A collection offers tales populated by families, lovers, and pariahs who brave worlds both real and illusory.
There’s a sense of aspiration throughout this book, stamped on the opening title story. It fuses the otherworldly with the familiar, the mermaid and robot who can hope for enduring love just like humans. Characters in subsequent stories achieve the seemingly impossible: an Elvis fan transforms into the King in his parents’ basement in “Cardboard Graceland,” and according to “Extinction Event,” dinosaurs may have set up civilization elsewhere. Others simply defy expectations. The law firm’s new hulking, pungent temp in “Bigfoot’s Overcoat,” for example, becomes a hub for everyone’s secrets. Likewise, in the novella The Dead Dream of Being Undead, a family perseveres despite fires destroying the neighborhood and the oldest brother leaving to help secure a zombie quarantine in Muncie, Indiana. Intermittent signs of creatures or sci-fi touches are undoubtedly metaphorical, but these elements are just as edifying when taken literally. The Snow Man in “A Monster for Always,” for one, terrifies adults who don’t know him but delights as a mere companion for siblings Sean and Meghan, who let him stay in their shed. In “Rollo is Rollo,” a guy allegedly abducted by aliens that reject him pre-probing certainly meshes with a fractured connection to his estranged brother, the narrator. The incident also defines the supposed victim’s nature: someone who’d rename himself monthly would probably manufacture an abduction account. Even a straightforward, albeit beautiful tale such as “Plain Burial” subverts convention. In it, Sam’s beloved dog, Bentley, dies while they’re on the road, but the man refuses to bury his companion so far from home, wanting him close in mind and body. Most of Fogarty’s (Kill TV, 2014) stories are noticeably short but compact, not wasting a single sentence; the solitary-paragraph “We Are Swimmers” begins: “Something got stirred up between us here at the bottom of this great lake.” They’re snippets of people’s lives, akin to glances out the window of a passing train. And that’s the essence of the collection: the reader is an observer of a vast universe that, like the closing “Outline of the Moon,” is recognizable, even if unexplored.
Energetic stories unveil limitless possibilities always within reach.