“Greasy Lake” by T. Coraghessan Boyle
T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Greasy Lake” story takes the reader along a roller coaster of three friends looking for a good time. The three teenage boys get themselves into some trouble at first when they approach a car thinking it belongs to a friend of theirs and instead are confronted by a guy named Bobby and a girl with him. The nineteen year old narrator narrowly escapes a brawl only to come across an awakening experience by a floating dead body in the fetid lake where he is carried away in deep thought over the events of the night so far. But as the sunrise brings a new day and the bad boys are crawling from the lake making their way out they are almost relieved in their trashed and battered car with its tires still intact. A Mustang then approaches them, and two ill walking drug addict girls wearing tight jeans and stiletto heels approach the three boys, asking if they want to party. At this is the point they take their newly mature selves and decline the girls for the better choice to leave instead. In the short intoxicatingly vivid story “Greasy Lake”, the author T. Coraghessan Boyle utilizes effectively the once clear lake to set the stage for his narrator along with his two friends, who take their longing to be bad boy experience throughout the night, only to come to the mature realization that his search has come to an end by morning.
The narrator begins with “There was a time when courtesy and winning ways went out of style, when it was good to be bad” (Boyle). This shows that he and his two friends, Jeff and Digby, see themselves as a couple of bad seeds, dangerous. Digby attends Cornel on his father’s dime and Jeff is thinking of dropping out to chase his dreams of becoming a musician. They are both slick and social, but the narrator gently mocks them by saying they were always wearing their mirror shades. This day they are dressed in nothing less than their bad boy torn leather jackets, toothpick smiles and drinking gin and grape juice. They burn off some rubber in their parents squeaky station wagon, as they embark in search of mischief night of wild escapades out at Greasy Lake, former named Wakan by the Indians for the clarity the lake once had. The lake is now murky and scented with a mixture of muddy remains of beer and charred bonfires, it is here where the boys would stake their claim searching for a good time adventure. They had left the center of town, making their way through housing developments and the trees crowding the asphalt. Beyond the town lights and arriving in the ruins of nature, vegetation replaced with bottles, and cans and other articles of trash.
In the first confrontation of the night they come across their friend Tony Lovett’s 1957 Chevy. When they approach what they assume is Tony’s car they come to realize that it isn’t and are confronted by the greasy character Bobby with whom they get into a brawl with. The fighting quickly begins and the narrator is laid out just as it begins. Digby jumps in with his skills in martial arts and yet is flattened by roadhouse blow from Bobby, who is after latched on by Jeff biting on his ear. By this time the narrator comes around with a tire iron found under the seat, a weapon viewed as crucial for a bad boy. After regretfully laying out Bobby with the tire iron, the girl, fox, then comes out of the car. The boys, trying to continue on their streak of “see no evil, hear none, speak none,”(Boyle) begin to tear at her clothes in an attempt to rape the girl. They are immediately chased away by headlights.
Across the parking lot with their first sign of fright within them they begin to show signs of how they may not actually be as bad as they thought they were. The narrator, losing his keys upon arriving in the high grass, is left to run to the lake and swim for it. They are scared. And once the narrator has to jump into the murky waters he is immediately confronted with a floating corpse; “I shot from the water like a torpedo, the dead man rotating to expose a mossy beard and eyes cold as the moon.”(Boyle). It’s at this time that “The narrator’s submersion in the lake, in his fear and guilt, amounts to a ritual baptism;”(Vanatta) begins. The time he now spends in the lake, thinking, is where he is forced to accept the episodes of bad things he has committed in this short amount of time that are slowly turning into regrets. The narrator comes to understand who he really is as a person, he matures in thought. The floating corpse comes to symbolize death, the narrator’s death: that this would possibly be him if he continues this path seeking out bad ways.
The narrator finally by sunrise crawls out of the lake, finding the keys to the car. And in a final test of his experience throughout the night, he shows some growth and maturity when two girls show up as the narrator and his two friends try to leave in their beat up car. The girl and her friend Sarah are there looking for Al and the girl approaches the narrator and his friends. The girl approaches the narrator and his friends looking every bit the part of bad characters and offers to do some drugs with them. Digby leans over and responds with a no hesitating remark “No thanks. Some other time.” An emotion they all feel after the series of events of the night. The the narrator drives off viewing the sheen of the sun on the lake symbolizing a new day in contrast to the slumped shoulders of the girl still standing there with her arms stretched out as if to symbolize that the temptation bad life is now behind him. He comes to realize that his emotionally experience this night, that he may not be cut out for the bad boy life.
Boyle, T. Coraghessan. “Greasy Lake.” The Story and It’s Writer: An Introduction to Short
Vannatta, Dennis. “ Greasy Lake.” Masterplots II: Short Story Series. Revised Edition. Salem