In her second collection of stories, Smith (Fair and Tender Ladies, 1988, etc.) frequently returns to the staple of her first (Cakewalk, 1981): tales of contemporary southern women frustrated by middle-class respectability and given to wild, sometimes reckless, passions. Quite a few of Smith's heroines here have been abandoned by their men. The middle-aged mother of four--a small-town girl still living in her mother's house--in ""Bob, a Dog,"" reluctantly remakes her life after her husband of 20 years, a former Peace Corps worker from the North, leaves her for a woman more his style. The divorcâ€še of ""Mom"" laments her only son's troubles with the law, and proves herself a victim of an Ann Landers' adage: ""If you act like a rug, somebody's going to walk on you."" A somewhat priggish mother of two from West Virginia (""Life on the Moon""), whose husband left her for a young chippy, finally sympathizes with her more sophisticated and free-spirited cousin. The unvictimized women here include the thrice-married working-girl of ""The Interpretation of Dreams,"" whose ability to read her friends' dreams proves something of a curse; and the 37-year-old mom of the title story, who has an affair with the town eccentric, a young man presumed gay because of his flamboyance. Fascinated by respectable southern women who specialize in denial, Smith tells of one social climber from the perspective of her confused teen-aged daughter, who responds to her sister's promiscuity, her father's nervous breakdown, and her brother's car accident by speaking in tongues (""Tongues of Fire""). In ""Dreamers,"" a smart working stiff from the wrong social class knocks up and marries a college girl in rebellion against her own socially snobbish mother. Class relations figure also in the finest story, ""Intensive Care,"" in which an average and upstanding citizen abandons his wife and beautiful home for a redheaded waitress with a checkered past who's dying of cancer. Despite it all, theirs is a grand and wondrous passion Smith's always affectionate view of her characters at times romanticizes lower-class life among southern whites--but otherwise this is enjoyable storytelling.