If you’ve heard me say it once, you’ve likely heard me say it a few dozen times, but in the hands of Greg Herren, New Orleans is often in and of itself a character, rather than a setting. I once heard him say that so much of what he writes could only happen in New Orleans—and it’s hard point to argue with the likes of the Scotty novels, that’s for sure.
This short story, which launches Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories: Tales of Mystery and Suspense, is no different: it opens with a man on the roof of his home in the ninth ward, after Katrina has passed, and he is clinging to life and hoping for rescue. Baking in the sun, barely holding it together, we get his fractured (and fraying) view of what happened leading up to leaving him here, hoping rescue might come before he finally runs out of what little supplies he has left. It’s a twisting, shudder-worthy story, as this man’s nature is revealed in tiny glimpses (almost despite himself).
On the roof, with only a few bottles of alcohol left (and no food), he suffers exposure in the heat and sun, the ensuing pain shaking him in and out of the narrative of what led to his decision to stay with Katrina bearing down on the city, and the costs of that decision, which are far more than revealed at first glance. Ultimately, there’s a resolution to his predicament, and it’s the reader left to shudder in this dark little opener for the collection.