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Short Stories 365/74 | N.S. Beranek

“Most Likely” by Steve Berman from Red Caps: New Fairy Tales for Out of the Ordinary Readers (Lethe Press, 2014).

I realized that yesterday I failed to mention the drawings included with the stories in this collection. They’re a unique touch I wasn’t sure I’d like, but the ones in the first story turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Instead of going the obvious route and showing the main character’s viewpoint they illustrated the dark, gritty reality he inhabited physically. By doing so they made his experience feel that much wilder and more out of control. Nice choice.

The drawings included with this story were equally surprising. A little bit Phineas and Ferb, part Futurama, and with a healthy dash of lounge / kitsch artist Swanky thrown in, they gave the piece context time-wise. This was especially useful because the power outage at the beach house which is central to the plot left the main character, Roque, and his sister, Leonia, stranded with no cell phones or internet, television or radio. There was, therefore, potential for the reader to get the mistaken impression that the story was taking place in another decade.

I loved that Roque’s sexuality was presented as no big deal. His concern over how his sister will react if she finds out he’s been crushing on his classmate Gregg Lehman stems from the fact that he is Puerto Rican (I think) and Gregg is Jewish, not because Gregg is another boy.

Gregg gave off mixed signals during the school year, and that prevented Roque from making his feelings known and asking him out. Now the year’s over and Roque is looking back, turning over various events in his mind, wondering what might have been.

I confess to being not quite sure what was going on with the inscriptions and pictures in the yearbook. Nothing else in the story seemed fantastical, so I didn’t think they were meant to be taken literally. At first I thought maybe Roque had fallen asleep and was dreaming. Then I thought he was seeing what he wanted to see. Now I’m wondering if those were things he’d picked up on subconsciously, coming to the fore. Or perhaps we are meant to believe it’s magic after all, that the yearbook falls into a category of items labeled The Unexplained?

I liked the machinations Roque and Leonia had to go through to secure use of the cell phone owned by the boys staying in the beach house next door. I enjoyed having a strong female represented (even her name is strong), and I appreciated that she turned out to be not as stereotypical as she appeared when first introduced.

As I have in several other stories by the author, and his novel as well, I found the dialogue throughout to be quite believably that of teenagers.

Most of all, though, I enjoyed the final scene and that the piece ends on a decidedly happy note.