Two short stories and a novella about youngsters growing up in Texas.
Author Semegran (The Discarded Feast, 2017, etc.) assembles three pieces of fiction; each chronicles the struggles of a boy in Texas—a second-grader, a teenager, and a recent college graduate. In the first story, “The Great and Powerful, Brave Raideen,” a quirky grade schooler, William, plays solitarily with his toys, which function as surrogate friends. He’s terrorized daily by Randy, a relentless bully, and conspires with his toys to fill his tormenter with fear, pilfering a gun from his parents’ room. Later, a repentant Randy apologizes and reveals that his father is his own oppressor. The boys make amends and become friends, but that doesn’t mean all ends well. In “Good Night, Jerk Face,” Sam obsessively pines for a 1980 Mazda RX7 and takes a job at a local Greek restaurant to save up for it. He makes deliveries in the owner’s truck, though he doesn’t have a driver’s license and doesn’t know how to drive. He starts to put his preoccupation into context, however, when he begins spending time with his crush. In the longest piece, The Discarded Feast, Seff, an aspiring writer, barely makes ends meet working at a restaurant. He starts stealing the food that’s headed for the dumpster but is eventually caught and fired. Along the way, though, he begins a potentially promising relationship with co-worker Laura Ann. Semegran artfully weaves together lighthearted comedy and emotional turbulence in each of the stories, and in the last one, Seff practically sustains his meager survival with jocose banter. The writing is sharp and unpretentiously thoughtful, and since each of the main characters finds solace in companionship, this is an affecting literary depiction of the comforting power of friendship. Each of the stories can be read on its own, but taken together, they make a coherent, thematic whole, skillfully produced.
An endearing collection that deftly captures the need for youthful fellowship.