Featured Writer: Colin Winnette

Edited by Sean Enfield

Today we're sharing the work of a talented writer who has been hanging out in the Spiderweb since nearly the very beginning of everything. Even though he now calls San Francisco home, Colin Winnette is Denton born and raised and he performed with Spiderweb in our second show ever well over five years ago. In June of 2013, he and a band of Traveling Poets (Josh Gaines, Ben Clark, and Stevie Edwards) toured through Denton and performed alongside some local spiderfriends -- legend has it that these were nights so memorable that one of these traveling poets was inspired to eventually moved to Denton (we love you, Stevie!). Colin still performs with Spiderweb Salon whenever he returns to the DFW metroplex, and we’re always grateful for his energy and excitement to be a part of what we do.

On his most recent return, we invited him to party with us at not just one but two different showcases! Hopefully, you caught him at last Friday’s Coast to Coast event with our Brooklyn-based pal Marcus Jade, but if not, he’ll also be performing at tomorrow’s (3.14) Electronic Experiment III showcase, where we'll be celebrating poetry, electro-creativity, improv, storytelling, co-founder Conor Wallace’s day of birth, Pi, pie, PIE, and the resurrection of the Ol’ Dirty Basement.

Over the years, Colin’s work has garnered a good deal of accolades. He was the winner of Les Figues Press' 2013 NOS Book Contest, for his novel Coyote. He also won the 2012 Sonora Review's Short Short Fiction Award, Heavy Feather Review's Featured Chapbook Contest, and was a finalist for both the Cleveland State University Poetry Center's First Book Award and Gulf Coast Magazine's Donald Barthelme Prize.

Colin’s most recent book, The Job of the Wasp, was published on January 9th, 2018 through Soft Skull Press. The genre-bending novel combines its coming-of-age story with a Gothic ghost story and a murder mystery, weaving together a frightening and unconventional narrative.

This excerpt we’re featuring hints at the story’s sinister elements but focuses primarily on the unnamed narrator, new to this school for orphaned boys, as he navigates his position among the boys—all while setting out to bury a body. It’s a darkly comedic and contemplative glimpse into the novel, and we believe you’ll feel compelled to see what happens next. You can purchase The Job of the Wasp from Soft Skull’s website here, or check out Colin’s other books on his website.

 artwork by spiderweb artist Marco Zavala

artwork by spiderweb artist Marco Zavala

The decision was made to bury him in the garden. It was still dark out, but there were lanterns in the hallway closets of the dormitory, and we sent a group to collect them. We would bury the Headmaster and Hannan together, in the loose dirt, and maybe one day we would eat a pumpkin in their honor. It made us smile, but it was not a joke.

No one was friendly after they untied me, but they were no longer trying to kill me, which I considered progress. We didn’t speak as we made our way down the hill to the garden, the Headmaster in the wheelbarrow and Hannan wrapped in a sheet, carried by several boys at each end.

We took turns digging, and I kept looking to the horizon, expecting the sun to appear one moment after the next. But it didn’t. I had no sense of what our plan for the future would be. Our plan for the facility. It wasn’t the right time to ask. It all seemed to make sense to the other boys, so I let it go, taking my turn with the shovel and trying to act as agreeable as possible. It was clear to me that unity could never truly be achieved if everyone wanted to lead the unification process. I had gone about the project all wrong, storming in and demanding respect. I had expected it and accepted nothing less. It was no wonder they’d wanted to open me up.

The boy who could not keep his glasses on spoke over the graves after we were done with them.

“I have a poem to read,” he said, taking a lantern and holding it up as he withdrew a bit of paper from his pocket. “I’ve only just written it,” he said, “and it’s not very good.”

Each of us found some part of the earth to watch as he read.

“I am a little bug,” he said. “Maybe not one of the ones that stings, but one people still bat away or crush with a book. Maybe one that people aren’t afraid of, but one they don’t necessarily want to look at. I once had a fold of fabric under which I was protected. To which I could comfortably cling and where I felt safe, which is important because a bug is always in danger. But it is the nature of cloth to move and unfold. It is the nature of weird little bugs to move too, though cloth is never afraid, as we bugs can be. Today I am shaken from my fold and falling. That’s all I’ve got so far.”

He was right. It wasn’t good. We applauded his efforts and began our silent ascent of the hill.

In the morning, maybe some of us would go for help. Or maybe we would live out the rest of the summer alone at the facility, placing orders with the grocer and the tailor on the Headmaster’s behalf. I had no sense of how the other boys would want to handle the situation. I released the notion that I should be the one figuring it out. I released the notion that it would need to be figured out at all. Since my arrival, I had been moved through a series of events with very little control over what happened from one moment to the next. I saw my mistake as that of the nervous man in quicksand. All along I had been struggling, sinking faster and wearing myself out. But here was a second chance, an opportunity to amend any errors of judgment and action. I would listen to my brothers at the facility and I would try to be calm. I would try to rest. Surely there was a sound mind among them.

I looked to the others as we moved up the hill. I hardly recognized their faces, as I hadn’t taken the time to get to know them. Each was unfamiliar to me, or only recently and tenuously made familiar. It was as if I had just arrived at the facility, though I had been there for months, living with these boys whose faces I had failed to even register. I was disgusted with myself in that moment. Or disappointed. I was melancholy on our walk back up to the facility. I thought of all there is in life that goes unnoticed. All that I had failed to absorb in my self-centered and steadfast barreling. I could start living for others, I realized, when we began our new life together. Not every plan had to be one that I agreed with, or even one I understood. Not every plan had to be designed to move me forward. Those rarely panned out besides. I could celebrate and learn from the individualities of my cohort. I could do what they asked, when they asked it, and we might one day find some common humanity. One that had nothing at all to do with understanding or rationality but was based solely on service and collaboration. I didn’t have to understand my brother to help him. And which of these boys could not use help?

 

 Colin at a reading in Denton c. 2014 | photo by courtney marie

Colin at a reading in Denton c. 2014 | photo by courtney marie

Colin Winnette is the author of several books, including HAINTS STAY and THE JOB OF THE WASP. He grew up in Denton, but now lives in San Francisco. His writing has appeared in Playboy, McSweeney's, Lucky Peach, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other places.