Hero worship: A review of Let the Birds Drink in Peace

  • Christine Myaskovsky, cc via Flickr
 

Let the Birds Drink In Peace
Robert Garner McBrearty
152 pages, softcover: $14.99.
Conundrum Press, 2011.

In Colorado writer Robert Garner McBrearty's fresh and funny new story collection, Let the Birds Drink In Peace, a boy tells his mother he plans to do something great when he grows up. "Everybody feels like that when they're young," she replies. And yet, in several stories in this collection –– McBrearty's third –– regular guys do experience an instant of greatness as they save other people from danger –– and then struggle with the consequences.

In "The Acting Class," for example, a young man working at an Austin mental hospital rescues a patient from a bathroom assault, inspiring a coworker to fall in love with him. He invents a war-hero past to match his new girlfriend's romantic ideas, but as his lies unravel, so does their relationship.

In "The Helmeted Man," 43-year-old college student Alex tries to write about the time he rescued a woman from an armed mugger at an ATM, and ends up finally questioning how heroic he actually was. "For ten years, Alex had coasted on the big moment," McBrearty writes.

Fortunately for readers, McBrearty has not coasted on his own big moment, when he won the prestigious Sherwood Anderson Award in 2007. His stories remain as sharp and hilarious as ever, such as the "The Dishwasher," with its deadpan approach –– "I'm a dishwasher in a restaurant. I'm not trying to impress anybody. I'm not bragging. It's just what I do."

Other stories playfully eviscerate the myths of the Old West. In "Back in Town," a reformed rapscallion of the Deadwood sort promises his wife he won't go into town and carouse. "It has been a year now since I've given up drinking and whoring and looting and stealing horses and robbing banks and shooting up the town and using foul language," he explains. And in "Alamo Dreams" and "Colonel Travis's Lament," McBrearty tackles the legend of the Alamo, finding comedy amid the chaotic bloodshed.

McBrearty's ability to transform tragic or scary events like this demonstrates his generous perspective. Let the Birds Drink In Peace proves that anything can be funny if you consider it from the right angle.

High Country News Classifieds
  • FIELD MANAGER
    Organizational Overview: Columbia Riverkeeper (Riverkeeper) is a successful nonprofit organization that unites communities to fight for clean water and our climate. Riverkeeper advances high-profile campaigns...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Forever Our Rivers Foundation is searching for a driven and creative leader to build a movement, conserving and restoring America's rivers by helping customers find...
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    Friends of Cedar Mesa is hiring a Deputy Director/COO who will have the overall responsibilities of general program management, staff management, financial & budget management,...
  • CUSTOMER SERVICE ASSISTANT - (PART-TIME)
    High Country News, an award-winning media organization covering the communities and environment of the Western United States, seeks a part-time Customer Service Assistant, based at...
  • RURAL ACREAGE OUTSIDE SILVER CITY, NM
    Country living just minutes from town! 20 acres with great views makes a perfect spot for your custom home. Nice oaks and juniper. Cassie Carver,...
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • OFFICE ADMINISTRATOR AND BOOKKEEPER
    Posted: July 19, 2021 Application deadline: August 27 or until position is filled. Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking a fulltime Office Administrator...
  • COMMUNITY ORGANIZER
    Posted: July 15, 2021 Application deadline: August 21, 2021 or until position is filled Western Colorado Alliance for Community Action is seeking three full time...
  • A FIVE STAR FOREST SETTING WITH SECLUSION AND SEPARATENESS
    This home is for a discerning buyer in search of a forest setting of premier seclusion & separateness. Surrounded on all sides by USFS land...
  • CARPENTER WANTED
    CARPENTER WANTED. Come to Ketchikan and check out the Rainforest on the coast, HIke the shorelines, hug the big trees, watch deer in the muskeg...
  • AUDIENCE ENGAGEMENT EDITOR
    High Country News (HCN) seeks an audience editor to attract and acquire new audiences and deepen engagement with them - in our newsletters, on our...
  • COMMUNITY MARKETER
    High Country News (HCN) is looking for a Community Marketer to build and strengthen relationships between HCN and other organizations and individuals, with the aim...
  • FINANCE & OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Job Announcement: Finance and Operations Manager Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August...
  • DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement: Development Director Announcement date: July 16, 2021 Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and first review will begin: August 9, 2021...
  • HECHO POLICY AND ADVOCACY MANAGER
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • HECHO NEW MEXICO SENIOR FIELD COORDINATOR
    Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting, and the Outdoors (HECHO) was created in 2013 to help fulfill our duty to conserve and protect our public lands for...
  • IDAHO STATE DIRECTOR
    The Wilderness Society is seeking a full time Idaho State Director who will preferably be based in Boise, Idaho. This position is part of our...
  • CAUCASIAN OVCHARKA PUPPIES
    Strong loyal companions. Ready to protect your family and property. Proven against wolves and grizzlies. Imported bloodlines. Well socialized.
  • DEPUTY DIRECTOR
    The Nature Conservancy in Alaska is dedicated to saving the lands and waters on which all life depends. For more than 30 years, TNC has...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY, CLIMATE AND ENERGY PROGRAM
    STAFF ATTORNEY POSITION OPENING https://westernlaw.org/career-opportunity-climate-energy-staff-attorney/ ************************************************** Position Title: Climate and Energy Program Staff Attorney Reports to: Climate and Energy Program Director Location: Helena, Montana; other...