Many people refrain from reading short story collections for a variety of reasons. Whether it be the feeling that once you get a feel for the characters the story is over, they see it as a way to inflate the ego of the writer, or perhaps they see it is an easy way out of a long demanding process. I see these reasons as a selfish response by the reader to a writer working to perfect their craft while getting some fans in the process. I view this collection according to the styling of the first story as the reason for rolling yourself a “pinner” of honey oil rather than a “cannon” L paper of your finest “kush” when looking for a desired effect. They both provide a rewarding journey, but one just takes less work at getting to the final destination, much like successful short stories.
The first story Dogshit Summer is very atmospheric filled with a perfume of cigarettes, pinesol and dogshit mellowing on a hot, hazy, and humid summer’s night. It is a story of bad choices, failures, and perceived dead ends. With your life’s plan laid out what would you do if you were handed an application to get out of a purgatory that you helped create? The next story Idler at the Window is set during the onset of winter, during a time when hibernation is next on the to-do list. For some people the focus is put on surviving the elements rather than making the most of the moments that the weather can bring. In any regard a man must find some entertainment some way, somehow. Knuckles Broken Promise shows the difficulty people face when trying to live a law abiding lifestyle when all they ever knew were the ways of the street. Simple daily errands provide many roadblocks that seem insurmountable. As a reward for your daily cleanse all you want to do is have a beer while watching a football game that you have money on, there’s nothing wrong with that, “right Dick?” The narrator seems like a great conversationalist, at times I felt like I needed to channel my inner Travis Bickle and reply “you talking to me?”
Malcolm’s Apple Tree tells a story of the reciprocating understanding that a married couple can have as they approach the twilight of their years together. Teamwork as well as some “me” time help tackle problems and lengthen relationships. Compassion, memories, love, disappointment, and the feeling that “hope” will live to see another day serve the purpose for these two people. The next story Morning is the fly-on-the-wall analysis of love’s ups and downs. It shows the responsibility one can have in taking the tough decisions out of the hands of the ones you love the most. Stellan Bambrey could be viewed as a continuation of the previous story as it handles the emotions that the days, weeks, and months that immediately follow a life partner’s death. In a state of inner distress how is satisfaction, as fleeting as it is, achieved? The next story Talk of Sex Over Wine: Wrong Place, Wrong Time involves a well-to-do family, complete with a piece of shit father and a submissive, but caring mother reuniting with their free spirited daughter. Parents narrow-mindedness, lack of physical intimacy, keeping up with the Jones’ approach to child rearing has lead to a skewed reality. High Price was really short so let me just give you a little feel for my instant thoughts. Celebrity Deathmatch, Notorious B.I.G. Vs. Tupac, Eastside vs. Westside. So Gangsta. Meets The Shins vs. The Flaming Lips, South by Southwest vs. North by Northeast. So Hipsta.
Through the beady eyes and into the clouded mind of a man crazy in unrequited love who overcomes one fear in order to spite one that is far greater. This is They Oughtta Make a Law. In the story From a Hand You’ve Once Shaken the famed commandment thou shalt not covet thy neighbours wife comes to surface. This story teaches the reader that sharing is most certainly not caring and good friends don’t let their wives hang around inhibition-ridden drunks because in the end routine can be the root of your own demise. Wartime isolation among “friends” can lead to increased thoughts of paranoia, starvation, infighting, cabin fever, and even cannibalism. The Snake in the Hourglass let’s you know that it’s not always the Devil you know, it’s the Devil you don’t. In the next story; on the surface everyone is conducting themselves according to graveside protocol, going through the expected motions. Collectively their minds are elsewhere, knowing that in the end they could give a rats ass, unfortunately The Death of Marcus Kasparov proves the vital nature of staying on your toes. The News on TV shows how struggling paycheck to paycheck you’re not only trying to pay the fixed expenses, you’re trying to payoff variable family medical bills that comes your way while looking for a better job. Sure, working the graveyard shift as a store clerk allows you to meet your fair share of crazy characters.This story challenges the readers preconceived notions, prejudices and shows you how easy “your pea(ie)ce of mind can be shattered.”
I enjoyed these stories; some were challenging, psychological, fun, and wide-ranging; everything I appreciate about short story collections.