After a 20-year hiatus (Where She Brushed Her Hair, 1968), Steele's work is back in book form and here to remind us that short fiction is not all exurbanite divorce and ennui. In these 14 stories, set mostly in the South, ordinary lives, magnified by memory, become extraordinary for a while. In the title story, a woman, bound by impeccable manners, finds herself caught up in an escapade that begins with a trip to town for a new hat and ends with a hearse ride, along country roads, in the Carolina night. ""Ah Love! Ah Me!"" recounts a teenage boy's tragicomic date with a latter-day jezebel. And, in ""The Cat and the Coffee Drinkers,"" 12 kindergarteners grow up fast under the tutelage of their highly unorthodox teacher. Steele knows just where to tread between humor and despair--although, occasionally, he missteps. In ""The Death of a Chimp,"" the characters are weak, the ending flat. ""A Formula Love Story"" is something of an in-joke, written in response to Mice Adams' short story ""Home is Where."" Steele chronicles the same love affair, uses the same names for his characters. This could be risky stuff, but he carries it off--his stoW not only stands on its own merits, but enchances Adams' as well. If Steele's work has one recurring theme, it has to do with how we survive loss--loss of love, of hope, of our simplest dreams. It's a question he takes up to good effect in some of the book's most moving stories: ""The Man in the Dollhouse,"" ""The Tin Can"" and ""Color the Daydream Yellow."" Four stories here are repeats from Steele's last collection, and what we're left wondering is why we haven't heard more over the years from this fine writer. That, apparently, is our loss.