Short Stories 365/298

“A First-Class Passenger” by George August Meier from Diverse Voices Quarterly Volume 6, Issue 21. Available to read for free by clicking: http://www.diversevoicesquarterly.com/first-class-passenger/

Full disclosure: I have a story in this issue.

I enjoyed this story just as much the second time I read it as I did the first. There’s a twist at the end, and while I remembered that there was one, I did not remember what it was. Therefore I got to experience it again, which was fun.

The main character has just boarded a plane with his wife. They have seats in first-class, something they had to use all their airline miles to manage. He’s looking forward to the experience when a boorish passenger in loud clothing enters the plane. It becomes a game of wishing he will keep going, keep moving. Of course the other man sits in first-class, too. Of course our hero becomes obsessed with his every move, to the great irritation of his wife. The twist at the end isn’t the world’s most surprising but is said to be based on a real event, and should make you stop and think.

Short Stories 365/297

“Emily Theory” by Safwan Khatib from Diverse Voices Quarterly Volume 6, Issue 21.

Full disclosure: I have a story in this issue.

The narrator’s father works in the coal mines of Elkins, West Virginia. His mother is a housewife. He is a fifth-grader, and his sister Emily is a little older. She moves around their house without uttering a word, and he theorizes that she is actually the devil. He’s stunned to realize his best friend doesn’t share that opinion.

The end of the story is rather strange and I confess, I am not entirely sure what is supposed to be happening. It almost doesn’t matter, though. The language draws you in, the pacing is brisk, the voice strong. I’ve read it three times and all three times I was thoroughly engaged. I’m just not sure what is supposed to be going on with the dad, why the mom does what she does at the end, or what she may be about to do next.

The nifty thing is, it’s available to read for free here:

http://www.diversevoicesquarterly.com/emily-theory/

So, what do you think?

Interesting side note: I went looking for clues online and discovered that the author is very young, just seventeen! He’s had several stories and poems published, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

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 wake, 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 anthology. 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.