People struggle with fraught predicaments–or their lurid perceptions of mundane situations–in this engaging collection.
A variety of characters and conundrums fill these fleeting tales. In â€œKissing Margery Clean” a middle-aged man gives a ride home to the 16-year-old daughter of the woman he loves, an encounter that suddenly escalates from mere awkwardness to rape allegations. The dark â€œRabbit” follows a stoned teen make-out session in an abandoned van that turns ugly. In â€œChiquita Lady,” a husband loses his wife to that notorious lothario, Jesus Christ. In â€œNoam Chomsky for President,” a germ-phobic man stuck in Los Angeles traffic is enticed out of his bubble by a free-spirited redhead sporting the titular bumper sticker. The hero in â€œAggravated” takes drastic action against a cricket that’s driving him crazy with its chirping. The would-be writer of â€œGiving Up” deliberately abandons all human contact to concentrate on his craft but doesn’t escape the Fed-Ex deliveryman. Two linked stories probe a war crime–POWs forced to dig their own graves–from mirror-image viewpoints: â€œAusgraben” examines the last thoughts of a World War II GI captured by the Germans, while in â€œHadji,” pitiless American soldiers mete out a similar fate to a captured Iraqi insurgent. â€œRazing the Dead” surveys an apartment complex featuring a dotty gardener with dozens of cats, a seething Vietnam vet and a graduate student with a yen for crystal meth and kinky sex, while the rather similar title story eyes a bus full of passengers, including a seductive male prostitute, a sneering punk and a philosophical wino.
Character studies with narratives that have no particular place to go, but stocked with enough vibrant detail and insight that readers won’t mind going along for the ride.