Elaine Collier is 34 and unmarried, living in Queens with her increasingly senile mother. Once a restorer of antiques, Elaine has, in the last few years, happened into something a little bit different: patching up people's aging memorabilia, the modest evidentiary scraps of their pasts. So it's with this skill of Elaine's in mind that a wealthy Connecticut couple, Mr. and Mrs. Powers, come to her with photos, letters, home-movies, and almost anything else associated with John, their Vietnam-killed son. Mr. Powers would like to wean his obsessed wife from John--and he makes it clear to Elaine that her editing and renovation of the young man's short life need not be quick; it might, in fact, even be best if she discreetly, over time, junked all the stuff. Well, what happens then is not too difficult to predict: as the Powers are relieved of their son, Elaine and her mother (who lives in the past) come to appropriate John--as brother, as son. Wetherell, who evinced a nice eye for parable-fiction in his recent O. Henry Prize-winning story, ""The Man Who Loved Levittown,"" has little more than another short story (one that's faintly Joyce Carol Oates-ish in character) to work from here. And his attempts to stretch the material--offering, for instance, John's disturbed and disturbing letters in their entirety--merely highlight the strain. In sum, then: a piquant short-story idea that, pulled out to novel length, lacks grace or stamina.