Inness-Brown debuts with stories that seem to be pecking and tapping to hatch from the confining egg of practice exercises. Early pieces tend toward the awkward, as in ""Territory,"" about a weak-charactered traveling salesman in a failing marriage: people pose and soliloquize in unnatural ways to deepen the theme and move the story. ""Stephen,"" on the other hand, gives the knots-on-a-string impression of a story drawn, say, from diaries -- a young couple goes on a long trip together, then the man goes off with another girl, then the prose stops. More often, though, pieces have a kind of conscientious but pedestrian earnestness suggesting that they needed an ""idea"" before coming into existence, instead of the other way around -- as in ""Sleepwalker"" (a couple moves out of a new condo after the husband sleepwalks), ""The Surgeon"" (a doctor's wife dies of cancer), ""The Housesitter"" (a graduate student begins to acquire the temperament and personality of the people he housesits for), or ""Traveler"" (a woman is approached by men who claim to know her -- and she goes along with it). When the author forgets about the ""story"" and simply puts her raw materials into the unprogramatic fiction-furnace, the results begin to enliven and achieve an atmosphere that contains drama -- as in ""Life in the Tropics,"" about a young woman who lives in a city, in a large house, in summer, and waits for her lover. Small-town flavor la Sherwood Anderson is evoked when a math professor's habits are slightly changed by a waitress's death (""Addison""); ""The Chef's Bride"" is a hyperconventional narrative about a Greek immigrant girl who is roughly seduced and then dies in ambiguous circumstances; and ""Happy Father's Day"" is a nostalgic maunder through two generations of a family's summer house in Maine. Short fiction of an emerging polish, varyingly arresting.