"Larry Havard had spent almost every free weekend of his life hunting in the South Mississippi woods of his home county, but for almost a month now, at age thirty-three, he hadn't had the heart to kill one thing. Not after his house caught fire and he lost the best bird dogs he'd ever owned or heard of, two full-blooded retrievers, to smoke inhalation."
So begins The Floater, one of the stories from Sidney Thompson's story collection. With these two sentences, Thompson pretty much completely sets his readers up for what will follow over the next 17 pages or so. Reading that first paragraph we know who we're going to be reading about, Larry Havard, and we know what his biggest problem is, his sudden inability to kill, and what caused this problem, the horrible death of his two dogs.
As we get later into the story we find out more, of course. We find out just how important King-Size and Copperhead, the two deceased dogs, were to Larry. We find out that his ex-wife has left him, while those dogs remained faithful. Meanwhile, Thompson puts the plot into motion. Larry, hoping to get by this sudden inability to kill (and it's just killing he's suddenly troubled with ("He could still clean meat and knife it up, but just couldn't bring himself to kill it."), goes looking for a replacement dog or two. Not being flush, Larry goes looking at the pound where he finds "...was what the dog catcher had promised. Nippers, lungers, and broken dogs withmange or missing parts."
The only dog that really grabs his attention is a quivering poodle. He is warned that the dog has heartworm and was only brought in to be put down. After trying to leave, Larry goes back in and takes the dog. Hoping for a win/win situation, Larry plans on giving the dog a good final day, and maybe just find it within himself to kill again. It is this decision that leads him down a path of more decisions and actions.
The title of the story refers to Larry's abilities in the area of hanging sheetrock, a floater is one who can make everything in that process seamless, eliminating problems from the house not being perfectly square, getting everything set so that when painted the appearance is a smooth one, no nails showing, etc. It's a nice bit of irony on Thompson's part considering nearly every other aspect of Larry's life.
The Floater, brutal as it seems at times, comes across as something that could have come from the sad background of a real person. Thompson gives Larry just enough of everything, hope, despair, sadness, and pain to make his effort and plight through the story more than just a little bit interesting.