Dust jacket and interior illustrations by Jon Foster
The unmistakable accent of the Piney Woods of East Texas rolls from the pages of Fender Lizards, Joe R. Lansdale’s tale of the life and love and work of one Dot Sherman, who delivers on her promise that her story is “the real thing from beginning to end.”
Dot waitresses on roller skates at the Dairy Bob, doesn’t care for smoking at least partly on account of her dad having never returned from a cigarette run, and carries on the family tradition of philosophizing. Life hasn’t done her any favors in her seventeen years so far. But if there was ever a heroine built for turning things upside down and seeing what shakes out, it’s Dot. Determined to find out who she is and why she’s the way she is, an opportunity presents itself when her heretofore-unknown uncle suddenly moves his camper into the front yard.
As in his classic novels The Bottoms and The Magic Wagon, multiple-award-winning Lansdale instills place with character and character with place. Here is an overlooked world and a cast of real folks that prove unforgettable, all rendered in one of American fiction’s most authentic voices.
The limited edition of Fender Lizards will include not only the novel proper, it will also be graced by two full-color interior illustrations by Jon Foster, as well as three original Hap Collins short stories, including "Tire Fire", the tale in which Hap and Leonard first meet.
Trade: Fully cloth bound hardcover edition
Limited: 400 signed numbered copies, bound in leather, with full color illustrations by Jon Foster, plus three original short stories about a young Hap Collins
From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
“Edgar-winner Lansdale (The Bottoms), a master of the coming-of-age novel, takes on similar themes in this remarkable tale of a young woman on the precipice of adulthood… Lansdale has always had a fondness for strong-willed female characters, and he lets Dot narrate the tale in her own colorful, infectious way. This novel should appeal to adults and teens alike, and Dot's hard work and personal responsibility will inspire and resonate with many readers.”
From Adam-Troy Castro:
“I wanna tell you about [Fender Lizards] in the way one wants to tell everybody about any book that made him grin, that made him laugh, that made him deeply fall in love with fictional people. I want to have a crate filled with copies of this book and I want to give them to people as gifts… I concluded, again, that on the page, Joe Lansdale can do anything he wants, and none of it badly.”
You might not think some of this story is real because there are bits of it that are hard to believe, but you got my word it’s the real thing from beginning to end. I want to get it all down now before time causes me to add stuff to juice it up, as if this story needs any juicing.
That lying part happens. I know. My father, he was a liar. He could tell a true thing until it became a lie. Just kept adding on and making it bigger, and bringing in things that didn’t happen, pushing out things that did, so that eventually all you had left was the lie part, and he didn’t know the difference anymore.
I hope that sort of thing isn’t inherited.
I’m going to take the high road and say it isn’t.
I’m going to say this is the true business, from beginning to end. I’m going to say my name is Dorothy Sherman and I’m telling it like it is. I’m going to say my friends call me Dot, and I prefer my enemies not to call me at all.
Is this a great adventure? Well, no one goes to the moon or climbs a high mountain. But for me it’s an adventure. It’s my day to day life.
My father once gave me some advice that I’ve mostly taken to heart. It hasn’t got a whole lot to do with my story, not directly, but in it are words of wisdom, and I think it points out that my family is a family of philosophers.
He said, “Remember, in your diet, it takes a bit of grease to aid digestion." And the other bit of advice he gave was, “Save your money, cause I ain’t gonna be giving you none extra.”
That was the certain truth. He didn’t even give us the basic, let alone extra. He took off when I was twelve and my brother was five. Did that thing you hear about. Went out for a pack of cigarettes and didn’t come back.
For a long time I imagined he had gone to the store and they didn’t have any, so he drove over to Longview to get some. After a week or two, I figured someone would have had some cigarettes, and he’d have had time to come back, even if he had to walk back with both feet in a bucket full of hardened cement.
I’m seventeen now, five years since I overheard Dad’s words of wisdom, just shortly before his departure on a world wide cigarette run, and now he’s been long gone and I got me a job as a roller skating waitress at a drive-in-fast-food spot that’s open twenty-four hours a day and is called the Dairy Bob. That’s right, the Dairy Bob.
Guy runs it is named Bob. Nice enough guy, thirty or so. When he went into business he didn’t know what to call his place. He said he grew up going to Dairy Queens, decided to call it Dairy something or another, but couldn’t decide on a name. Finally, he decided on his own name. Bob.
The Dairy Bob is just off highway 59, and I bet that name throws a lot of folks driving through, looking over and seeing the sign, thinking: What the heck?
Bob is there at all hours, and he has an assistant manager named Marilyn who works just long enough for him to sleep, which seems to be very few hours a night. I don’t see her much. So little I wouldn’t recognize her on the street, I figure. I seem to be there mostly when Bob is.
It’s not the worst job in the world, but it wears a body out by the end of the day. My ankles and calves hurt the most, but it doesn’t do my butt any good either, except in the looks department. When you skate six hours a night, it tends to tighten up the old bean bags.
That’s my shift, six hours a night. When I turn eighteen, I can get eight hours, officially, though there is a bit of off the books work now where I work more hours and get paid in cash. I try to pretend right before I go to sleep at night that I’m going to get my G.E.D. which everyone calls the Good Enough Diploma, and then some college. Some kind of real degree, instead of a nurse’s helper, or whatever they’re called, or beautician, or a court reporter.
They’re good enough ambitions, and it’s all honest work, but every girl I know who dropped out of school, or got knocked up and usually had their fella run off, ended up doing one of those three, and living in a trailer, which, in fact, I already do. I guess it’s actually a mobile home, but my mother calls it a trailer, and so do we all. Anyway, I live in one. Me, my Mom, little brother Frank, and Grandma. It sucks. I’m always wishing our home was wider. When I meet Grandma coming down the hall on the way to the bathroom—and I should note she’s not the type that misses any meals—we almost have to wrestle and do some kind of acrobatics to get by one another.
I don’t want to end up like my older sister, Raylynn, neither. She’s twenty three and has a different daddy than us. He got killed when she was small and she doesn’t remember him. He was working under a car held up with an old style jack, and a dog run up against it. It popped loose and the car dropped on him and crushed him. The dog was all right though. Mama said he died a year later, peaceful like, out in the yard with one leg cocked up so he could take in the spring time sun.
Raylynn’s got her own trailer and she works at the Dairy Bob with me. She tried to be a beautician, but the women she worked on weren’t happy. Two of them had their hair fall out and something in one of the chemicals Raylynn mixed up caused another to get a kind of ear fungus that was resistant to medication. A law suit followed, and the beauty shop lost. It didn’t exactly put her in high demand, and she was soon fired with what she calls Extreme Prejudice.
She went to work at the Dairy Bob then. She got me on. She hates it there. She says what future she might have had has come and gone and left no shadow.
She’s smart enough, when she uses her head, but a lot of time her brain seems to be on vacation. She’s pretty, but, she ought to have been smarter and less pretty, cause she shacked up with this boy when she was sixteen, just ran off from home because she was, as my mother mocked, “In luuuuve.”
Only thing was, the fella wasn’t in love, least not when he heard there was a baby coming. That would be my nephew, Jake, who is a couple years old now. Anyway, the fella decamped and headed for parts unknown. All he left Raylynn was some old socks with holes in the toes and a bit of change down in the couch cushions, and that was purely by accident.
Pretty soon Raylynn was living back with us, least till she had Jake. After he was born, that family closeness didn’t work out so good, so she got a job at the Dairy Bob, and then rented a trailer that was even smaller than the one we lived in.
She met a fella named Tim, and he proved consistent with her taste in men. Pretty soon after they started living together, she got her belly full of baby again, and Tim came down with back trouble, what he stupidly called, “the lumbargo.”
Pretty soon he wasn’t working. Raylynn was bringing in all the money. He sits home in his under shorts with a case of cheap beer and the Game Show Channel. He keeps a package of batteries near by in case the channel changer goes dead and he might have to get up. This way he’s always well positioned.
Raylynn rags about him all the time to me, but she stays with him. And when her second baby, that would be my niece, Constance, came along, she didn’t get any rest either. Things got worse. The babies stay at the day care center and that sucks up all the money she makes because Tim doesn’t like to change diapers. It being women’s work and all, and the fact you might have to put down a bottle of beer or the channel changer for about five minutes. He just sits at home, waiting on a managerial position, or maybe an opening for nuclear physicist.
I feel bad about it, but I keep hoping a truck will hit him, maybe drag him for a couple of miles. It’s not a nice thing for a girl to think about, but, there you have it. At least in my mind I can be savage. I read a self-help book once that talked about pent up anger, and I think I got plenty of that. Not to mention self-esteem issues, which I make up for by false bravado. False bravado was also in the book. It wasn’t a very good book, but I remember it talking about that kind of stuff.
Because of that, who am I to bitch about other people’s lives? Guess a seventeen year old high school drop out with plans to take the G.E.D. when she can study up for it, isn’t exactly something an outsider might look at and visualize as someone with a big future.
I got to pay for most of the stuff I want, including food, cause Mama, she works at the Dollar Store, and it don’t pay enough to do anything with, and Grandma has a bad leg that hasn’t healed up right. It’s no big deal. She has slight limp. When people ask her what happened, she tells them she got drunk and fell off the porch.
Well, we don’t have a porch, and she doesn’t drink either, but that’s how Grandma is. She slipped coming out of the bathtub and her leg went this way, and the rest of her considerable self went the other. That didn’t do her leg any good, of course. My brother, Frank, he’s ten, and we’ve got hopes for him. He’s kind of a nerd, but, hey, what the heck, as Mom says, “Whatever makes you happy and don’t make a mess on the living room rug.”
By the way, the job I got at the Dairy Bob, it’s got a kind of title. Bob calls us girls Fender Lizards. It’s an old term, from the fifties, or so he says, and has to do with roller skating waitresses skirting around car fenders all day, and sometimes running into them. I can show you the bruises.
I kind of like that name, Fender Lizard, and refer to myself that way any chance I get. It’s a great conversation starter, and I’ve hit it up with a couple boys more than once by just using that title for myself.
I think they think it’s something nasty.
Just for the record. I didn’t go out with any of them.
Problem is, you’re a drop out, boys you meet all seem to be drops outs too, and proud of it. Always got weed-eater haircuts, jailhouse tattoos, and junk jewelry in their faces, like they had some kind of accident while fly fishing.
I’m not hip. I don’t like tattoos and I don’t like all that crap in a boy’s face. Or a girl’s. I can go for ear rings now and then. I do have pierces there, on the ear lobes, but there’s girls I know who have been pierced and have put hardware where stuff sure don’t need to go.
My mama once gave me some advice on this matter, and like the advice from my daddy, I treasure it.
“Don’t be poking holes in your basement, Dot.”
Remember, I said my people are a bunch of philosophers.
Anyway, that’s my family and that’s my job and that’s my life, such as it is.
I’m going to pause here a moment while envy sets in on you.
- Jon Foster
- Joe R. Lansdale
- United States
- Out of Print