Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"The Map," by Don Schwartz

This story has the ambience of a modern film noir and a chilling discovery about the Nazi’s penchant for detail surrounding a mysterious map. But the story delves deeper than any film noir movie. The relic from Hitler’s private collection is a corner of a map of the Warsaw ghetto before the Jewish uprising. And the map was an exact replica of every block, every building, every nook and cranny used for hidden munitions and hidden passages where children confiscated bread from outside the ghetto and returned and delivered their bounty to their parents. With remarkable intrigue and references to actual events and people, Schwartz weaves a story to illuminate what it means to be German. Read it here at The Adirondack Review.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

“Since the Accident: A Story,” by Michael Croley

What at first the reader perceives as a trauma sustained from a car crash later burrows deeper into character aspects of integrity and honesty and the quiet conflict with her spouse. Secrets and the difficulty of communicating truth fester below the accumulating snow of this winter tale. The story unfolds a common enough life of a middle class couple in a small town where there are expectations about starting a family. But something’s wrong. Read the story here at Narrative Magazine to find the clues about this woman’s internal dilemma.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"Caution," by Nathaniel Bellows

The story opens with a clear statement of fact: “It was Mrs. Adams, a woman from their town, who had died.” The omniscient voice tantalizes us with its distance from events and emotion. A girl and her mother share something curious, a penchant for hiding emotion and facts. Bellows’ story is full of tension and mystery. Some things in life happen and we cower, other things happen and we deny their occurrence. Sometimes the factual details of events cushion painful emotion, masking as denial. And then there are shocking moments that can only be explained through sheer passion of emotion. This story delivers on all of this as well as mystery, death, and violence in a seemingly quiet Vermont town, which carries an invisible air of violence. Read it here in memorious for the pure pleasure of it and the puzzling facets of detail.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"Backbone," by Glen Pourciau

In some relationships there is an imbalance of power. To an outsider, it can seem almost funny but inside the situation it’s another story. One partner has more backbone and is more determined than the other to take control. A seemingly small mistake, paying for one dessert that they did not order, appears to linger silently but resurfaces ten years later. Why we hold onto old wounds is the stuff of therapy. But Pourciau shows through sharp dialogue how the upper hand in this situation shifts from wife to husband. Read it here at Apple Valley Review.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

“Four Shorts about Feet,” by Louisa Wolf

I don’t often think about my feet until they talk back. There’s the occasional bruise, or such matters of aging like bunions, fallen arches, and plantar fasciitis. Regardless of the insult, our feet convey our heft through life but the first person narrator in these stories takes a perspective closer to the soul. Rich imagery and memory weave a series of stories as child, wife and mother. While the image of feet links these stories, here’s an image that stuck with me. The language evokes a parent’s conflicting feelings during the teenage-rearing years: “My heart, a leathery pouch as wrinkled as a hobbit’s purse, hiding hope, and maybe a dagger.” Read it here at Agni Online.

Friday, July 8, 2011

"To Pieces and To Death," by Amanda Rea

A woman alone feels deep silence and emptiness in her apartment after her pet fish dies. Outside the neighbors argue and words of domestic violence penetrate her living space and imagination. She can’t sleep. A few months earlier she’d left her husband without warning, a guy who professed his love, a guy who was really nice to her as well as strangers. All around, a really nice guy. But somehow he responded with hysterics to only things she’d said to him. Unlike her, he had refined tastes when it came to wine and avant garde films. There are some intriguing internal stories to link with her sense of loss like the one about the missionary woman who became emaciated for refusing to eat another banana, but her husband force-fed her the mush and she eventually died of fright. Another is a dream about her fish that apparently survives and finds freedom in flying. And the neighbor survives another round of domestic abuse, police tape surrounding her place. The associative leaps between encounters and thoughts are strong. Read it here in Wazee Journal.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"The Girl On The Bus," by Brian Patrick Heston

How many times do teens set out looking for validation only to be crushed by rejection? Heston captures the way a high school sophomore thinks about a girl whom he often sees on the bus. There is also the authoritative voice of his friend who obviously has more experience in the ways a girl thinks and behaves. He’s one of those kids upon whom no detail is wasted and if the details don’t satisfy, he’ll convince anyway. This friend’s influence is both humorous and controlling. The dialogue is fresh and moves the story with the force of a twister that can unexpectedly change course. And that’s what happens with the depth of character given these two boys. Get the experience. Read it here in Our Stories.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Last Call For A Loner," by Tom Sheehan

The mystique of traditional story telling offers a look through the amber of the frozen, inexplicable moment. A stranger hitchhiking; he’s a loner without place or connection and accepts a ride from a driver of a rig who offers an invitation to his home. Serendipity enters, and by coincidence the loner and the driver’s father find a connection. There are details here about pervasive loneliness that strike a chord beyond the story. The descriptions are mesmerizing like this one: (he) “…felt again that unknown sweep of energy come across his chest …making him think he was in a kind of wind tunnel.” The ending satisfies like a tale well told and must be read entirely to appreciate the spoiler that will not be revealed, here at Serving House Journal.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Colloid," by Justin D. Anderson

Anderson’s story weaves brief scenes with associative connections between fathers and sons. It’s a “solemn” lyric story that moves between particular details and ambivalent meaning such as the opening line, “My old man used to tell me about rumors.” The title holds the piece tightly, which I realized after consulting my dictionary and then experienced the story with a slight shift, for the better. It’s quite an experience reading this story. Think of a watercolor painting blurred around the edges that calls attention to realism but does not shy away from impressions. Read it here at Necessary Fiction.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Hero of the Nation," by Ranbir Sidhu

In a family where multiple generations live together with a variety of needs and ways to satisfy those needs, it might be expected that a lot of tension will result. The protagonist is a brave, young girl probably around the age of 12 or 13. She and her brother torment each other with a barrage of blue words. The parents are distracted with the care of the elderly grandfather, and they cower at the consequences for an ill and aging parent. One of the strengths of this story is the dialogue that captures three simultaneous conversations at the dinner table all witnessed by the inaudible grandfather. The story is both surprising and believable up to the very end. Enjoy it here at Barcelona Review.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"The Piano Lesson," by Andrew Wallace Chamings

In the voice of a child, some breathtaking short stories have been written. One collection that comes to mind is Steven Millhauser’s In the Penny Arcade. Chamings, in this story, captivates the reader with an intriguing first paragraph that begins: “It was the start of the year and the end of the day.” The story sweeps through past time and near past never leaving the deepening moment of the piano lesson as Dale, the imaginative boy, ploughs through “Moonlight Sonata” under his teacher’s guidance. The story offers many moments of concrete detail such as biting into holly berries that result in “A dry and cold bitter juice soaked into the back of my tongue.” The effect is a story implanted in the reader’s mind. For a magical read, try it here at Prick of the Spindle.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Fresh Eggs," by Jeffrey N. Johnson

Johnson’s beautifully written story takes place in contemporary time and owes a nod to the Southern Agrarian tradition. When H.L. Mencken wrote his 1920 essay, “The Sahara of the Bozeart,” he chastised the South for its poverty of intellectual and cultural contributions. In response, twelve eminent Southerners wrote I’ll Take My Stand: Southern Agrarian Tradition (1930) which help foster a formidable Southern Literary Renaissance. In Johnson’s story, the reader feels the loss of culture through the protagonist who laments that his young son will only experience a weekly visit for fresh eggs as “a childhood novelty, a petting zoo at best.” The heart of the story is not ideological but the deeper theme that the boy is unaware of, how people are more important than the competitive price of eggs. Read it here at Night Train.

Monday, February 7, 2011

"Touch," by Jesse Goolsby

This is a prize story, winner of the 2010 Bausch Short Story award. Goolsby writes with some military experience behind him and evokes the emotional trauma of a soldier who returns from Afghanistan. A strong narrative voice delivers the soldier’s particular experience with the horrors of war. The core of the story rests on the character’s life upon returning home. The experience of touch can be more difficult to receive than give when emotional response has been programmed for defensive alert. He realizes, “I’ve forgotten how to touch my children.” During a game of singing the alphabet with his daughters and the persistent touch of his wife’s hands, this veteran is nudged back on the road to emotional response. Read it here at Our Stories.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

"Last Night and Other Stories," by Lucy Jane Bledsoe

Part way through reading, this story took me off guard. I wasn’t prepared for a certain revelation that can only be experienced by the reader first hand; otherwise, to reveal it here would weaken any initial reading. The strong voice of the narrator carries the story. She’s fascinating in the way that Scheherazade might have been to the king. This contemporary story spinner is both a creator of lies and aware of her guilty participation. But tables eventually turn and she must face herself. There are many rewarding moments of surprise and especially in the way the story finds its ending. Enjoy it here at Hot Metal Bridge.

Monday, January 24, 2011

"Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby," by Billy O'Callaghan

This story with its seamless moving third point of view delivers a masterful level of depth. The writer draws a fine line discerning a fragile relationship of two people married to others but who find love between themselves. The reference to the song title evokes a simpler, nostalgic time with the harmony of barbershop quartet in contrast to the tone of loss and the abandonment felt in a Coney Island winter. The story’s strong sense of place offers these adulterous lovers the isolation that they crave from the bustle of Manhattan, and evokes the possibility of an infinite world suggested by the sweeping line from shore to horizon. It’s a compelling read where the writer does not tease with the characters’ future. Instead, the writing takes the reader along the journey where grace finds a way to seal these lives. “Some people see a glass as half full, others see it as half empty. But there is a third group, a small, almost unnoticeable percentage, who want nothing more than the opportunity to quench their burning thirsts.” Enjoy it here at Waccamaw Journal.

Monday, January 17, 2011

"Tree," by Anjie Seewer Reynolds

When I was a kid, many years ago, I loved riding my bike in the neighborhood. In my memory there was a particular hill as being a real leg-pumper; but fifteen or so years later when I returned, the hill barely rose from level ground. It wasn’t that I had grown in height in those intervening years but somehow my experiences had yielded another perspective on the terrain. Revisiting childhood haunts and former experiences may offer surprise, disappointment, and a new perspective. Reynolds’ vignette is powerful in imagery and the narrator’s attempt to recapture youth. Enjoy it here at Writers Workshop Review.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"Bearing a Cross," by Joseph Bates

Here’s a story that connects with the tradition of Maupassant, Sherwood Anderson, and Faulkner in the way that small town culture is portrayed as a cautionary tale. Bates’ town of Walhalla, South Carolina reacts to 9/11 with its best intention to govern by theocracy. The first person voice achieves authority throughout with statements such as this referring to the burning towers in NYC: “… you could smell the sulfur burning off her buildings from here.” Regional authenticity in the narrator’s voice entices us into believing the chain of events of this town. But we are given more than the particular with magical insights that resonate beyond Walhalla. Read it here in Issue 2 of Stones Throw .

Thursday, January 6, 2011

"It Was So Many Years Ago," by Amber Krieger

The story centers on Henry, an older man, who happened to have been driving his car on an unlit road when he accidentally killed a man walking in the dark. For over 25 years he has struggled with this memory. Walking through the woods on this day captures Henry’s precarious balancing act through life: “The trail is uneven and each time he steps into a low spot he feels like he is going to topple over.” The deftness of writing draws precisely with a subtle pen linking emotions of isolation and disconnection from experience to experience, and from past to present moment. Read the story here at Carve Magazine.