A story collection from Scottish writer Galloway--reflecting a typically bleak late-20th-century British landscape and informing ethos--makes its American debut. Galloway writes about a sunless world of grimy streets, drunken men, and brutalized women. Many of the pieces are little more than brief sketches of a mood, place, or character; others resemble scenes from a play. All are relentlessly downbeat, even macabre. In the title story, a callous dentist dismisses a young patient after an extraction, ``with an unstoppable redness seeping through the fingers of her open mouth.'' In ``Breaking Through,'' a beloved cat is allowed to burn to death while a little girl watches; and in ``Two Fragments,'' two equally nasty explanations are given to a child for her grandmother's glass eye. Three notable pieces are: ``Later He Would Open His Eyes in a Strange Place, Wondering Where She,'' in which an elderly couple read the biography of Arthur Koestler, then decide to imitate him by committing suicide together; ``Plastering the Cracks,'' where a young woman engages some workmen but, later, eavesdropping through the wall, becomes fearful of their intentions; and ``A Week with Uncle Felix,'' in which Stenga, a withdrawn young girl unable to ask questions about her long-dead father (``You couldn't ask what he was like: that was the kind of question you never got much of an answer for. Or it got turned into something else: drunk and violent'') is abused by an elderly uncle. Powerful images and ideas in stories often too elliptical and fragmentary to engage fully. An interesting but uneven debut.