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David James Keaton's picture

Shitcan Alley

By David James Keaton in Arrest Us

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A driver stuck in construction traffic becomes obsessed with car-crash memorial crosses and assaults a police officer while trying to solve an unlikely conspiracy.


Seb's picture
Seb from Thanet, Kent, UK June 11, 2014 - 3:03pm

Very funny, very raw. Love it.

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres June 12, 2014 - 10:00am

- The description (or the alternative to the description, I should say) of the bar fight is genius.

- It's awesome/amazing/excellent/a breath of fresh air to see wit used in this story.

- It's realistic enough to have not lost me within the first few pages.

- Awesome story.


EdVaughn's picture
EdVaughn from Louisville, Ky is reading a whole bunch of different stuff June 11, 2014 - 5:21pm

Hilarious! Good stuff here. The only negative thing I could say is there's a lot of editing mistakes (missing words, extra words, misspellings) but nothing real major. Great story, man.

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose June 11, 2014 - 5:25pm

Thanks, guys! yeah, that bar fight was where I had to dump 1,000+ words. It had one dream/movie reference too many. and it still might. but it was so tempting to indulge there with a bait and switch "don't you hate hearing about fights" aaaaaand here's a long-ass fight. although I probably still did. thanks for checking out the story though, seriously. fun getting feedback on this thing.

Liam Sweeny's picture
Liam Sweeny from Albany, NY is reading Country Hardball June 11, 2014 - 8:29pm

Enjoyed the story. I liked the fight scene. A bizarrestory, with that twist about the 'math' - You wouldn't think that, but it is a cool idea. Fun read. Good to see you on board.


Laura Keating's picture
Laura Keating from Canada is reading The Aleph and Other Stories June 12, 2014 - 1:46am

That was excellent. Really well written, gliding along and shot through with spot-on observation/description. Pynchonesque and perfectly so.
The confidence of the narrator is what sold it. I would glady read more of your work, cheers!

Practically Dead's picture
Practically Dead from Detroit Michigan is reading John dies at the end June 12, 2014 - 12:44pm

Loved it. It's the kind of story that provides just enough surreal mental imagery to make it feel substantial and just enough grimy spit and motor oil to make it feel fun. I was "in" by the second sentence. 

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose June 12, 2014 - 1:59pm

Thanks for the great new comments and feedback today, everybody! It's great to check in and see if people read your stuff. Now Lore and P.D. have me considering marketing a Pynchonesque motor oil. The denseness would be what? 10W90? :) Seriously though, thanks for checking this out, everyone. Very fun.

Aaron King's picture
Aaron King June 13, 2014 - 2:40pm

This is the first piece of read here, and I really enjoyed it. I could use another thousand words of connective tissue for the narrator's reasons for jumping into the case--not that I don't believe him as a character but because I'd like to get a little more inside his head.

I like a lot of the playful language, but there was one sentence I stumbled over: "I dragged my bar stool and octogenarian next to him." Is this a joke I didn't get? Was something established as being 80, and I just missed it?

Anyway, great read.

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose June 14, 2014 - 8:41am

Thanks a bunch, Aaron. Yeah the first draft was 6,500 words and most of what I cut was internal ramblings. I wonder if the cuts drew out the "mystery" to the point that it now seems more important. Interesting though how the focus moves with edits. Very much appreciate all these comments for just these reasons.
Yeah, that "octogenarian" line was supposed to be continuing the joke about eating bad chicken wings being like eating an old man (and a knock against the horrible wings in Louisville), but I might have gotten too abstract there and stepped on my own punchline :)

Hooper Triplett's picture
Hooper Triplett from Tucson, AZ is reading Fever Pitch June 14, 2014 - 7:06pm

Very entertaining, but perhaps a little light on the mystery aspect.

Only criticism is the pace of the fight.  I agreed with your character's conclusion that "describing a dream to someone is the most torturous experience for all involved. I also think this applies to describing a fight. So I’m going to just give you the greatest hits..." but then it sort of rambled on.

Mickey Monaghan's picture
Mickey Monaghan from New York is reading too much and too little June 15, 2014 - 3:13am

Great story.  I enjoyed the flow of it.  and i absolutely loved how you compared talking about dreams to describing fights. it really does end up being "torture".  

the only real criticism i have is the last line.  for some reason i just feel as if it doesn't do the story justice.  just my opinion.  everything else is great though

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose June 16, 2014 - 1:48pm

thanks for those reads, guys. always pumped to log in and find more comments (seriously posting a story here is more satisfying than publications you never hear about again)
but yeah, I was torn with that fight, but I was so much in love with the gag of making it tortuous after promising it wouldn't be. in the end, I dropped a thousand words there but it still might be kinda indugent. a little bit tortuous = the porridge that's just right!
And the ending was another dilemma - I spent so much time simultaneously hinting there was a crime/punishing the narrator for thinking there was a crime, that the only thing I could think of to end the damn thing was to get in a last dig in at the cop and bring the crosses back in, kind of a chickenshit threat as he rabbits outta town. or something. see that's the kind of impotent malice I can get behind!

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland June 18, 2014 - 6:08pm


I really dig this story. Great mix of rambling badass, with fine detail. Everything comes full circle and works nicely. I couldn’t help be left wondering if there were ever a real crime to solve at all and I think that’s part of the mystery behind him.

The fight scene was great. Love how you did what you said you weren’t going to but still in a very entertaining way. The camera being an extension to the cop, another weak-point he had to protect was awesome.

I never did piece together what the old men tossing the rubber out of the back of the truck had to do with the plot. I figured it was just the way to get him thinking about how you don’t notice the trash on the sides of the highways, only the grit that’s right in front of you, and then that was integral to the themes of the story. If they actually tie into the dead bodies in jumpsuits, the crosses, and the math quizzes then I missed that.

I’ve attached a .doc with a couple of typos I noticed. Otherwise, this is really great work.

Thanks for posting. Good Luck. 


David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose June 20, 2014 - 12:40pm

Thanks for the comments and for finding those three typos, Jonathan. That's awesome that you attached that file. I'll go clean those typos up (the one typo is almost more fun as is though, where it says, "Like those novelty license plates you could get in the souvenir shop at the amusement part." You know, the amusement PART? That part where shit is amusing? Is this thing on? That cracked me up)
You're right about the "mystery" likely being unsolvable as it's essentially conjured up by a guy driving too long. It's a tough tightrope walk trying to make a first-person narrator confused but not the reader, too. If anybody knows how to do that without throwing a confusing crazy party on the page, I'd love to learn. They probably have more control than me.
Appreciate the comments, man. Enjoying this process immensely.

(update: I swapped out the original with the cleaner revision, thanks again for the help, Jonathan!) 

Adam Jenkins's picture
Adam Jenkins from Bracknell, England is reading RCX Magazine (Issue 1 coming soon) June 24, 2014 - 5:53am

I’ve read this a couple of times now, and looked through the comments, and I’m still feeling like maybe I’ve missed something. I had no idea what this was about, pretty much at any stage while reading it. I felt like perhaps the meaning was just out of reach, and if I could grab it, that would tie in everything.

I thought about not adding any comments, because clearly everyone who has read it has really enjoyed it and “got it”. I figured I’d be honest and you can take what you will from my comments.

There were some superb ideas here. The guy throwing strips of tyre off the back of the truck was wonderfully bizarre, and a great image. I also loved the crosses. That idea of someone being killed next to a cross already there with their name on it is wonderful. That really sparked my interest, and I wanted to get to the bottom of the mystery. That first encounter with the cop is very surreal, and I did enjoy the officiousness of that character.

Personally I could do with just a little more cohesion here, something to grasp hold of. I like a hefty dose of ambiguity, and I do enjoy an unreliable narrator, but this is a step too far for my taste. I want something on which I can hang my own conclusions. Mention of dreams etc is apt, because this whole story feels a little like a dream. The logic is not of the waking world.

Ultimately it didn’t work for me, but it looks as if I’m in the vast minority. Best of luck with this!

CJ Edwards's picture
CJ Edwards from Indianapolis is reading Classic Sci/Fi at the moment. June 24, 2014 - 12:31pm

As per usual DJK's story leaves me shaking my head at what must be screaming crack monkeys bashing keyboards togeather in his brain forcing out this fun and bizarre tale. I just watched that Walter Mitty movie and have to compare this story to that. Its like I was sitting on the freeway stuck in traffic and my mind decides to take a vacation to pass the time and then gets sidetracked by enjoyable insanity. Then I seem to wake up with drool running down my chin wondering why the cop is caressing his tazer while trying to coax me from the car. Well done sir. 

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose June 24, 2014 - 2:49pm

Thanks for the notes, guys! Ha, yeah, maybe you're right, C.J. How does that old saying go? If 100 screaming crack monkeys typed for 100 years, they'd produce the works of... crack-monkey Shakespeare! Also, one day you'll get to Taser me, I promise, maybe at the next Noir at the Bar. Maybe on my birthday..
Sorry it didn't work for you, Adam. As far as tying everything together, the majority of the story is a riff against detective fiction that ties things up into a bow, so I can see how looking for a conclusion would be frustrating, as well as the ever-shifting ground of unreliable narrators. Definitely appreciate the reads though.

Grant Williams's picture
Grant Williams from Wichita, KS is reading Friday June 25, 2014 - 11:34am

Nothing left but bones to pick at, so I'll just say that this was a fun read.  It was a bit rambly in parts and not always clear where it was going, but it was more about the journey than the destination, so good job.  Best of luck.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On June 26, 2014 - 9:45pm

Dude, I loved this. You have a really great, natural flow, especially in describing being stuck and traffic, as well as that fight. Honestly, other than some minor spelling errors (which I'm sure you'll rectify), I don't have much more to say. The line, "even starting off with one of those “listens” law enforcement loved" made me laugh out loud. Great detail, and a solid story.

Chris Irvin's picture
Chris Irvin from Boston is reading Eyeshield 21 Vol.1 July 1, 2014 - 2:25am

Well done! Took me right back to FISH BITES COP. 

Alec Cizak's picture
Alec Cizak July 1, 2014 - 8:07pm

This story reminded me of a moment in the documentary Crumb, when he's drawing power lines and other man-made shit that looks atrocious and he says, "You can't make this stuff up" (or something like, basically, saying the imagination is a much nicer place than reality).  I am currently a big fan of ambiguity so that's not something that bothered me (in fact, for a DJK story, this one seemed pretty coherent to me).  The story invites a reread, which might seem troublesome at first, but rewarding when one takes the time to do so.  Very good work.

NikKorpon's picture
NikKorpon from Baltimore is reading Book and books and books and July 2, 2014 - 1:18pm

Loved it, DJK. And I think CJ summarized it nicely, what with the crack monkeys and all. I got kind of a Coen vibe from the story, where it's simultaneously paying homage to the genre while playing all the stale parts against themsleves. And I loved the idea that the cross--which I equated to being the solution to the 'mystery', in a kind of way--was stuck on the side of the road where everyone could see but no one ever looks. Some of the parts didn't quite add up (like the tire tread) but that also might be me being dense. I don't mean that in a negative way, more along the lines of, Coen's again, the UFO stuff in THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE or the diner guy in FARGO. Something that adds character to the world but doesn't mean it always has to pay off.

I'm rambling. Great stuff.

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose July 3, 2014 - 6:59am

Sweet more comments! Thanks for the notes, everybody. Yeah, Chris, I haven't been able to shake the Fish Bites Cop vibe on everything I've written since then. It'll probably be years before I can stop having characters punching police officers in the face for (as in this case) little or no reason, a.k.a. the best reason. And I very much appreciate the Coen comparison, Nik. I did kinda throw everything at the road/wall to see what would stick, and I still don't know what the tire shreds mean, to be honest, except that I can stop thinking about them when I'm driving. Like those roadside crosses, which I see every day on my commute to work and still can't believe they exist. Our roads are the strangest damn things..

Bob Pastorella's picture
Bob Pastorella from Groves, Texas is reading murder books trying to stay hip, I'm thinking of you, and you're out there so Say your prayers, Say your prayers, Say your prayers July 3, 2014 - 9:48pm

What a kickass story. Very fun, and funny. Stunted men, ha. I know a few, cousins to the short guys that drive the big trucks. This story doesn't end up where I thought it would, and that's a good thing, unpredictable yet logical. Well done, Keaton...well done indeed.

Hector Acosta's picture
Hector Acosta from Dallas is reading Fletch July 11, 2014 - 1:38pm


Really enjoyed this. I'll admit to having to read it twice to get the full sense of it, but once I did it really clicked with me. The tone here is pitch perfect- Normally I'm not a fan when narrator's try to get too witty, as a lot of times it feels like the author is trying too hard, but here all the lines worked for me.

The only thing that I can nitpick is that the fight went on too long for my taste. I really dug the line about protecting his camera, but the rollerball diversion and everything didn't really hold my attention and I had to fight the urge to skim.

Other than that, great, different stuff, really well done.

David James Keaton's picture
David James Keaton from "the water" is reading Kill Kill Faster Faster by Joel Rose July 14, 2014 - 12:01pm

Thanks, guys! Yeah, I'm sometimes of two minds about that fight, too, Hector, but just find it irresistible to occasionally prank readers, especially when there are genre expectations. But that nutty fight did start out twice as long (which probably would have necessitated ending the scene with a heartfelt "sorry!" instead) so that's how I sleep at night, I guess. :)

Since I try to prioritize a conversational tone and entertainment value (while still keeping things crazy) over most other writing concerns for sure, I also very much appreciate the kind words in this comment thread about enjoying the narrative voice here. Readers rock. 

Damon Lytton's picture
Damon Lytton from Augusta, Kansas is reading Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow July 14, 2014 - 8:08pm

Hi David,

It's always nice to download a story and be surprised with a comedy.  And this was definitely a comedy.  I almost found I didn't care at all about the mystery aspect (not that it was bad).  The MC was just delightful to read.  That part where Johnny Five asks him who he thought the dead girl was and his response is, "Well, I thought it was Christy," had me in stitches for some reason.  If this guy asked me to road-trip with him, you could bet your ass I'd get in that car.

As any minute flaws have already been pointed out, I'll just focus on one paragraph:

All my life, I’ve been convinced that describing a dream to someone is the most torturous experience for all involved. I also think this applies to describing a fight. So I’m going to just give you the greatest hits, so to speak. And I’ll probably leave out the dream sequence. But if someone explodes into insects mid-punch and then I have sex with a motorcycle, or it sounds more like movie bullshit than real life, feel free to ignore everything that preceded it. So here’s the highlight reel…"

As much as I love the concept of having sex with a motorcycle, I think you could lose the second half of this 'graph.  For me at least, the punchline is in the sentence, "And I'll probably leave out the dream sequence."  Everything after that feels a bit repetitive and having a short preamble might make the long fight even funnier.  Also if this story goes anywhere, I think you should add that thousand words back into the fight scene.

That's about it from me.  All thumbs up on this front.

Cmangano's picture
Cmangano from Maine July 18, 2014 - 3:01pm

I liked this one. I'll admit I was confused a lot during this story, something you've already said you did purposely to change things up a bit. I was ultimately left thinking I might be close to figuring out what the mystery was or what some of the "clues" meant, but I still felt unsure. Cool story.