Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Every Word I Said," by Bill Torgerson

I once heard a teacher confess to a group of teens that he had not realized the complexity of his alcoholism until he’d gone through AA. He did not deny that alcohol was the culprit but much deeper was the insight that he loved an audience. His friends liked him when he was drunk because he could make them laugh. Applause, that’s what got him hooked. This is a confessional story about regretting some teenage behavior. I am usually not fond of short stories that rely on lengthy flashbacks or scenes that happened in the past. This one spends too much time recounting that. But I overlooked my preference because I was drawn to how this writer peeled away the layers of his teenage years groping for adulthood and how he later found a glimmer of truth about himself. The honesty of what he faces matters deeply. He convinces the reader that just saying he is sorry, while important, lacks weight. Read it here in Barely South Review.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"The Shoebox," by Jonathan Starke

In most long-term intimate relationships there inevitably comes the moment of disconnect. The husband or wife sees with eyes wide open while the other with eyes cast downward withholds secrets and lacks disclosure not always out of malice but some unclear mystery, some unexplained disconnect. What if the one with clarity was actually a mannequin? “As long as I keep getting it sprayed, my face will never loose its smooth features… .” And what about the man who holds onto the shoebox of love tokens, “This just can’t possibly work anymore… .” The story poses an interesting dilemma: who has the broken heart, mannequin or man? Read it here in Blood Orange Review.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Down Bayou Black," by Gay Degani

There was a time when I was thoroughly engrossed with the writings of Cornell Woolrich. His noir fiction is thick with impenetrable shadows, howls in the night, and hunted characters who hold on to motives as tightly as the men who hold their guns in a Brinks truck. So with this story I enjoyed a brief deja vue but in a different place and time. Degani has a clear sense of a particular South, “bayou as black as molasses in moonlight.” The reader sympathizes with the narrator who needs relief from pneumonia, and later we learn she has another reason to leave home. The ending holds suspense as well it should and offers clarity beyond the muddy water where she finds herself. Read it here in 101 Flash.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"The Man in the Moat," by David Massengill

Another story about men who behave badly? A fairy tale about men repressed by women? Or is this a tale about the burden carried by women who insist too firmly? There’s a castle moat, a runaway prince, and a princess left to birth her child alone. A mouse too appears with a voice as wise as a soothsayer. It’s all told in a charming way with the curious puzzlement of a Grimm fairytale. Read it here in MiCrow and enjoy the whimsy of it.