‘Uncommon Type’ marks the debut as a writer of the award-winning actor Tom Hanks. This delightful collection of seventeen short stories dissects with great affection, humour and insight, the human condition and all its foibles.
Here’s an excerpt from the book.
Anna said there was only one place to find a meaningful gift for MDash— the Antique Warehouse, not so much a place for old treasures as a permanent swap meet in what used to be the Lux Theater. Before HBO, Netflix, and the 107 other entertainment outlets bankrupted the Lux, I sat for many hours in that once- splendid cinema palace and watched movies. Now it’s stall after stall of what passes for antiques. Anna and I looked into every one of them.
MDash was about to become a naturalized U.S. citizen, which was as big a deal for us as it was for him. Steve Wong’s grandparents were naturalized in the forties. My dad had escaped the low- grade thugs that were East European Communists in the 1970s, and, way back when, Anna’s ancestors rowed boats across the North Atlantic, seeking to pillage whatever was pillage-able in the New World. The Anna family legend is that they found Martha’s Vineyard.
Mohammed Dayax- Abdo was soon to be as American as Abdo Pie, so we wanted to get him something vintage, an objet d’patriotic that would carry the heritage and humor of his new country. I thought the old Radio Flyer wagon in the second warehouse stall was perfect. “When he has American kids, he’ll pass that wagon on to them,” I said.
But Anna was not about to purchase the first antique we came across. So we kept on hunting. I bought a forty- eight-star American flag, from the 1940s. The flag would remind MDash that his adoptive nation is never finished building itself— that good citizens have a place somewhere in her fruited plain just as more stars can fi t in the blue field above those red and white stripes. Anna approved, but kept searching, seeking a present that would be far more special. She wanted unique, nothing less than one of a kind. After three hours, she decided the Radio Flyer was a good idea after all.
Rain started falling just as we were pulling out of the parking lot in my VW Bus. We had to drive slowly back to my house because my wiper blades are so old they left streaks on the windshield. The storm went on well into the evening, so rather than drive home, Anna hung around, played my mother’s old mixtapes (which I’d converted to CDs), cracking up over Mom’s eclectic taste, in the segues from the Pretenders to the O’Jays to Taj Mahal.
When Iggy Pop’s “Real Wild Child” came on, she asked, “Do you have any music from the last twenty years?”
I made pulled- pork burritos. She drank wine. I drank beer. She started a fire in my Franklin stove, saying she felt like a pioneer woman on the prairie. We sat on my couch as night fell, the only lights being the fire and the audio levels on my sound system bounding from green to orange and, occasionally, red. Distant sheet lightning fl ashed in the storm miles and miles away.
“You know what?” she said to me. “It’s Sunday.”
“I do know that,” I told her. “I live in the moment.”
“I admire that about you. Smart. Caring. Easygoing to the point of sloth.”
“You’ve gone from compliments to insults.”
“Change sloth to languorousness,” she said, sipping wine.
“Point is I like you.”
“I like you, too.” I wondered if this conversation was going someplace. “Are you flirting with me?”
“No,” Anna said. “I’m propositioning you. Totally different thing. Flirting is fishing. Maybe you hook up, maybe you don’t. Propositioning is the first step in closing a deal.”
Understand that Anna and I have known each other since high school (St. Anthony Country Day! Go, Crusaders!). We didn’t date, but hung out in the same crowd, and liked each other. After a few years of college, and a few more of taking care of my mom, I got my license and pretended to make a living in real estate for a while. One day she walked into my office because she needed to rent a space for her graphics business and I was the only agent she could trust because I once dated a friend of hers and was not a jerk when we broke up.
Anna was still very pretty. She never lost her lean, rope-taut body of a triathlete, which, in fact, she had been. For a day, I showed her some available spaces, none of which she wanted for reasons that made little sense to me.