Franklin: Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter

Plot Summaries

Chapter 1

  • Rutherford girl missing for eight days
  • Larry Ott returning home, monster waiting in his house
  • Flashback: weather
  • Larry Ott lives alone in his parents’ house, habits, daily life, “acted more like a curator”
  • description of house and scenery: muddy driveway, green field, woods, remote/secluded/isolated area
  • description of barn, tractor, chicken pen, Larry’s invention: “On a summer weekend he’d built a head-high moveable cage with an open floor and attached a set of lawn mower wheels to the back end.”
  • shaves at the bathroom mirror
  • reflecting his job (“a mechanic, but only in theory”)
  • Larry and guns: “There was a gun rack in the back window that held his umbrella – you weren’t allowed to display firearms since 9/11. But even before that, because of his past, Larry hadn’t been allowed to own a gun.”
  • puts on his uniform
  • four-hour stay at his garage
  • plan to pay his mother a visit at River Acres (old people’s home, dementia)
  • driving habits
  • frequent visits by Roy French (missing girl)
  • assault by the man in the mask

Chapter 2

Part one: Crime scene at Cane Creek, M&M’s corpse

  • Silas Jones, “sole law enforcement of Chabot, Mississippi”
  • buzzards: “he glanced out his window and saw how full of buzzards the easterly sky had grown. There were dozens of them, dark smudges against darker clouds like World War II photographs he’d seen of flak exploding around bomber planes. (…) Tina Rutherford, the nineteen-year-old college student, white girl, he was both hoping and hoping not to find under the cloud of buzzards (…)”
  • starts investigating on the Rutherford ground, Cane Creek, a slough, instead of directing traffic at the mill entrance
  • hopes not to have to shoot, does not like to fire his pistol
  • memory flashbacks: his mother telling him about animals that go off to die somewhere; Larry Ott telling him about buzzards that kill trees by roosting in them
  • finds, recognizes M&M’s corpse
  • “a few days back”, Silas found M&M’s car burning
  • memory flashback: M&M, baseball, diverging careers (Silas: cop; M&M drug trafficker)
  • Roy French arrives at crime scene
  • EMT Angie arrives, Silas’ girlfriend for a few months
  • short erotic scene
  • “a couple of hours later” Silas sits at his computer in his office, does his e-mails
  • Morris Sheffield introduced, mayor and real estate agent
  • talk to Miss Voncille
  • description of Chabot through Silas’ eyes (looking out of the window of his office): buildings, the gully, the mill
  • description of Silas’ car (dilapidated old vehicle, called “clunker” before)

Part 2: Silas’ vague apprehension respecting Larry Ott

  • Roy French arrives with a sandwich, tells Silas about his latest visit at Larry Ott’s, Silas astonished/alarmed that garage not open as usual
  • Silas remembers that Larry Ott tried to contact him twice within the last two years, since Silas has been back to Chabot
  • Silas drives to Fulsom’s business district to pass OTTOMOTIVE REPAIR
  • Larry Ott’s reputation, Cindy Walker first girl missing, Silas connection to her suggested
  • Silas’ vague suspicion that something extraordinary might have happened (“still the gnawing”)

Part 3: Rattlesnake in mailbox at Olivia’s house

  • Voncille phones and tells him about the rattlesnake in somebody’s mailbox
  • Silas asks Angie to drop over at Larry Ott’s home
  • Silas talks to Olivia and her friends (“White Trash Ave.”, dogs and four-wheelers), removes and destroys the rattler

Part 4: Silas directs traffic at mill and receives phone call from Angie

  • Silas directs traffic at mill
  • receives call from Angie – she seems to have discovered something horrible at Larry’s house – cliffhanger

Chapter 3

Part 1: Carl Ott and Alice Jones

  • Carl Ott drives Larry to school, they meet Alice and Silas Jones and pick them up
  • Ina Ott intervenes, gives Alice old clothes and insults her, Alice and Silas never show up again

Part 2: Larry taking after his maternal uncles

  • Carl’s prejudices/reactions to Uncle Colin, vegetarian, seat belt wearer
  • Carl’s contempt of his own son

Part 3: Carl Ott’s male refuge at the garage

  • Larry’s stays at the OTTOMOTIVE REPAIR
  • Carl’s drinking bouts with male neighbors, Cecil Walker and others, Carl telling racist anecdotes; Larry as invisible witness

Part 4: Larry and Silas’ first meeting in the woods; relation black-white

  • Larry meets Silas in the woods, shows him his rifle
  • flashback: how David and Ken incited Larry to insult a black girl, Jackie Simmons (“Monkey Lips”)
  • Larry lends Silas his rifle and leaves gloves in the wood

Chapter 4

Part 1: Silas phones Angie (while driving to Larry Ott’s house)

  • “”BAD,” ANGIE’S VOICE said of Larry Ott’s condition. They’d arrived, she reported, on scene to find him lying on his back in a puddle of blood. Single gunshot wound to the chest, pistol in his hand.”

Part 2: Silas phones French (still driving)

  • “Silas fed him the chain of events.

    “Shit, 32,” French said. “Track a cloud of buzzards to a floater in the morning and follow a ‘hunch’ to attempted murder in the afternoon. You after my job?”
    Silas signaled and passed the log truck, waving an absent hand out the window. “Just a pay raise. But Ott might be more than attempted murder.””

Part 3: Silas arrives and looks around at Larry’s premises

  • securing of evidence
  • description of house and barn
  • memories of childhood
  • chicken house

Part 4: French arrives, further securing of evidence

  • cataloging prints
  • French regards Larry as a suspect, Silas as a friend/victim
  • French leaves

Part 5: Silas alone at Larry’s house

  • drinks some beer
  • presses button of answering machine: ““I’m sorry to bother you,” Larry Ott’s voice said. “I know you’re busy, but please call me back when you can, even if it’s late. It’s Monday morning, and I’m at the shop. (…) Please call back, even if it’s late. It’s kind of important, but I don’t want to say it over the phone. Thank you.””

Chapter 5

Part 1: First day of summer, Larry gets the mail

  • It was a Saturday, the first day of summer, school out and three long months of freedom ahead of him. (…) He hopped onto his bicycle where he’d leaned it by the porch and (…) skidding to a stop before the mailboxes, theirs and the Walkers’.

Part 2: Larry has breakfast with his parents

  • “[Carl] often grumbled about having to work on Saturday, but Larry knew he preferred it to being here. And on any other Saturday Larry would have been anxious to go with him.
    But not today. (…)
    Today, though, Larry was relieved when his father looked back at the letter in his hand and said, “Got a busy one, Ina. Two transmissions and a carburetor. He won’t do nothing but get in the way.””

Part 3: Larry cuts the grass and thinks about his relationship to Silas

  • He feels that there is a secret about Carl and the Jones family (“He’d failed Carl before by not understanding that the black woman and her son had been their secret.”)
  • He remembers that he gave Silas one of Carl’s guns.
  • He recalls their frequent meetings in the woods near the cabin in spring, they went fishing and observed snakes.
  • Silas told him that Alice didn’t want the two boys to meet, Larry believes the reason is their different skin colour.
  • Larry told Silas Stephan King stories, which Silas preferred to reading them himself.

Part 4: Larry has lunch and leaves to meet Silas

  • Larry wonders if Silas’ new interest in baseball will affect their friendship
  • He tells Silas Stephan King stories.

Part 5: Larry shows Silas the Walkers’ house, they watch what’s going on there and Silas intervenes to defend Cindy Walker

  • On their way to Cindy’s house Larry tells Silas “about the New Year’s Eve a couple of years before when the Walkers had come over and Carl had brought a bunch of fireworks.” Silas doesn’t find the story funny.
  • They hide near the house and discover Carl on the deck.
  • Silas recognizes Cindy as a girl from school.
  • They watch Cecil harrass/molest Cindy.
  • Silas bravely intervenes taking sides with Cindy (“Silas was out of the leaves and halfway across the yard, brushing dirt from his knees, before Larry realized he was gone from his side. Striding away, he seemed taller than he had when they’d met. Still frozen, Larry watched Silas walk up to the two drunk white men on the porch, both speechless at his appearance. “Yall leave that girl alone,” he said.”). Larry is watching from his hiding place.
  • Silas criticizes Larry for not having supported him.

Part 6: Larry comes home, Carl asks him about the missing gun

  • “LARRY KNEW SOMETHING was wrong when he walked in the back door, on his way to place the .33 in its green velvet slot in the gun cabinet in the hall. Carl sidestepped out of the kitchen to face him.
    “Come here,” he said.
    Larry willed himself to walk toward his father, who seized him by his sleeve and dragged him into the living room. He took the rifle from Larry.
    “Where’s my Marlin?”
  • Larry admits he gave the Marlin to Silas. Thus Ina finds out about the Jones lodging in the cabin and she warns Carl (““If they don’t leave,” his mother said, “then me and Larry are. Tonight.””).

Part 7: Ina sits by Larry’s bed and says her prayer

  • ““Dear Lord,” she prayed, “thank You for Your grace. Thank You for healing Larry’s stuttering and his asthma. Please,” she said, and he heard that she was trying not to cry, “please, God, send him a special friend. One just – one just for him. Amen,” she said, and left.”

Part 8: Carl forces the boys to fight, Larry insults Silas in a racist way

  • “WHEN HE WOKE in the morning (…) [his] mother was in the kitchen cooking breakfast, as if nothing had happened. Through his window he saw Carl ’s truck gone and wondered if he’d stayed at Cecil’s all night.”
  • Larry goes to Silas and asks him to give the Marlin back, Silas does not agree.
  • Carl, drunk, surprises them in the woods.
  • Carl sets the boys on each other to fight over the gun. (““Tell you boys what.” Carl walked over to the tree (…) and eased himself down until he sat at its base with his legs crossed.“So. Yall both want the rifle. You remember in the Bible? Story of King Solomon? Wisest man ever? Two women come before him with a baby both claiming it. Know what he says? Says cut that sum bitch in two, give each woman half.” Carl mimed sawing through a baby and giving Larry one side, Silas the other, all the while talking. (…) “I got it. Yall got to fight it out. Man to man. White to colored. Whichever one of yall wins gets the gun.”)
  • Silas wins. (“From above he heard Carl telling them to bite if they want to, it’s allowed, kneeing in the nuts, allowed, kidney punches, rabbit punches, check, check, eye gouging, go ahead, fight dirty, the whole time swigging from his bottle, until finally Silas had Larry facedown in the dirt. (…) “You,” Larry burbled, “you n-n-n-nigger.””)
  • Larry realizes that something between him and Silas has broken. (“He stood to face Silas, and Silas looked different than Larry had ever seen him. His eyes now flashed the same fierceness the other black boys at school had, that the girl Carolyn had. He was already sorry but knew it was too late.”)

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