THE BUS OF DREAMS by Mary Morris


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In Morris's second collection of lean, urgent short stories (Vanishing Animals, 1979, was her first, followed by the less successful novel Crossroads, 1982), contemporary young single women, in Central and South America and the States, ride out swells of evil incident, or love's vacancy, to strain at redemptive dreams. In the title story, a young Panamanian from the interior has come to Panama City to find her lost sister Teresa, who'd said she'd be back ""after she was famous."" Rachel will learn that any man's dream--like the image of Teresa, Queen of the Carnival--can be painted on the back of his bus; that a beautiful woman with parrot eyes and a body ""winding and treacherous as the Isthmus"" can ""live out her life's dream"" (in a bar stinking of stale flowers); that searchers like Rachel (or her father whittling imaginary animals, or a mother resurrecting a dead child, or territorial Americans) must construct their own fantastic certainties. American women in ""Shining Path"" and ""The Watermelon People"" skim amicably over a ""wild, crazy sea"" of angry aspiration (a Peruvian slum teenager exacts payment from a photographer for the ""use"" of his life) and the sunless depths of ancient alliances, or comic-opera chicanery (two friends test the thin fabric of native tolerance of cheerful American women in Hondurus). And in ""The Banana Fever,"" men fighting an eternal revolution come and go in a house overhung with Bougainvillea while a short-wave radio beeps a code from the jungle, invading a young girl's dreams as if ""someone wanted to tell me somthing very important but could not make me understand."" In other stories set in the U.S., lovers try for equilibrium after the death of love. Yet a love that was, occupies space, like the belongings of the deceased owner of a ""Summer Share."" And love can hum along or flick out and de-juice the whole system as in the entertaining ""Losing Cool."" There are illuminations of incidental family links: a housewife mother ""who never saw the bottom of the sea""; a father fighting impotence in a dream of space; a ""perfect"" sister shattered to reality. Although occasionally Morris's tales are too portent-packed, these are vigorous, stinging tributes to the vulnerable consciousness where, in a chancy interior universe, ""anything can strike us at any time.

Pub Date: June 3rd, 1985
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin