Commentary #1 (of 28): “COWBOYS AND INDIANS”

Every two weeks, I’ll be writing a commentary about a story from EMPTY ROOMS LONELY COUNTRIES. I’ll tackle the stories in the order they appear in the book. Given the nature of this exercise, I cannot guarantee that I won’t spoil specific details from the story. So you may want to return to the commentaries here when you’ve finished reading the book. If I don’t address an aspect of the story you were interested in, by all means leave a question at the end of this post and I’ll do my best to answer it.


July 2002 Issue of TooSquare

July 2002 Issue of TooSquare

This story was originally published in TooSquare Magazine in July of 2002, though, if I’m remembering correctly, the actual events took place in 2000. This is the first piece of two in the book that focuses on law enforcement, with the second one being “Mad Dogs”. Though the two stories are separated by a few years and an ocean, both are connected, and if you’re paying attention, you’ll be able to see it.

The first question that is always asked about this story is “Did you really put your brother into the trunk of the car?” and the answer is “Yes, I really put my brother into the trunk of the car.”

And yes, I was left tied to a tree as a child. In fact, there is very little in this story that I had to change to make this story work as a narrative. The stories told by the police officers are all true (though I could’ve heard some of those on different evenings), and the things that happened at the party are all true as well.

The club where the party was being held had a lot of problems with drugs and underage drinking at the time, so the owners were more than happy to host a S.W.A.T. graduation party as a way to show that they supported the local law enforcement. Even though the party had its own VIP section, it was a difficult endeavor to keep these guys contained, and from what I was seeing, I’m certain that security simply didn’t know how to approach the situation. Can I tell the cop he’s had enough? Am I allowed to kick out a cop? By the time some of the police officers were swinging on the scaffolding thirty-feet above the dance floor, most of the security had given up completely.

The observations about the women and their attraction to police officers, I believe, are pretty spot on. I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent a lot of time with different members of law enforcement and the way some women perk up when they’re in the presence of officers or agents is fairly alarming. I’m not saying that the attraction isn’t valid, but there definitely seems to be a severe disconnect between the expectation and the reality. The same can be said about those who seek to be in law enforcement and how the romantic ideal of doing the right thing collides so heavily against politics and bureaucracy; it’s a recipe for instant disillusionment. I’m not saying it’s like this across the board, but it’s interesting how so many of the people I’ve met who have careers in law enforcement share the same stock phrases when discussing their work, as if they need to convince themselves as much as me that the job is important.

Even though those statistics are almost a decade old, I still find them to be frightening.

The only significant change I had to make in the story for the sake of space was the detail with Alan’s truck and his then-girlfriend driving off with it. The original plan was to dump his body into the back of his truck and have his girlfriend drive him home, but instead, out of spite, she took his keys and drove off without taking him. She was a winner, that one.

And this is why he ended up in my trunk.


  1. mateuszb

    This story got my attention immediately with the very few sentences and boy, I was not disappointed. It’s a good one, especially when you start connecting the dots and realize that this might not all be a fiction. Although I was not sure about this at the time of reading it, I am now, which is even more exciting to know this kind of story really took place. Bravo to the author for immersing the reader in his world,condemnation for making him miss several busses home.

  2. FuriousD

    Now that space was not as big of an issue, were you tempted to put the part about the truck/ex-girlfriend back in or did you feel the need to keep it as it was originally published?

  3. Christian A. Dumais

    MateuszB: Thanks for giving the book a chance and I hope the rest of the book is to your liking.

    FuriousD: While some of the stories were changed here and there, I decided to leave the published stories as they were originally printed in the magazines. The only exception is “Kicking Love’s Ass”, which I published in ERLC as one story instead it being split into two parts.

    As for the ex-girlfriend part of the story, I’m not even sure if I actually wrote it or had it in my notes. Either way, it was clear that her involvement in the story wasn’t necessary.

    Thanks for writing.

  4. murrsea

    I remember this night vividly. Especially the falling down the stairs bit. It is all collected in my brain for I am “The Watcher”.

  5. Christian A. Dumais

    Murrsea: I remember you being there. You were around for the unwritten epilogue when we returned to my brother’s place. Little did we know our night was just beginning…

  6. Joker

    Your brother gravitates to crazy girls. That girl friend was one of the craziest. There’s more than one person locked up in that head of her’s. By the way, this story is my favorite.

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