Short Stories 365/278

“Somewhere” by Blake Faraday from Glitterwolf: Issue four, 2013. Edited by Matt Cresswell.

The narrator of this next piece is lying in a pool of his own blood on a city sidewalk, the victim of a hate crime. His life flashes before his eyes, and so the story moves back and forth between the grisly now and the most important moments of a waning life.

Normally, I would find this almost too disturbing, but there’s a detached quality to the narration that imbues it with a kind of peace, despite the violence. It makes it bearable. Maybe it works too well? I expected to be in tears by the end of this, but I was not. Usually I despise it when stories end the way this one does, but I was okay with it. I was glad to have gotten to know this character, even this tiny bit.

The last piece of fiction in the magazine is “Persimmon, Teeth and Boys” by Steve Berman. I bought the issue in the first place because I wanted to read that story, but I’ve already reviewed it here (365/79), as part of his third collection of short stories, Red Caps: New Fairy Tales for Out of the Ordinary Readers.

And on that note….

Short Stories 365/277

“Rise” by Reed Hearne from Glitterwolf: Issue four, 2013. Edited by Matt Cresswell.

My impulse is to say that I enjoyed this story, but the truth is that all throughout it I wanted to throttle the main character, Janet. She married a man who didn’t return her affections, became pregnant by him, and then left him for a milquetoast husband who kowtows to a bully who turns him against her son. The consequences, as you can well imagine, are dire. Oh yeah, I wanted to throttle her.

The author, though? Not so much. It’s a very well told tale. I was hooked right from the start.

Short Stories 365/276

“Terence” by Eric Norris from Glitterwolf: Issue four, 2013. Edited by Matt Cresswell.

I’m not going to lie. I had trouble puzzling out what was happening in this piece of experimental fiction. It made me research A. E. Housman, though, and get re-acquainted with the poem “To an Athlete Dying Young”. That’s not a bad thing, and good god, it led me to that author’s “De Amicitia (Of Friendship)”, which was never mentioned in any of the Honors English classes I attended. Had someone chosen to put that work, rather than “To an Athlete” on the syllabus at the end of my freshman year I might have switched from Journalism to English instead of Theatre within the College of Communications at SIU.

The product of two theatre aficionados (my mother was a classically trained actress, my father a fan of Shakespeare), I was mad for the theatre. When, at the initial meeting of Theatre History I, my professor, Dr. Alfred Straumanis, announced that the department needed volunteers to build sets for the season’s productions, I not only answered the call, I practically moved in to the Scene Shop. (To their eternal credit, when I revealed my intention to switch majors my parents responded, “If you don’t, it will be the worst mistake of your life.”) I did, and was rewarded with nineteen years of full time employment.

Now we turn back to the original path.

Short Stories 365/275

“Her Secondhand Smoke” by Holly Combs from Glitterwolf Magazine: Issue four, August 2013.  Edited by Matt Cresswell.

The grandmother of this story’s unnamed, newlywed protagonist did her a great disservice when she advised that “a sigh is the sound a soul makes when a little piece of it dies” and that she would inevitably come to despise her wife, Jess.

I get that the grandmother means to undermine her happiness. What I’m not certain of is whether she did it simply because she herself is unhappy, and misery loves company, or if her treachery also contains an insidious, homophobic element.

Regardless, the seeds of doubt and paranoia get planted and, weeds that they are, grow heartily, until they choke out all the good things in the relationship. The protagonist and her wife are being slowly driven apart. The grandmother’s “prediction” is coming true.

They say attitude is everything. I have a magnet on my refrigerator printed with the poem “Thinking” by Walter D. Whintle. You’ve probably read it. In part, it says,

You’ve got to think high to rise, You’ve got to be sure of yourself before You can ever win a prize.

That’s easier to do if people aren’t actively sabotaging you. When we got married, some friends of ours said this to us, warmly: “Welcome to the Club”. That was all. Welcome to the Club. They didn’t follow it up by smirking, or rolling their eyes, or making furtive anti-marriage comments.

So, to all of you who are just being allowed in, let me say it to you: Welcome to the Club.

Tell the haters to go to Hell.

Short Stories 365/274

“A World Without End: 1976” by Ed Kurtz from Glitterwolf Magazine: Issue four, August 2013.  Edited by Matt Cresswell.

Okay, I will admit I’m not quite sure what, exactly, is supposed to have transpired during the course of this story, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Danny’s at a club in New York, nursing a drink and half-listening to the band on the makeshift stage behind him, when he hears familiar lyrics. No, not just familiar: private. As in, only one other person knows those lyrics, and she’s…long gone.

He turns around. The lead singer of the band is heavily made up and sporting a blonde wig and a dress he hikes up in order to reveal his decidedly male accoutrements to the crowd. Chrissie Fire is your classic go-for-broke performer, practically attacking the venue’s jaded patrons in order to elicit a reaction from them. Danny watches, lost in his thoughts about Mercy, the other person who knew the words Chrissie Fire sings. Could Chrissie Fire somehow be Mercy? He shakes the thought away and trots off to the bathroom to release a little steam with a guy who’s propositioned him. Then he heads home, down streets that bear little resemblance to the Disney-fied New York of today. That’s the first in a string of nights that lead him deeper into…well, I’m not sure, but it’s interesting. A little sexy, and even more so creepy. And the setting. Oh, the setting.

I remember the city the author’s describing. I saw it with my own eyes. Streets crowded with vendors hawking knockoff goods, streetwalkers, the blinking neon signs in the windows of countless adult bookstores. We actually saw someone get knifed, in broad daylight, while we were walking down the street. No, really. There was steam rising up from all the manhole covers. My mother said that proved it was the gateway to Hell. (Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing, but she was looking for things to dislike. God forbid Manhattan would turn out to be cooler than Chicago, from which we hailed.)

You will understand then, why I was delighted to see that the author’s latest novel, The Forty-Two, is set in the same time and place: New York City, 1979. Holy Moley, I can’t wait to read that.