.

Then he decided he was going to build that boat. He studied diagrams in Popular Mechanics, and even bought a garage-full of lumber. He said he sent away for blueprints from a company in Pennsylvania.

Walt spent endless weeks talking about that boat, and how he would name it “The Marie” after his high school sweetheart, and how he’d paint it green and stencil her name on it with bright orange paint. He would have a fully stocked kitchen, which he called the galley, and eat pork and beans and put ketchup on his eggs and leave a bottle of bourbon on his bedside table at night because no one could tell him he couldn’t because he would be the goddamned captain of The Marie.

Of course, the lumber gathered termites, and his hammer and nails turned rusty, and it came to pass you couldn’t buy Walt a drink if you mentioned The Marie. He was done with it, and he never spoke of her again.

Time slipped away, like it always does, and life got in the way. And so it is with everyone who leaves a crumpled dollar bill on the counter of my bar. For every “trade her in for a new Cadillac, maybe next summer,” there’s another greasy sawbuck in my cash drawer.

***

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome, available here. Thanks for reading!

Simply Extraordinary – Misfortune and Strife in Steven Baird’s Ordinary Handsome

An amazing review for Ordinary Handsome from crumpledpapercranes.com. She’s an extraordinary author and I’ve been privileged to read and enjoy her work for quite some time. I’m humbled and thrilled by this unexpected review.

Ordinary Handsome is available here.

Crumpled Paper Cranes

ordinaryhandsomeiiI first read Ordinary Handsome a little more than a year ago. Admittedly, I felt quite overwhelmed upon finishing the book, giving it a second, third, and fourth read. Not only did the book leave me breathing deeply, scouting for the aroma of old black tea, the imprisoning honesty of spilled liquor, salty dried blood staining dusty fabric, and the freshness of limes that serve disturbingly more than just a culinary purpose. Steven Baird’s novel demanded my full attention, and even though I was absolutely absorbed each time I read it in five hours’ time, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. His writing is exquisite, the subject matter is temporally relevant, and there are characters to both pity and loathe. Ordinary Handsome, in its grit and precision, tells of extraordinary misfortune and strife.

Baird illustrates the backdrop poetically. As we walk through the streets of…

View original post 439 more words

Ordinary Handsome: An excerpt

ordinaryhandsomeiiThough it’s approaching two years since I published Ordinary Handsome, I still have deep affection for it. I still think of it as the benchmark of everything I’ve written since.  It’s the simple story of a thief, a mistake, a dying town, and the ghosts, real or imagined, that haunt the town of Handsome. If a writer is allowed to say such a thing, it still haunts me. Enjoy, and thank you for reading. – Steve

Link and reviews here.

***

Fifty-seven years ago I killed a boy. Tonight, you walked into my room with a Mossberg 510 and a stained hobo mattress and fired a shot into my belly.

But we’ve had this conversation before, haven’t we, Euart?

The memories get scattered like buckshot every time I revisit them. I play them in my head until the sentences become clearer and my confessional feels more sincere. Everything has been garbled and meaningless, tangled in memories and false perceptions; all right, lies.

I’ve lived with a lie for fifty-seven years, and built upon it my cathedral, and you were the only one who knew it. I’ve been expecting you for all these fifty-seven years. One lie built a thousand until I couldn’t cut through them without anything but honest confession. And, maybe, a Mossberg 510 to pare away my guts.

I’m still not sure you’re not a hallucination, though this blood between my fingers tells me different. At this point, it doesn’t matter.

The clock reads: 3:18.

I know I’m finished, and it would have been true even without you in front of my bed. Put down that damned mattress and I’ll tell you what happened that night. If there are any lies, it’s only because I’ve been swimming in them for so long that I don’t know the feel of dry land. They are not intentional lies, just the way I remember things.

Let me put my hands back on the wheel, hands at ten and two, and drive through that night again. And then you can let me be.

Ronny Salmon was hungover and in a nasty mood. His wife left him three days earlier and he’d been living on Evan Williams bourbon-fried egg sandwiches. Archie Dollar was attending a Baptist circus tent revival, so it was Ronny and me, and it was a coin toss as to who was the better driver. When Ronny was in that kind of mood, it was better to let him be, so I ended up with the keys. Would it have made a difference? Maybe not. If Archie was driving, it would have made all the difference. Or maybe not. Sometimes fate squeezes its hand around your throat no matter what you do.

Arlene was… not so well. It was more obvious every day. So I needed more money for treatments that wouldn’t work and I needed more work so I wouldn’t have to see her deteriorate. Selfish? Of course. But I also didn’t want her to see me deteriorate. I was operating on ninety percent grief and ten percent need. It was the right decision, I think. I was there at the end, that’s what counts.

But until it happens, grief is just a word. You may think you know it, but it runs deeper than cancer, more malignant than regret. What the hell did I know about grief? I was sad that my wife was going to die? Is that all? But never mind. You know what I’m talking about.

I needed something quick and uncomplicated. We weren’t showmen, Ronny and me. But we were efficient. And we….

No, that’s not right. We were simple crooks. No finesse, not much better than thugs. Smash and grab, that was more like it.

I said I’d be honest, and listen to me. Daydreaming about the good old days, a couple of daring pirates in an old Bel Air. No. I wasn’t that good or that smart. Any planning came down to: who do we hit/got your gun/what’s the fastest way out of here? It was a job. I needed the money. Simple.

It was another gas station. We were never audacious enough to try anything better. A liquor store once in a while, but mostly gas stations. Fill your tank, check your oil, keep the change.

You know there’s no decent place to rob in a place like Handsome. We usually took our show on the road. But the sky was filling up with some nasty weather, and we both wanted to get home. Maybe not Ronny, all he wanted was a bed and another drink. And maybe not me either, because all I had to go home to was a dying wife. But neither of us were particularly ambitious. It was just workaday until we punched our card. And neither of us wanted to be out in the storm that was coming. We were going through the motions for a few hundred bucks.

Even though it was gray overhead, it was dark gray. Heavy gray. It was going to come down hard. We almost called it off. But when the weather is going to turn, that may be the best time to do a job. Little or no traffic, and you know the poor bastard you’re going to hit isn’t going to care. He just wants to go home, too.

A Very Tall Summer

VerytallNEWtrucover2

It was a very tall summer in 1957, and I’ll tell you why…
And so begins the most terrible summer for Charlotte Windover.
She and husband Jeremiah began a new life together surrounded by a wide expanse of a corn and sky. After years of brutal disappointment, she finally resolves to change her life. When Jeremiah is suddenly killed at an abandoned homestead, life becomes more isolated and harrowing. And with the threat of random fires being set by a mysterious figure known only as Croy, Charlotte’s life has become even more desperate.
In a land of big skies and small dreams, A Very Tall Summer is the tale of a woman’s resolve to overcome her broken past, and at any cost.

***

“The land takes hold and humbles and diminishes. It punishes a soul for the vainglorious hope of harnessing it. Rich brown, powder gray, it makes no difference; it overwhelms and chokes a man’s thoughts. It lodges itself upon the skin, under the fingernails, inside work boots and carburetors, it’s always there, at the foot of the bed, in the washing machine, behind the ears, laying claim to you, reminding you it’s there and soon you won’t be. You will be buried in it in time, and even if a hard wind comes and pulls your bones out of the ground, it will mock you, mock your arrogance.

“This was our life, and we expected no more than a decent crop, grocery money, medicine money, repair-the-tin-roof money. Warmth in winter, clean water in summer, the haunting fragrance of corn to placate our shabby mortality.”

Available from Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01A4YRM5C

That deepest night

deepest
You met her at a roadside cafe just outside of Little Rock. It was two in the morning and you were on your third cup of coffee. You’d been hitchhiking for three days without much sleep. She was a waitress and you were her only customer. She took her cigarette outside and waited for you to finish. But she kept sneaking peaks at you, and you knew it.
You knew you smelled bad, and your eyes were as red as sundown, but you were polite and didn’t have liquor on your breath. You knew you looked used-up, but she saw something in you no one else did. She saw you as someone lost and looking to find a way back home. When she came back inside after her third smoke, she sat right down beside you and introduced herself. And she was bold! Asked you if you had a place to stay, and offered you a decent bed. Not to share it with her, Lord no, but she kept a small spare bedroom that was warm. You could clean yourself up before you hit the road again, and she wouldn’t mind if you did a few chores for her. But nothing funny. She kept a loaded gun in her bedroom and wanted you to know it.
You were so overwhelmed – and surprised – by her kindness that you couldn’t think of a decent excuse to walk away.
So she took you home and you slept in her spare bedroom in the back, next to the laundry room, and you slept for most of a day.
And she was with you every day from then.
Sometimes, in the deepest heart of the night, you woke up clinging to her tightly, fiercely, and you remember that same kind of fierceness as when you were holding on to a pine tree in the middle of a rain storm, that deepest heart of that deepest night. And you swore you’d never let go.

OrdinaryHandsomeII

 

 

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome. Available at http://www.amazon.com//dp/B00P46ZPA0 for only $2.99.

burial

I won’t bore you with the details of the burial. Out of necessity, it was a shallow grave. I buried him where I laid him down. The trees were closely bunched together, but the earth was soft. It didn’t take me more than half an hour. He was so small.

***

Excerpt from Ordinary Handsome: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00P46ZPA0