The title is apt; this nimble debut collection of 23 stories takes a variety of chances, impressing by its audacity and originality. Budnitz, a Village Voice cartoonist whose fiction has appeared in literary quarterlies, seems a kind of homegrown surrealist, launching expeditions into strange terrain from such disarmingly mundane settings as back porches, hospital waiting rooms, and crowded city streets. ``Dog Days'' has to do with a man in a dog suit who takes up residence on the porch of a Middle American family, this after an unexplained disaster that has led to the gradual dissolution of society. In weird yet convincing fashion, the family--and particularly the young daughter--begin to treat the man, who offers a remarkable impersonation of a canine, as a dog. This leads to a ghastly ending when, pressed by hunger, the other members of the family suddenly realize that, in some parts of the world, people view dog as a delectable dish. ``Guilt'' offers a grimly funny take on family guilt, carrying filial neurosis to new levels of absurdity as a healthy young man is browbeaten by his two harridan aunts into donating his heart to his dying mother--having been assured by the doctors that he can live some time without one. In ``Directions,'' a variety of figures--a middle-aged couple going to the theater, a man who's been told that he has a fatal disease, a young woman apparently haunted by a collapsed affair, two tough- talking hustlers planning a score--get lost in the city and end up seeking guidance in a dusty shop where maps are sold and, apparently, the deity works behind the counter. Each of the characters gets the help he or she deserves. In ``Burned,'' a young couple are, quite literally, consumed by their passion. Throughout, Budnitz's wry, conversational tone is nicely leavened by precise lyrical passages. A good mix, overall, of the fantastic and mordantly funny.