Love in its many guises drives these highly appealing eight stories, the third collection from Midwesterner Rindo (Secrets Men Keep, 1995, etc.).
A guy leaves his late shift to go sleep in a cornfield, across from his ex-wife’s new home (“Crop Dusting”). A married couple return from vacation to find the husband’s best friend, stark naked, painting a Michelangelo reproduction on their dining-room ceiling (“Middleman”). A kid buying a van finds himself being stalked by the previous owner’s middle-aged wife (“Like Water Becoming Air”). Developments that appear arbitrary make their own kind of sense in Rindo’s world. Larry sleeps in that cornfield without sinister intent; he sees himself, still, as his ex’s guardian angel. Andrew, the ceiling painter, is deliriously in love with an ex-student, while Al the van-buyer has the misfortune of looking like the recently dead son of Julie. Amy and David, in the title story, are cheating on their spouses with each other, making passionate love in motels. “Desperation,” says Amy, “the ultimate aphrodisiac.” But alongside the desperation, tenderness keeps welling up. Both elements come into play again in “Adrienne’s Perfection,” a hair-raising tale of two teenage siblings, a winner (Adrienne) and a loser (her brother Cisco). Spooked by an unwanted pregnancy, Adrienne proves that even winners make mistakes when she proposes a high-speed double suicide on the highway. Professor Paine, in “Instructional Technologies,” is a different kind of loser, a charmingly eccentric teacher whose only mission is to turn his students on to the sublime pleasures of trout fishing. Rindo’s stories zip along, with dialogue that leaps off the page.
Gloriously inventive work from a master of the form.