Short Stories 365/296

“What You Pay” by Jameson Currier, from Chelsea Station Issue 4. Edited by Jameson Currier.

You know what I love most about this story? The main character is young. Now, I have nothing at all against “mature” characters. I certainly don’t have anything against mature characters written by this author, because they are always full of insights and interesting as all get-out. Still, the last three stories by him that I read overshadowed the first one in my mind. (Basically, I forgot about Teddy and Sam in July 2002.) Therefore it tickled me to no end to encounter a main character so unlike the more recent ones. What can I say? I’m geeky like that.

This is another story written in second person point of view. They’re getting almost common. As the main character, you’ve agreed to go to Atlantic City for the day with two friends, Keith and Peter. They’re an item. You are single. You are also a broke college student who can’t afford to go anywhere. Strangely, the bus ride is better than free. When you arrive at the casino, the driver hands you a roll of quarters. Ten bucks. (Since that’s the case, I wonder why I don’t begin donning disguises and riding the bus back and forth every day, reading Fitzgerald and collecting rent money.)

You are determined not to spend this found money. Of course, Keith and Peter are not nearly as disciplined as you are. They are not nearly as broke, either, or not when you first arrive, at any rate. Casinos have a way of parting fools and their money. Naturally, it all goes to hell in a hand basket. Did you expect anything less?

What I did not expect was the way the title of the piece gets folded back into the story near the end, in a scene that made my stomach drop. Until that happened I didn’t realize just how invested in the story events I had become.

He shoots, and scores, again. (See also #22, 43,142, and 280.)

The crowd goes wild.

Short Stories 365/295

“The Reality” by Stephen Greco from Chelsea Station Issue 4. Edited by Jameson Currier.

I was going to point out that this story shares a premise with one I reviewed earlier, and comment that they could be the basis of an anthology, but saying what the theme of that volume would be would reveal the twist in the end, and I don’t want to do that.

So, uh, hmm.  Robby’s ex-lover-turned-best-friend Walt goes missing, and then is reported dead. He had some trouble with drugs in the past but lately had turned his life around. Robby is understandably upset, and spends a good portion of the story mourning his loss. The climax sees him attend Walt’s memorial service, where he feels as if he is playing the role of “the widow”, though he knows many of Walt’s family members are not aware of that truth. Next, there’s the twist. Overall it’s a nice commentary on our times, and would go well with review #272 in a themed anthology.

Short Stories 365/294

“Single Rider” by Raydon L. Reyes from from Chelsea Station Issue 4. Edited by Jameson Currier.

This sweet, lighthearted tale is perfectly placed in the issue. It’s just what’s needed after the previous, more serious, entry.

Jet is waiting in line to ride a roller coaster. He’s by himself, and therefore standing in the “single rider” lane. What makes him interesting is the fact that he’s Filipino. He’s not some guy wasting time in, say, California. He’s a yuppie from the Philippines, on a vacation to Universal Studies, Singapore.

Heavy rains temporarily shut down the coaster, which creates an opportunity for conversation to flourish between Jet and a guy standing alone in the “groups” line. The stranger introduces himself as Noah and explains to Jet that he’s holding a place for two friends. They get acquainted and, again, it’s Jet’s perspective as someone outside the First World that keeps this from being just another story about a lonely guy. His assessment of his situation, and the assumptions he makes about Noah, make him an intriguing character.

Short Stories 365/293

“Fin de Siecle” by William Sterling Walker from Chelsea Station, Issue 4. Edited by Jameson Currier.

My god, I loved this story. The language is extraordinarily rich. Lush. Gorgeous. It’s the languorous pacing, though, that perfectly captures what it’s like to wander about in New Orleans. I wished it would never end.

Tom Cahill has been drawn back to New Orleans by a ghost, one that takes form via his memories of, and regrets about, the man he loved: Michael. Almost immediately after his arrival he crosses paths with someone he knew well when he lived in the city, a singer named Fortunate Champagne.

This isn’t a plot-driven story. The two wander in and out of old haunts in the French Quarter, reminiscing about Michael. It might not sound like much but I promise you, it’s riveting. It’s also dangerous. It will make you long to visit (or re-visit) that city, and it will make you certain you have lived your entire life incorrectly.


Short Stories 365/292

“Sweet Jermone” by Dennis Jordan from Chelsea Station Issue 4. Edited by Jameson Currier.

The Vietnam War is raging and the narrator is in the midst of it, a member of the long range reconnaissance patrol (LRRP). The bright spot in his existence is found back at base, where he’s been befriended by the cook, Jermone.

Jermone is a true character and an amazing cook. He seems out. The story is careful to point out what a wild, dangerous thing that was in 1968, to say nothing of someone in the military at that time. The author does a nice job of setting the stage, explaining the allowable limits of their interaction while building the relationship between them, and alternating scenes at base with ones during missions. It’s an educational, enjoyable and heart-wrenching read.

Short Stories 365/291

“The Mormon Victorian Society” by Johnny Townsend from Chelsea Station Issue 4. Edited by Jameson Currier.

I loved this story about two young Mormon men who are members of a club dedicated to studying all things Victorian. Ben and Mason are gay and attracted to one another, though they have never said as much. They can’t; they’re part of a culture that won’t allow them to be open. Worse, they’re members of a sect-within-a-sect that harkens back to an even more repressive time.

Still, warmth oozes up from these pages. They’re a great couple in every way they are permitted to be.  Each is interested in being a church leader, they share a love of history, and they have similar opinions about both the other members of the Victorian Society and the Church at large. They break the rules together in small ways, watching movies and reading books that fall outside the parameters set by the club. They laugh together. They enjoy one another’s company. Most importantly, when the chips are down they stand up for one another, for others, and for themselves.

I wish there was an entire novel about these two characters, but I think this is just one of many tangentially-related short stories in the collection of the same name. Even so, I’m eager to read it.

Short Stories 365/290

“8 Ways You Used Me” by Eric Karl Anderson from Chelsea Station, Issue 4. Edited by Jameson Currier.

Billy addresses the unnamed object of his desire—his best friend—directly during the eight sections of this story. He’s looking back on their entwined histories, coming to terms with why he allowed the other boy to mistreat him for years. The reason is simple: his friend was handsome and popular and more easily passed for straight; Billy fell in love with him but also felt inferior to him.

Emboldened, the best friend imagined an important future for himself – The Julliard School and a life on the stage; Billy set his sights on more attainable goals – rising through the ranks in a fast food establishment, maybe owning a franchise one day.

The story uses keys moments in their friendship to describe the actual paths their lives took over the course of nearly a decade and a half, and explain how they have come to be where they are now. As in real life, very little has turned out the way either of them expected. It’s not an uplifting piece, mainly because the entire premise of their relationship is flawed—it’s not and never will be what Billy desires—but it’s definitely an interesting psychological profile.