Excerpt from THE DEAD AND THE DESPERATE by Dan Denton


I never intended to live in Ohio again in the first place. After my first divorce, and all the ensuing debacles; a rehab here, probation there, a dab or two of homelessness, or years of barely clinging to a roof over my head, and I found myself drunk and alone a lot, watching the free PBS channel in a shitty apartment, in a shitty southern town that had grown just as tired of me as I was of it. I’d been banned from three of the five dive bars that lived in my desperate subdivision of rotting trailer park, slum lord haven, and the other two bars weren’t making me feel like I belonged anymore. Sometimes when the moon is full, or when Mercury is in retrograde or some shit, just sometimes I can be hard to get along with I guess. I always seem to get tired of somewhere just as they’re getting tired of me, and I was feeling the urge to move again. Seven states in seven years. Might as well find another one.

I was staying home. Drinking alone. So I got the internet in my shitty apartment. I came up with enough scratch to get my phone line turned on, and downloaded one of those 100 hours free CDs.

I was supposed to be a writer someday, and I’d just gotten through 21 of 30 days in another rehab before I had to split. I was working and staying away from the hard shit, and laying low and drinking at home.

I was supposed to be a writer someday, so I’d called this guy some other guy told me about, and that guy came over, and for $20 and an old printer I had, that guy fixed my computer tower up, and debugged it, and got it limping back along again.

I could never afford to keep buying the ink cartridges for the printer, and I hadn’t written shit in a long goddamn time, so there wasn’t shit ever to print.

I planned to write, and save it on these hard plastic disks, and if I wrote anything worth much, I planned to take the hard disk over to the town library, and use their computer, and print it for a quarter a page.

I don’t know what I was going to do with it then, and it didn’t matter much. I had the internet in my rat trap apartment, and I was working and keeping my head down. Plenty of money for 12 packs and half decent whiskey once in a while. Plenty of evening time to listen to music on the radio, and write a little, except I never did write much.

The internet then wasn’t the internet now. It ran through the phone line, and was slow. There were a lot of naked pictures on the internet, but never any videos. Porn then wasn’t like porn now. But there were naked pictures and there were chat rooms. I never wrote much, I just listened to music every night, and looked at naked pictures, and jacked off, and talked dirty in chat rooms, or argued with people in chat rooms, or tried to get women to email me naked pictures if they had a digital camera.

I remember once in high school, this girl I knew sent me a Polaroid picture of her titties in a card once. I had that picture for a long time. But I had the internet in my kitchen-sink-has-been-dripping-since-Reagan was president apartment, and girls could send me naked photos in a matter of minutes to my email, if I could get them to, and sometimes I could.

But jacking off to an unlimited library of nude photos is not the same as fucking, and I could only ever lay low and drink at home for so long before I got bored, and started running around town looking for a good time in all the bad places. I was getting stir crazy.

One weekend I was drunk and bored, and I stayed up all night talking to this chick in a Midwest singles chat room I’d found, and we’d exchanged some emails, and I didn’t have a digital camera, but I could type 50 words per minute and I’d spent a lifetime reading books, and you’d be surprised about how far a Neruda stanza can take you in a chat room. Already into the 21st century and most everyone I knew had never heard about ole Pablo Neruda. Quoting poets no one ever heard of makes you seem learned in a 2am internet chat room, and wait til they have a rough day, and you drop some Bukowski on them.

One thing leads to another and I’d just gotten a cell phone for the first time, because I had some money in my pocket and everyone was getting cell phones. Cell phones then were not cell phones now, and mine was about the size of half a brick and didn’t send text messages or have a high def screen. It just made phone calls, and those phone calls were free after 7pm and on weekends, so me and this late night chat room girl started calling each other and talking every night, sometimes for hours.

She’d had a few long-term relationships, but nothing had ever come of them, and she’d been single for a while. She was back in college and living at home, and she was fierce and independent, but she was lonely, too, and she didn’t really know how to meet people. She was mid 20s and older than most of the college kids in her classes, and her job as an activities coordinator at a local nursing home offered nary a bed warmer, either.

She’d had a few Friday night one-night stands, from going to one of the half-assed dance clubs cities in the Midwest they’re always trying to keep open, but that wasn’t enough.

She liked to fuck she said, and I told her I did, too.

Next thing you know she’s driving down south, and I’m taking a four-day weekend. We drove around to different places to eat every evening, but mostly we drank and we fucked. We fucked and fucked all weekend, like you do when you just meet somebody that likes to fuck in all the same ways you like to fuck, and neither of you have fucked much lately. If you don’t understand that last sentence, I hope you figure it out before you die. It is one of the most magical things I have experienced in my sad ass life, and chasing those weekends has nearly ruined me, and killed me a dozen times over.

Lover girl goes home, and we keep talking late at night, me half drunk all the time, and her just lonely. She drinks, but she doesn’t understand why I need to drink every day, and all the time, but I work hard, and “I miss you” and “I miss you, too” and the fucking, that was some of the best fucking ever, and maybe I’ll just drive up to Ohio one weekend and we can fuck six times a day again for four days. See how quick I forgot about hating Ohio? That’s how women have always worked for me.

I can’t fully explain it, except for the obvious, being a fucked up dude trying to survive a fucked up life. It’s what we do. We drink and fuck and fight. You see us on Cops and Jerry Springer every day.

Before I could get back up there to do all that fucking again, lover girl calls me and says she’s pregnant.

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Step into a world of grit and survival in The Dead & The Desperate by Dan Denton. This poignant novel takes you on a raw and unflinching journey through the life of its main character, who becomes an accidental father while grappling with untreated mental illness, addiction, and the grueling reality of low-paying factory jobs in the heart of the Midwest. Denton’s evocative prose paints a vivid picture of a life under the poverty line, where desperation and resilience coexist in a landscape of broken dreams and shattered hopes.

Amidst the chaos of a struggling existence, the protagonist navigates the shadowy corners of dive bars, forges unlikely friendships with a diverse cast of characters, and grapples with the weight of homelessness, divorce, and the specter of overdose. The Dead & The Desperate is a haunting portrayal of the challenges faced by those on the margins, offering a unique and unvarnished perspective on a world often overlooked.

This book has garnered praise from literary voices and readers alike, heralded as a return to authentic proletarian literature. Critics acknowledge Dan Danton’s unapologetic honesty and courage in baring his soul through this harrowing yet beautiful narrative. The novel’s exploration of life’s struggles and the quest for love and connection resonates deeply, making it an unforgettable read that lingers in the mind long after the final page is turned.

If you’re seeking a powerful and moving tale that delves into the depths of human experience, The Dead & The Desperate is a must-read. It’s a story that gives voice to the voiceless, offers solace to the desperate, and reminds us all of the strength to keep going, even when faced with the darkest of circumstances.

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