“American Grafitti” meets “Animal House” in Joseph Brisben’s new novel, “Skip Day.”
Joe Ralston wants to make an impression on his hometown, Enid, Oklahoma, that will make its citizens remember him forever. For his high school’s annual “Skip Day” celebration, Joe rents an old hearse from a mortuary that it has tried for weeks to sell. Joe then invites four buddies to help him decorate it with graffiti. Joe is also anxious to leave Enid and go to college. He feels the city and its grapevine make the place too confining for him. The year is 1959. College students have been trying to see how many of them they can stuff into telephone booths. When the students gather for a parade, a newspaper photographer challenges Joe and company to see how many students they can stuff into the hearse. They cram in 75 with Joe trying to have a romantic interlude with his heartthrob Betsy Lake, but that turns into a bust. The students then parade their vehicles around Enid’s square and out to Meadowlake Park for a picnic, miniature golf, and rides on the Kiwanis Club’s kiddie train. The truant officer is too busy schmoozing with school brass to operate the train, so Joe steals it, For his efforts, he thrown along with the class president and the president of the student body into the lake. The rest of the day finds Joe befriending Bob, a basketball teammate, who is having issues; working at the city’s newspaper, and going to a drunken party in the home of his friend Don. Joe arrives at the party late. He finds it boring and takes a drunken Bob home. Along the way, Bob confesses that he won’t graduate with the rest of the class. Joe feels guilty that he could not help Bob out of his spot. In anger, he floor his mother’s 1952 Packard. A black police officer stops him for speeding. They have a rich talk about civil rights in Enid. The next morning, Joe’s buddies are so hung over that they can’t help him clean the hearse. His cousin and his younger sister pitch in, and Joe delivers the hearse on time where the mortician has a surprise for him. Forty years later, Joe returns to Enid to find out what happened to his classmates and to Skip Day.
Format: 5 x 8 Black & White Paperback, 162 pages
Publisher: Outskirts Press (Jul 11, 2017)
Genre: FICTION / Humorous