Middle-aged men, young girls, and angry teenaged boys stumble across moments of rare grace--in ten moody, memorable tales set mostly in Texas and Oklahoma. In ``South Padre,'' a retired farmer and his wife drift apart only to discover themselves during a dreary vacation to the Gulf coast. In ``The Waco Wego,'' a small-town lawyer's prim adolescent daughter runs smack against her father's ethically complex, gritty world. The teenaged daughter of a Mexican-American maid in ``Nosotros'' learns why she should refrain from sleeping with the boy in the big house, while a fourth-grade girl in the title story is haunted by a dirty, disgusting male classmate who taunts her with sexual images. These are the best of Peery's richly textured pieces, whose heroes' outrage and frustration erupt sporadically against the arid backdrops of 1940's Oklahoma farmlands and Texas border towns until, in most cases, some kind of revelation is achieved. If the author succumbs at times to sentimentality (particularly in ``Mountains, Roads, The Tops of Trees,'' about a country girl's love for an older ``drunken Indian,'' and in ``Job's Daughters,'' whose gaggle of self-righteous Baptist cousins torture a California newcomer), her courage in plumbing the disturbing psyches of characters of widely varying ages, outlooks, and socioeconomic levels more than makes up for the occasional burst of affection. An unusually confident, mature, and moving debut.