Short Story Shout-Out: Round 2
As a huge fan of short fiction, I initiated Short Story Shout-Out a couple of months ago. Here’s a recap of my reason for doing so:
In my first Short Story Shout-Out, I focused on two new literary journals (The Offing and Pear Drop) that are publishing remarkable works of short fiction. This time around, I’m focusing on stories from just one new publication, Mud City Journal, which describes itself as “an online literary journal promoting the ideals and vision of the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) Low Residency MFA Program.” The stories discussed below are from the Mud City Journal’s recently published second issue, and I highly recommend each one of them.
- “Paloma en Fuego” by Alexander Rodriguez. The gist: A young woman (Paloma) is accidentally killed by “[s]ome pendejos … fucking around with firecrackers and flammable shit,” leaving a community grieving. The story is told from the point of view of a boy whose father tried to save Paloma. What struck me especially: How the memories of Paloma, from the narrator and his brother, make her real for readers and vividly capture the boys’ sense of loss. My favorite line (a description of the crucifixes in the hospital where Paloma died): “Papa called them the absent mourners—heads wilting down, tiny paint-cracked eyes hovering above the people dying in those beds—never looking up to watch the living leave.”
- “Ricky” by Eddie Chuculate. The gist: A young man must face the uncomfortable fact that his girlfriend hasn’t really gotten over the death of her previous boyfriend (Ricky), whom she’d hoped to marry. What struck me especially: How the author portrays the far-reaching consequences of loss, and the ways in which the absence of a loved one can become a presence, both for the grieving and for others close to them. My favorite lines: “They had parked on a dirt road in Uncle’s pickup and managed the act there on the seat. He remembered handing the girl tissue as he drove her home, but it was probably square napkins from a McDonald’s sack. It was memorable for all the wrong reasons.”
- “Sami Diaspora” by Vivian Faith Prescott. A bit of background on the story: I saw this work of flash fiction as a poetic exploration of Sami heritage, and of how that heritage is connected to the natural world. What struck me especially: I was taken by the beauty of the language and by the ways the story, as brief as it is, seems to span so much time and personal and physical geography. My favorite lines: “She stirs the black sky in her coffee. Her ancestors once stirred starlight.”
- “The Hit” by J.A. Bernstein. The gist: Two lives intersect, in potentially dangerous ways, in Rehovot, Israel: that of a young Arab woman who is tired of being harassed by her parents “for being single at age twenty-eight,” and that of an Israeli army veteran who has taken on a job for Russian mobsters. What struck me especially: The way the author has deftly interwoven two “day in the life” stories to create a single riveting tale: a kind of thriller in miniature. My favorite line: “Inside the lit fish tank, he faintly descried—and would later swore he saw—what looked like a thumb resting on its white gravel floor.”
Based on these stories, I’m looking forward to reading future issues of Mud City Journal, and I’m hoping that many more fiction (and poetry) fans will check out this compelling and thoughtfully curated publication.
A final word: If a recently published story has knocked your socks off and you would like me to feature it in a future Short Story Shout-Out, please reach out to me at smallpresspicks (at) gmail.com. And if you have the time and inclination, please say a few words about why you were especially taken by the story (or stories) you’re recommending. Thanks!