Surrealism and eroticism tinge ten stories about love in its various guises.
“Freshet” depicts the adventures of 14-year-old Janine McQueen (the author is frequently playful with names), whose first serious sexual encounter, with a 19-year-old soldier in the backseat of a car, is interrupted by an envious, leering cop. Later, in an atmosphere reminiscent of The Twilight Zone, Janine becomes the “who-knows-why-but-that’s-the-way-it-is setter of the action trends,” her every move—from having sex while babysitting to becoming pregnant—emulated by her classmates. “Fisty Pinions” spotlights the developing love affair between two women who originally met in high school, when Ashlyn Aschenbecher taped glass ashtrays to her breasts and Ronnie Scartoon was fascinated. Characters sometimes move among interrelated tales. In “Hangdangling,” high-schoolers Sailor and Whaler come together (literally and metaphorically) in erotic encounters on a sailboat being built in a garage. The engaging premise is that the teens are carrying on a secret love affair while their divorced parents also develop a relationship; it becomes a comic matter of convenience when the two adults want their children to spend more time together. Sailor and Whaler are the parents in “Cataplasms,” but they’ve left twins Danguy and Little Sis with “the Great Aunt by the shore” while they cruise the world and offer refuge to heavy drinkers aboard their ship, The Sea Boozer, until Danguy’s violent response to being molested by a neighbor prompts Whaler to stash both kids mid-ocean in “the Plexiglas Russian Safety Pod.” Little Sis takes center stage, rechristened “Honky Sticky,” in the final story, which presents her wilting, obscenity-laced observations on adolescent life. The final pages tie together several threads introduced earlier, offering a satisfying sense of closure.
Offbeat and freaky, but a weirdly attractive debut.