Earthy, offbeat stories of the rural Midwest and culturally impoverished South involving Netta and Stanley--unlikely second cousins and partners in crime--by the author of The Woman Who Was Not All There (1988). An oddball cast of characters connected to the Beaulieu family intersect thematically as backwater Americans with shady pasts, shaky identities, and murky relationships. In ``Joyriding,'' Netta and Stanley pull off a pointless but good-natured limousine heist that leads Stanley to wonder whether there's one fatal flaw in a person's past--''like a pearl at the center of his crime.'' Each subsequent story explores aspects of the cousins' history--aspects that set the stage for their delinquent ways. Netta grows up insolent and brash, influenced by her ugly but strong-minded Grandmother Viola and sad-sack mother Betty, who clings to a succession of impaired men sporting toupees, goiters, and tiny hands like raccoon paws. In ``Piggly Wiggly,'' Netta succumbs to a tenacious first love with an odorous pig-farmer who makes the blood run through her ``like a fast car.'' Most memorable, however, is Stanley--jostled and bounced from one poor relation to the next, so needy for love that he walks off in a haze with a complete stranger at the I.Q. Zoo in ``Hot Springs.'' Except for sporadic bursts of connectedness with Netta, whom he admires for her sass; Grandmother Arthurine, who illegally drives a salmon-pink Cadillac; and two winsome third-graders, Stanley muddles through a mostly blurred existence, speaking with as many accents as the towns in which he's lived, never able to get past the ``y'' in spelling his name, inclined toward ``worshipful imitation'' of any father figure he meets. An honest, unpretentious first collection, fine and distinctive in its regional flavor, poignant moments, and full- bodied humor.