“All Smiles” by Steve Berman from Red Caps: New Fairy Tales for Out of the Ordinary Readers (Lethe Press, 2014).
I thoroughly enjoyed this sexy, scary, larger-than-life story about a young man, Saul, who has just escaped from Cotre Ranch, a drug rehab facility/reform school/re-education camp run by a man named Phelps. He’s hitchhiking in a downpour, trying not to get picked up by goons from the ranch, when opposite-gender but physically very similar siblings Dutch and Marley appear on the horizon in a black sedan. The instant he gets into the vehicle he feels chemistry with both of them. (For a bit I felt sure this was going to go in a decidedly Felice Picano-esque direction.) Things take an unexpected, frightening turn, followed by a twist. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time, and not ready for it to end when it did. This could easily be the basis for a novel. My fingers are crossed that it becomes one.
The tattoo Saul has is a spark of genius. I don’t want to specify what exactly it is and ruin the surprise for anyone else, but damn. Defilement and salvation wrapped up in one. It’s one of those “Why couldn’t I have thought of that?!” forehead-slapping moments. Likewise with the naming of the ranch.