Atkinson (Apocalypse All the Time, 2017, etc.) offers a collection of flash-fiction about subjects ranging from an invasion of aerobic dancers to a tyrannosaur-sized human looking for living space.
Each of the absurdist tales here drops its main characters into bizarre, often surreal situations, with most clocking in at less than two pages in length. In one, the narrator refuses to exit a Ferris wheel at the “Scotchtoberfest,” all to avoid Henry Kissinger, who wants to know what happened to his 1987 Chevy convertible. Similarly weird predicaments abound in other tales—a city’s residents uses price comparison and couponing to find a new mayor, a civilization of tiny elves turns up in an old oatmeal container, or a cellophane-wrapped Christmas ham is, sadly, also made of cellophane and packing tape. Historical figures and celebrities also populate the book, including Benjamin Franklin on a cocaine high and in need of gas money, and Tom Cruise, who vainly tries sparking discussions on controversial matters, such as Scientology, with an apathetic new neighbor. Pop-culture references are generally to decades-old TV shows and movies, but Atkinson effectively links them to more topical concerns, such as genetically modified foods. He also tackles air travel and, repeatedly, dentists and tooth care. The majority of the stories’ titles are inordinately long and sometimes irrelevant, but typically hilarious, such as “Linseed Oil is Not an Effective Sunblock Ointment Even If You Mix it With Two Parts Crisco and Three Parts Heavy Water Beforehand, James Madison’s Amateur Home Hobbyist Chemistry Thesis Notwithstanding.” Even at its most preposterous, though, Atkinson’s prose is sharp: “Ten thousand pairs of shoes sitting alone in a square? Of course, elephants were going to come in and steal them. What else?” And despite the stories’ brevity, readers won’t feel shortchanged, as there are well over 100 of them.
Unorthodox, irreverent, and diverting tales.