A first collection from Turchi (The Girls Next Door, 1989): 11 stories written in a mock-Hemingway prose--often too stilted for the subtle emotions he hopes to evoke--about sad sacks, ordinary lives in crisis, served up with huge dollops of minimalism. In the title piece, Tracy, a waitress and would-be actress, dates Walter, a much older man with a magic trick or two up his sleeve: ``Walter was a place she had to leave.'' It takes her far too long to do so, however, for she ``wondered how she was going to give their relationship a final scene.'' Turchi seems to believe in ambiguous endings--endings that here, anyway, mostly suggest the stories are maybe two thirds evolved, raw experience and good ideas not yet fashioned into art. In ``Alligator,'' for instance, teenager Blair is on the road with brother Bill and her parents. When the family spends the night with old friends (who aren't exactly friends anymore), the adults drink and chatter Raymond Carver-style while Blair thinks her ordinary thoughts and finally has a drink herself. ``Everything I Need,'' though, is promising: Cory's sad-sack life is juxtaposed to a radio talk show he becomes nearly addicted to, but the fiction tries to dovetail a hit-and-run radio story with Cory's own hit-and-run, whereupon he calls the talk show to confess. Finally, the piece tries for too much and loses credibility. Of the rest: ``The Kitchen'' is amusing (a waiter, a college dropout, gets the plot of Moby Dick confused with his restaurant job), and in ``Layover,'' by contrast, a middle-aged man whose daughter is getting married decides his life is over and sits forever in an airport hotel room. One darn thing after another in short newspaperese paragraphs: the effect is largely monotonous or gimmicky.