Debut collection of seven stories and a novella, by Arkansas poet and translator Williams.
All of these pieces have appeared in small literary presses. The first, “One Saturday Afternoon,” takes place in a small southern town just before WWII and concerns young boy Kelvin Fletcher’s typical Saturday at the movies, his finding a litter of baby rats he thinks are dogs and, when he takes them home, of reluctantly drowning them at his mother’s command. “The Year Ward West Took Away the Raccoon and Mr. Hanson’s Garage Burned Down” tells of Kelvin on Sundays going about the countryside with his preacher grandfather; of a school friend who drowns; and of Kelvin’s decision not to be a preacher. “The Wall” has the boy climbing a tower of chairs to peep through a hole into the girls’ locker room and coming to grief. While this amuses, the amusement lies in the event, not in the telling: You hear Twain or Salinger telling the same story and their voices stamping your memory with a permanent blue dye. In most of the tales, Kelvin weighs his religious belief and finds it fading, especially in “There Aren’t Any Foxes in That Cave,” while in “Truth and Goodness” he loses his virginity to Salina May Becker behind the church pulpit, with the red, green, purple, blue and yellow of the communion cloth under her bare body. The novella “Coley’s War” is about Kelvin and three college buddies, all led by Coley, who wants to go down to Latin America and join Martinez the revolutionary. The group sets off in a car. Sex, a supposed death, and brief jail time in Mexico follow as the Mexican police take the gringos for mucho dinero. Kelvin and Coley go on, guided by an old Mexican and by 19-year-old Marta. They meet stupefying horrors as Kelvin gets used to the idea of dying—as he should.
Only the strengths of “Coley’s War” give the collection its stature.