The ten stories in this debut collection vary in quality from writing-school clever to pared-down mature. Griner is most at home in his spare, blue-collar narratives, with their darker view of human nature. The mostly male protagonists in these often bloodless fictions are men who've made mistakes. Some seek redemption for their errors; others couldn't care less. The recovering coke addict in ``Boxes,'' who's burnt all his bridges, is getting along in his new job until his old dealer comes looking to collect a debt, a situation that forces some quick ethical choices. An old man who knows all about clouds (``Clouds'') feels guilty for having been an indifferent father. His brother, narrator of ``Grass,'' confirms this view, proving himself as earthbound as his brother was airy. Women can make mistakes, too: The tough-as-nails schoolteacher in ``If There Hadn't Been a Monkey in the Car She Would Have Sung,'' who feels empathy for no one, seeks to avenge her sister against a cheating boyfriend; when she picks the wrong target, though, she realizes that her entire life has been built on a misconception. The darkest stories are a trio of linked narratives about an arrogant drifter who first loses his construction job in Cleveland (``Why Should I Wait?''), then lands in upstate New York and pumps gas while planning to rip off his employer (``Back Home Again''). After the theft, the station owner, no angel himself, runs a scam on the local highway to drum up business (``Worboys' Transaction''). The sum effect is mean, menacing, and bleak, but not as creepy as ``Follow Me,'' in which a private eye, hired by a performance artist to follow and photograph her, disappears--though his photos continue to arrive. This first collection may have been a bit hastily assembled- -with one definite throw-away piece (``Thief'')--but Griner is a formidable talent, sure to be heard from again.