At once folksy and urbane, this debut collection of stories pulses with the lifeblood of the forgotten neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., where Jones's black people are less the victims of society than of fate and chance. What unites the multihued African-Americans here is their sense of loss, whether it's of a family member taken in casual violence, or of one's soul, lost to drugs or ambition. A parentless teenager in ``The Night Rhonda Ferguson Was Killed,'' a girl full of confidence and spunk, finds her world shattered by her best friend's senseless death. Similarly, a middle-class man, leading ``a civilized life'' in the city, is devastated when his 15-year- old daughter runs away from home, never to return (``A New Man''). A motherless girl fills the void in her life with pigeons, until they too die or abandon the dying neighborhood (``The Girl Who Raised Pigeons''). Jones's unsparing view encompasses the hustler of ``Young Lions,'' a petty crook who enlists his loving girlfriend in a cruel scam; the middle-aged mother in ``His Mother's House,'' who ignores the source of her drug-dealing son's beneficence; and the high-powered lawyer in the title piece, who anesthetizes herself from her past with cocaine and passionless sex. But there's struggle, uplift, and survival in adversity here as well. In ``The Store,'' an unambitious young man grumbles through menial jobs, until he ends up attending Georgetown, in spite of himself. A dignified divorced woman keeps her family together in ``An Orange Line Train to Ballston.'' And a grown-up brother and sister cope differently with their father, who has spent most of their lives in jail for murdering their mother (``The Sunday Following Mother's Day''). Jones unerringly captures the quiet stateliness of elderly women in a trio of stories, culminating in ``Marie,'' which is his most self-reflexive piece. A skillful, elegiac collection, with remarkably little sociology.