by Rick Hautala
“What?” Billy was flabbergasted and started thinking maybe he couldn’t handle all of this “adult world” stuff. Maybe he should go find his friends and just be a kid.
It wouldn’t be surprising to find that Mr. Hautala had never had a pretentious thought in his life. He didn’t seem to be trying to impress anyone, he just wrote a lot of true fiction. And if his story wanted to tell you that Joe ran, he wouldn’t waste the next 350 words flowering up the prose with his thesaurus; he’d just tell you the sumbitch ran. In a storytelling environment where language is often given priority over storytelling, a simpler, on point style is to be respected.
In this novella a young boy named Billy hears the town’s fire alarm and investigates the source in the surrounding woods along with his friends despite knowing the trouble he’ll get in with his folks. Locals are already fighting the fire and hand out some gear to the kids, and in order to get the better of the fire and become a hero, at first opportunity Billy heads into the woods to come at it from another direction.
Lost in the woods, Billy happens upon the house of the mysterious Ellie, who’s traumatized by a gruesome murder from her past. Billy becomes a kind of reluctant friend to Ellie and begins to learn the nature of the recent forest fires and the danger that may be present in the woods as he balances his old friends, his new friend and his parents with trying to do the right thing and be a grown-up.
This is a good story, but not quite on the level of some of his other shorter works, many of which should be held in the highest regard. The career retrospective of short stories, Glimpses, fits comfortable on the shelf next to Harlan Ellison, Richard Matheson and Charles Beaumont.
Mr. Hautala was one hell of a writer, and Indian Summer is a quick and enjoyable read.