The Book Report: Jennifer L. Knox on “Snow Bird Blood”


The Book Report is a reading series that promises to deliver exactly what it promises: reports on books by the people who’ve read them. Join hosts Leigh Stein and Sasha Fletcher on Tuesday, October 8th for an evening that will remind you of 3rd grade in the best possible way. 7pm, The Gallery at LPR, 158 Bleecker Street, NYC.

Jennifer L. Knox’s new book of poems, The Mystery of the Hidden Driveway, is available from Bloof Books. Her other books, Drunk by Noon and A Gringo Like Me, are also available through Bloof. Her work has also appeared in numerous publications such as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review and Ploughshares. She will be reading at the Norwood Club on September 18 with Amber Tamblyn and Derrick Brown.

Snow Bird Blood
a book report by Jennifer L. Knox

I’d like to talk to you about a detective mystery book we’re reading in my book club called Snow Bird Blood by Dick Peregrine which takes place in Iowa, but despite that, it’s actually very exciting. The club meets every Tuesday night at Cup o’ Joes in the mall because they serve wine at Cup o’ Joes—not just coffee—and these little pink cheesecakes on a stick which I had at a wedding once (I dreamed about them every night for a week after) so it’s nice to know I can go get them at “Joe’s” anytime I want without it being a special occasion.

The book starts with two cops driving out to the middle of nowhere—even by Iowa standards—to check out a report of something suspicious at an old railroad station. Over the radio, the dispatcher tells them, “A woman found a trash bag on the platform with noises coming out of it and a puddle of blood underneath.” Everyone in our club agreed: this was an excellent way to start a detective mystery book. Karen Duffy said, “You had me at ‘puddle of blood!’” and I thought, that’s true, but why is that? And for minute I worried that I might have to clean up the blood which was totally irrational and probably why I haven’t written anything since high school.

One of the cops asks the dispatcher, “Who found the bag?” and the dispatcher says, “Annie Switzer.” That was when we saw Annie’s name for the first time. No one in the book club knew who Annie was yet, with the exception of Karen who had already read the book and it was her turn to pick which was why we were all reading it.

(I haven’t gotten to pick yet. I’ve only been in the club seven months. I wonder what it’s going to be like: watching people reading and seeing things for the first time, and I already know everyone’s names and what’s going to happen and who’s going to die. Karen really seems to enjoy it. Everyone who picks does—even though some books have been much better than others and no one’s been shy about saying so but the people who pick don’t seem to notice. Maybe it’s so great knowing what’s going to happen that they don’t care.)

So that was the first time we met Annie, even though she wasn’t in the police car. We didn’t know how important she would be in the story, and that by the end of it, the story would pretty much be her story, and she’d get to have sex with a detective who’s not technically a licensed policeman and who’s very eccentric (he calls himself a “ruralsexual”) and who smokes a lot of marajuana but he’s really handsome and sexy our whole book club would be rooting for her. And him!

So anyway, the cop asks the dispatcher, “What kind of noises?” and the dispatcher says, “She said it sounded like R2D2” which was a really weird detail because R2D2’s a robot from the future, and the book takes place in Iowa, which is pretty much like the stone age, and I’m just dying to find out: what the heck is in that garbage bag?!

So the cops pull up and they see the black garbage bag standing on the train old platform and the sun setting behind it, and they open the car doors, and hear tiny robot sounds coming from the bag, and I imagined the plastic jumping in little spots like a Jiffy Pop bubble. One of the cops draws his gun, and they climb the little set of wooden stairs up to the platform and the weird robot noises get louder and one of the cops kind of pulls and flicks at the bag ends and the bag falls open and TWO white parakeets come BOOM! flying out and it was like OH MY GOD! and in the bottom of the bag is a pile of sawed up body parts and Missy Ellis—her husband owns DNR Lumber—says “Please! That’s not what parakeets sound like!”

Well suddenly Karen (who looks like she’s gonna pop Missy right in the mouth) shouts—and I mean shouts—“THEY DO SO!” Missy laughs right in her face. “Ha! I’ve kept parakeets since I was a little girl. I know how they sound!” and I look down at the end table next to Karen and see she’s got six—I counted: six!—empty glasses of wine and boy if she isn’t pink as a beet! I think maybe she was a little over excited from getting to pick.

Karen stands up and stumbles a little on her feet and points to the door and says, “We’re going over to Petsmart RIGHT NOW and I’ll show YOU what a parakeet sounds like!”

What were supposed to do? We grabbed our purses and followed her across the parking lot to Petsmart at the other corner of the mall. Karen marching on like a little pink tank, not even looking back to see if we were behind her.

So we get to Petsmart, and Karen marches up to a big cage painted like a circus tent full of parakeets in the middle of the room—there must’ve been a hundred in there—and she waves her arm and says, “Well?”

I just pretended to listen because honestly the whole situation was freaking me out. I mean, what on earth were we doing!? Listening to a cage full of parakeets to see if they did or did not sound like robots with a drunk lady staring us down?

Finally, Kristie Simms said, “You know I believe they do sound like R2D2,” and the rest of all agreed or pretended to and nodded and umhmmed while Missy rolled her eyes and Karen beamed and suddenly said, just out of the blue, “You know, I think could kill someone for money” and we were like, what?

None of us knew it then, but she’d gone and given the ending away.

Photo: Alexa Vachon

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