I’ll Save that for Later: A conversation with Alida Dean, author of the story “Islanders” published in Nashville Review

Alida Dean is a writer who knows how to build compelling and fascinating places and characters. This is a writer who knows the locales and people in her story with intimate delicacy and care, and this knowing and understanding of her characters is what allows her the ability to include and, more importantly, exclude just the right amount of information. This authorial holding back of information strikes the perfect balance between us readers knowing just enough and leaving the rest to mystery. And I’m not talking about mystery in the Alfred Hitchcock sense. I’m talking about a deeper mystery that involves character motivations and how individuals’ histories with one another make up a complex undercurrent present, but not overwhelming, throughout the entire story.

“Islanders” is the story to which I’m referring. It’s is about an eccentric mother and a quiet, observant daughter, and how the two exist among the other inhabitants of the island on which they live. The story is narrated from the perspective of the daughter, and from her POV, we’re introduced not just to her mother, but to a whole host of memorable characters including the narrator’s teacher, a classmate named Sam, and Sam’s parents, among others. The characters are connected to the mother and daughter, often in significant ways, even if those reasons aren’t fully realized in the story. What we know for certain is that the mother has a long-standing history with the others on the island, and these connections affect how the others interact with the narrator. Still, the story’s most poignant and memorable moments are the ones between mother and daughter.

In one of the opening scenes, for instance, the mother lies to the school administrator about her daughter (who she calls “bug”) having a dental appointment so she can pull her from school for the afternoon. The following conversation occurs between mother/daughter as they walk from the school doors to their truck:

“It’s such a perfect day,” she said. “Let’s go fishing.”

“After the dentist?”

She squeezed my hand and said, “You don’t have to go to the dentist, bug. I just couldn’t wait till three to see you.”

This exchange gives a sense for the overall dynamic in the story, one where the mother is irresponsible, though fun-loving, and “bug” is along for the ride. It’s only now, years later, that the daughter is telling this story as a way to make sense of these events of the past.

“Islanders” is a wonderful story set in a unique and compelling place, with characters who are equally as engaging. Check out my interview with author Alida Dean, below, and you can read her story here.

Keith Lesmeister: I suppose all stories are told retrospectively, but I’m especially fond of stories that have a longer gap between the events that are unfolding in the story and the age of the current narrator. In this case, the events unfolding in the story are when the narrator is in grade school, but she is telling the story much later. We as readers get a sense for this early on when the narrator states: “I knew lying was wrong, but I was willing to do it to protect my mother’s reputation. I’m still willing to do that much for her.” This collection of lines is wonderful, but that last one points us to a narrator who is much older than grade school, much wiser to her mother’s actions, and we get occasional lines like this throughout, this pinging back and forth between the narrator of now versus who she was then. Perhaps you could comment on this particular narrative strategy used here and the way you were able to so authentically negotiate between the narrative lens zooming in and out, between the narrator of now and the events of all those years ago in grade school.

Alida Dean: “Pinging back and forth” is a nice way of putting it! I think my intention was for the adult narrator to re-inhabit her childhood mindset as she tells the story, while also acknowledging that this isn’t the only way she sees things anymore. If it feels authentic, it’s probably more because this is the way I tend to look back on memories myself than because of any clever strategizing on my part. We do grow up, sort of, but things don’t necessarily make more sense with time, and when I think back to my own childhood, I tend to relive moments and memories rather than look at them with much narrative or psychic distance. That said, I’ve hopefully learned a couple of things about people since I was in elementary school, which maybe accounts for the occasional pinging into the present.

KL: I’m also fond of the direct address, when narrator’s turn to the reader or readers to say something about the narrative itself, and in this case—I hope I’m not giving away too much here—this one comes toward the end of the story: “And if I’ve made you feel sorry for me, then I’m telling this whole thing wrong.” I mention this now because I think it harkens back to question #1 about the dual narration. I don’t even know if that’s the correct term – dual narration – but it’s one that comes to mind as the narrator negotiates that fine line between rendering life on the page as a grade school person while telling the story as an adult. At any rate, could you talk about this particular direct address and what effect it might have on you as a writer and also as a reader? And more so, did you or do you have a particular audience in mind while writing?

AD: I have to admit, I didn’t think too hard about that moment of direct address as I wrote it. I was probably a little worried that the reader would be feeling sad for the narrator by this point in the story, when in my mind her unconventional upbringing actually seems pretty fun, and ends up serving her well as an adult. I guess the line is like a check-in with the reader, where the adult narrator is saying, Hey you, stop feeling bad for me because I don’t feel bad for myself!

Sometimes I do have a particular person in mind while writing, someone I feel I need to explain myself to, but in this case the audience I was imagining was more general. I suppose I was thinking of people who might read material like this and cry, “Bad parenting!” or something along those lines, without giving the characters, the mother especially, a chance to redeem themselves.

As far as writing particular sentences goes, I do sometimes think of David Gates, who I know we’ve both worked with—what words would he cut? how would he re-arrange them? what words would he circle and write “right word?” next to?

KL: I appreciate you mentioning Gates. When I’m writing, his voice is often in my head as well, and for the same reasons. I know he didn’t come up with the term “kill your darlings” but that’s exactly what he’s good at doing. Helluva a teacher/editor.

So, getting more into the content of the piece, I thought the balance of relational mystery is prevalent throughout, especially between the mother and Sam’s parents. Was there a point in the writing process when their relational history was more pronounced? Or was it always going to be (somewhat of) a mystery to readers? For the record, I liked the not-knowing completely….

AD: Nope, there wasn’t a point when their history was going to be more pronounced, at least there wasn’t a point in the past, because I actually don’t know what that history is yet—more on this in my answer to the last question! I do think the not knowing serves the story well though because when you’re a kid you only glimpse, and understand, tiny pieces of adult relationships, and most of the past is mysterious.

KL: With these characters in mind, I thought there was a perfect blend of poignancy and humor throughout, most notably with the mother. As a writer, especially when working with these larger-than-life characters such as the mother, who are bombastic, fun-loving, deeply caring, but damaged thoroughly, how do you keep her from taking over the story completely?

AD: I’m glad you found humor in this story! It’s becoming increasingly important to me that I make my writing at least somewhat funny.

As far as not letting the mother, or any of the characters, take over the story, I think it’s just a matter of knowing I’m not going to be able to fit everything into one story. There’s so much more I could explore about the mother, or any of these characters, but not in fifteen pages. If I sense myself getting sidetracked, wanting to explore something that feels too big or too convoluted for the scope of the story, I just think, I’ll save that for later. This is probably how I get most of my ideas for other projects.

KL: I’m not sure how long this story is in terms of word count (you mentioned 15 pages just now), but it felt like a longer story with a lot of characters, situations, dynamics, and locales. When you first started this story, were you aware of its form as a short story right away, or at any point did it push for longer status as, say, a novella? Or even a novel?

And with the above question(s) in mind, and with the acknowledgement that “Islanders” is most certainly a stand-alone story, it also felt like it could be part of a larger narrative – perhaps a linked collection or a novel-in-stories. Do you have any plans to situate this story into a larger constellation of stories?

AD: Yes! So I actually wrote this story several years ago. At that time the idea of writing a novel, or even a linked story collection, felt too daunting, so I was thinking it would just be one story, leave it at that, good riddance. But then I wrote another story about these same characters when the narrator is in high school, and then, more recently, I wrote a (first draft) of a novel that has nothing to do with these characters, so now I feel ready to dive back into this world, and slightly more capable of writing something longer. I’m hoping to spin some of this material into a novel eventually. At the moment I have a lot of ideas in my head about what could happen to these characters and very little written down, so we’ll see what happens!

KL: A few questions of preference. Do you prefer:

KL: Being surrounded by mountains or open spaces?

AD: I prefer being on top of a mountain, surrounded by other mountains but also able to see far away. I don’t like feeling hemmed in.

KL: Bird watching or whale watching?

AD: Whale watching!

KL: Color red or orange?

AD: Orange.

KL: Crawdads or crabs (to eat)?

AD: Crabs, but they’re both very tasty.

KL: Dawn or dusk?

AD: Dawn.

KL: Lastly, old timey or new timey string bands?

AD: Hmm, I was going say old timey, but the truth is I probably listen to more new timey string music. I’ll take any string band! I used to play the cello and now I wish I hadn’t given it up.

Alida Dean is a PhD candidate at the University of Cincinnati and a graduate of the University of Montana’s MFA program. Her story “The Off Season” was the 2020 winner of Ninth Letter’s fiction contest. She lives in Cincinnati with her dog.

Review of “Maeve” by Walker Rutter-Bowman, published in Hobart

A man and a woman have a chance encounter in front of a “smoked nut stand” somewhere in the city. The man was walking to the cobbler to get his shoes polished – shoes that held nostalgic value for him. The man and woman (Maeve) had been friends—maybe even more than friends—in college and now they were meeting on the street after a lengthy absence. From start to finish, if we’re to tell what happened in the story, the above mentioned would be accompanied with: they talk, they talk more, walk back to get nuts, then to a diner or a bar (“I don’t remember which,” the narrator tells readers) and then converse a bit more, and that’s it.

It’s a slightly askew story, despite the straightforwardness with which I just explained its happenings. There’s something complex about the story’s texture, its structure—we get a back story toward the end—“We’d almost slept together once” which arrives three-quarters the way through, but even that isn’t as off-kilter as maybe the way the information about the two unfolds, as if the narrator is trying in real time to make sense of things from his past: “How do you talk about the meaning of things?”

It’s the question, I think, the narrator is aware of throughout, and while we learn of Maeve—who held strong opinions, wrote movies, and at one point was quite an orator at parties, delivering her “tastes and hatreds”—we also learn a thing or two about the narrator through what Maeve declares about him: “You stood in the corner at parties…You wanted to add to the conversation…But you kept yourself buttoned.” And later, “That’s how I remember you now: sitting, licking your little lips, looking down and in.”

It isn’t all serious, however. The narrator has his moments of humor: “We sat on a bench and ate our nuts… I was pretty sure I had gum on my ass.” And on that same bench, thinking of who he was when he’d first met Maeve: “I thought of those days. I didn’t want to say anything, but I didn’t want to keep being seen as the same.”

And while the narrator shows his motivation—or perhaps we could call it his revised agenda (remember, he was going to run an errand)—we also see the evolution of the smoked nuts throughout, as the narrator tells readers:

“Still, I told her what I thought. The nuts, a mistake. But hadn’t they given us something to eat outdoors? Some flavors on a nice day? There was nothing more worthless than really good food asking for attention, getting itself talked about…The nuts had brought a pleasant pressure from the past. A memory can lodge in your throat like a stone, an unhusked drupe. It was painful but it was right. You cough it up or you swallow it down for good.”

There’s something useful for writers here on how to effectively use an object: repeat, repeat, evolve. The smoked nuts are mentioned in the first line, and thereafter, we see them appear again, and yet again, until they’re understood differently, as is the narrator’s new perspective along with what he wants for himself, as understood in the above quote.

But the narrator isn’t the only one with a privileged view of the object. Of the smoked nuts, Maeve claims to the narrator: “Those weren’t good…They smell better than they taste—that’s well known.”

Check out the full story here.

Walker Rutter-Bowman lives in Washington, DC. He earned his MFA in fiction from Syracuse University. His work has been published in Nashville Review, Tin House OnlineHarvard Review Online, and Full Stop.

Teeth’s Story by Ron Austin, published in Juked Magazine

I had the privilege of hearing Ron Austin read his work at the Luther College Writers Festival earlier this fall. His work is edgy, fun, playful, serious, mysterious, lyrical, entertaining, and moving. Steve Almond said something to the effect that good fiction will awaken the heart of a reader. In Austin’s fiction, he moves both the heart and the mind. His stories are smart, funny, at times absurd (in the best possible way), but always with a clear-eye toward social awareness and the plight of those characters who inhabit his stories. I can’t wait for his forthcoming collection: Avery Colt is a Snake, A Thief, A Liar.

Below is an interview about his story “Teeth’s Story,” which will be published in his forthcoming collection. Also, before the interview, below, Ron offers a brief preface to his answers.

Ron Austin: Keith, thanks for these excellent questions. I’m going to frame my responses by attempting to describe the nature and dimensions of hustle. Hustle is a mutagenic substance that rapidly transforms organic and conceptual matter, allowing organisms, both organic and inorganic, to increase adaptability and survivability in worrisome conditions. In language, narrative sense, and characterization, I pursue the judicious application of hustle to all techniques.

Interview: Ron Austin and Keith Lesmeister

KL: The thing that jumps out at me almost immediately in Teeth’s Story is the rhythm and cadence of the language — the musicality. It’s fantastic and addictive. There’s poetry throughout the entire story, but these lines stood out to me right away:

“Hot pipes split lips, chemical clouds suffocated kin, rocks avalanched, crushed sons and daughters.”

And, “I feared his death wasn’t enough to clear the karmic debt he had charged to our bloodline. “I imagined elders chewing iron nails, banging hammers, erecting crosses of shame to crucify me and my folks.”

And: “Old dude was a defunct dope dealer and prison mystic who rocked gold fangs.”

Could you share a little about writing in such a poetic way? Are these lines the result of a lot of revision? Or is this your natural rhythm and flow while writing through a first draft?

RA: In one dimension, I rely on lyricism to generate momentum from line to line. Poetic methods, theories, and principles act as filament that conduct the intensity, direction, and duration of contact with pure thought and emotion. The stronger the filament, the higher the fidelity. In another dimension, both literally and figuratively, the text itself is an organism, something conceived somewhere between synapses and brainstems, the fruit of an experiment conducted in a laboratory. One commits sacrilege in engineering a homunculus. In this sense, crafting strong individual lines is the work of synthesizing fiber and blood vessels, building muscles that power an arm, an arm that gives language the ability to reach out and grip readers. Hustle allows the larynx to produce hypnotic melodies, birdsong. Hustle turns tongues dexterous, prehensile. Hustle turns teeth to metal that can crack thick hides. While these techniques can be learned, Teeth understands this innately.

*But also, to come off the fun for a bit, my initial drafts take forever. I’ll usually spend a week or so polishing a page or a few before finding that they don’t fit into a full narrative frame and throwing them into my scraps file. And then a few months later, I’ll land on the narrative frame and push hard from there.

KL: The beautiful, gripping language up against the stark contrast of dim reality in which the narrator is growing up creates a kind of tension in the narrative. How do you balance the beauty of the language against some of the grittier locales and hardscrabble lives that make up the characters in the story? Or even many of your stories?

RA: In the story, Teeth knows no one is going to spend time or attention on common items, bruised goods. He uses hustle to transform hair clippers and bus passes into supernatural relics. But hustle, in its strange properties, does more than that. Hustle can reveal the true nature of objects, settings, people. Hustle reveals the satisfaction in struggle, the profit in pain. By using heightened language, I aim to give the place and characters I describe the presence and power they deserve.

KL: The story is aptly titled “Teeth’s Story” because this is in essence about his life and the kind of legacy he hopes to leave behind for the youngsters growing up in his neighborhood, namely the narrator of the story who brings Teeth contraband left behind by his deceased uncle. In the middle of the story there’s a kind of historic, mythic, fable, that Teeth shares with the narrator. It’s a fantastic interlude. Could you talk about blending the story within a story? And perhaps a little of what the fable means to you (not sure if fable is the right word here….)?

RA: Teeth is the closest thing to a villain that appears in “Avery Colt Is A Snake, A Thief, A Liar.” Because of that, I wanted him to have a chance at redemption. The role of a neighborhood drug dealer is more complex than good and evil, right and wrong. If your grandmother sells illicit goods out of her basement, and that gets you through college, where you work to become a counselor, what could be said? What judgements can be made. Teeth never had designs on ruin. He only wanted money and status. Drug dealing ultimately does him no favors, and he falls back on hustle. He can’t let “defunct drug dealer” be his legacy. He can’t let people know his neighborhood as only abandoned buildings, the specter of danger. The narrative interlude acts as a consequence of the hustle he spits. The transformation of Avery’s story and the mode in which Teeth asserts his own transforms the meta-narrative into a collaborative effort, bridging the gap between them and the reader with story-telling.

KL: Objects play an important role in many of your stories, including this one. Without giving too much away, I’m thinking of the jar left behind be the deceased uncle, which goes through its own kind of process and change as the story progresses. Could you share a little bit of how objects work in your stories? Do you have any special fascination with any objects in particular?

RA: The objects I introduce into stories generally are the concrete residue of a concept. In “Avery Colt Is A Snake, A Thief, A Liar,” Granddad’s WWII service revolver is an item that represents power, toxic masculinity, protection, fear, obedience, and heart break. The jar and its contents represent decay, greed, and choice. At the end of Teeth’s story, Avery is being unfair and foolish by shoving the jar back in Teeth’s face. But he’s also giving Teeth a chance at moving on from what he was and committing to a new path.

KL: As mentioned, the title of the story fits quiet well as this is a story about Teeth, more or less. But the narrator goes through a kind of change of his own, which mirrors, in a sense, the change that Teeth comes to realize — or express publicly — to his own self, along with the narrator. Still, the narrator seems to take a back seat to the goat-bearded women, the elders who shame the dealers and crackheads, and to Teeth himself. Was there ever a version of the story when the narrator had a larger role? And what effect might this have in your view — the narrator taking a kind of back seat to the other figures in the story?

RA: In the arc of the stories, Avery is the reader’s point of entry into the community, but I never wanted him to be the only focal point. His story and whether or not he survives is not as important as the community’s story. The first half of the collection, Avery has less agency and takes up more space in the narratives as he deliberates on what’s around him. As he gains more agency in later stories, I intended for the community and other characters to take the forefront.

KL: I’m looking forward to the release of your debut collection of stories. Is Teeth’s Story part of the collection? And could you maybe share a little about the collection here?

RA: Yes! “Teeth’s Story” is in the collection. It’s the eighth story and works in tandem with the seventh story, “Cauldron,” which originally appeared in Story Quarterly. “Cauldron” is where Teeth is first introduced. After finishing a major project, it takes some time to really nail what it’s all about. In a concrete sense, “Avery Colt Is A Snake, A Thief, A Liar” is about whether or not Avery and his family can survive the economic downturn in his neighborhood as opportunities decrease and violence escalates. In another sense, it’s about adapting to the barbs of grief and whether the way forward is amassing methods of brutality or negotiating surrender to vulnerability.

KL: Last series of questions.

KL: Do you prefer…

KL: Pumpkin or Squash?

RA: Squash

KL: Almonds or Cashews?

RA: Almonds

KL: Neat or On the Rocks?

RA: Neat

KL: Bikes or Scooters?

RA: Bikes

KL: Boy Bands or Hair Bands?

RA: Boy Bands (Brock Hampton)

KL: Leaves on trees or leaves on the ground?

RA: Leaves on the ground

Ron A. Austin holds an MFA from the University of Missouri–St. Louis and is a 2016 Regional Arts Commission Fellow. Avery Colt Is a Snake, a Thief, a Liar, his first collection of linked stories, won the 2017 Nilsen Prize. The book will be released in fall of 2019. Austin’s short stories have been placed or are forthcoming in PleiadesStory QuarterlyNinth LetterBlack Warrior ReviewMidwestern GothicJuked and other journals. He, his partner Jennie, and son Elijah live in St. Louis with a whippet named Carmen.

The Smell by Ruth Mukwana, reviewed by Lina Rodriguez

Lina Rodriguez is originally from Colombia. She is currently a student at Lincoln Memorial University, where she is studying Veterinary Health Science, and will be attending LMU College of Veterinary Medicine next fall.

Ruth Mukwana’s story, The Smell, was orginally published in Solstice, and can be read here.

 

Ruth Mukwana addresses the issue of women’s rights in her fictional story The Smell. The author uses this story as a way to bring awareness about women’s rights in other countries or, to be more precise, the lack of them. She does so by narrating the story of Rose, a woman who not only suffered from domestic violence but also suffered horrific consequences when she decided to stand up for herself.

In The Smell, Rose is literally ironed by her husband as punishment for spending money for their baby’s formula. After murdering her husband, Rose is incarcerated in inhumane conditions and subjected to abuse from the guards at the prison. She mentions how she tries to “understand what pained [her] the most, [her] broken body or spirit.”

Author Ruth Mukwana has experienced what it is like to live in a society where women are considered to be less than men. She was born in Uganda, a country where women’s rights, especially in rural areas, are practically nonexistent. Although fictional, The Smell is based on a society that she has been a part of. She has witnessed firsthand the suffering of women in her home country. This is perhaps one of the main reasons she has taken upon herself the mission to bring awareness of this situation.

When she narrates the story of Rose, a woman who murdered her husband after years of abuse, she is narrating the life of hundreds of women who are being mistreated. The reality portrayed in this fictional story is common among developing countries, especially those countries that live in extreme poverty. Women are treated as property, and their families marry them off young to obtain a dowry. Young women do not go to school. They do not have a childhood. Getting married, having kids, working, and taking care of the home is the future countless girls have accepted as their only option. These girls submit to this future as part of their cultural beliefs sometimes without questioning it or even realizing that they have other opportunities.

The author, although living in a society where this situation is common, did not have to go through this situation herself. In fact, Ruth Mukwana holds an MFA from Bennington College, works for the United Nations and has lived for an extensive period of time in New York City. She is a well-educated woman who was able to have a successful career in a country where this is an exclusive privilege.

In The Smell, there is a successful female lawyer who fights for Rose’s freedom. This lawyer represents a sign of hope for all young women. This young lawyer shows that, although it is not common, a woman can have a successful career. This figure represents a powerful woman capable of helping others. The lawyer represents someone who stood up for herself. She fought against her culture and succeeded. In the story, Rose admires this woman: “she was older than [her], but she looked much younger.” Rose is aware of how “her face exuded youth, but it didn’t have any of the physical scars and the haunted look wedged in [her] eyes.”

By juxtaposing Rose and her lawyer, Mukwana is showing two possibilities. Not every woman suffers from domestic abuse. Not every woman has to follow the cultural belief that their job is to take care of the house. Rose’s story is not exceptional. This is a situation that has been going on for multiple generations. Rose remembers how her mother “married [her] at the age of fourteen to a maternal uncle much older and twice [her] size.” This is the same situation her mother went through when she “was married at the age of twelve and had her first child the same year.” Perhaps this pattern is why young girls do not fight for their rights. In most cases, they are not even aware that they have rights. They have lived in a society that has belittled them for so long that they believe this is the way it is supposed to be. Through the lawyer’s character, the author is also providing these young women a role model—someone they can look up to. This does not literally mean that young women should become lawyers. What the author is trying to do is inspire young women to stand up for themselves. She is showing them that it is possible to be successful. Mukwana is showing little girls that they have something to fight for, and they should do so.

Women around the world suffer from discrimination. It is true that some women such as Rose face far more challenging types of discrimination than women living in wealthy countries. That being said, according to Lenora M. Lapidus, Director of the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, “today, women at all income levels are still facing barriers to advancement, and in some ways, these challenges are harder than ever because there are some people who think that discrimination against women no longer exists. Sadly, that’s just not true.”

Wings, 1989 by Robin MacArthur, published in Shenandoah

I’ve been reading — and loving — Robin MacArthur’s debut collection, Half Wild. So far, the stories are set in rural locations (log cabins, gardens, meadows) and feature women and kids (or young women) battling husbands, fathers, lost loved ones, strangers moving to town, and, most poignantly, the notion of what they might have been. Stories that explore this kind of regret could easily slip into miserable histories which in turn could drag the reader into a kind of fitful, disoriented daze (where are we in the story?). But not so with MacArthur. Her stories move steadily forward showing through sharp details and subtle action her characters’ ongoing conflicts. For instance, the story linked here, Wings, 1989, is about a girl who observes the melancholy movements and actions of her mother while her husband, the girl’s father, is away for work. They are not well-to-do financially, and their need for cash keeps the father away for days at a time — building houses and enjoying the excesses of being away from home/family (getting drunk and stoned with a co-worker), while the mother and daughter are at home picking an insurmountable weed patch threatening the garden, along with the constant pile up of household/cabin chores (the mother’s hands always smell like dish soap). The details in this story, so subtle and perfectly wrought (the 1/2 inch gap in the door frame that the father patches with duct tape) and we get so completely wrapped up in this place and its run-down loneliness, that, by the end of the story, we understand the kind of compounded stress of a woman (the mother) whose dreams and hopes have been dashed by an absent husband, housing developments wiping out the wilderness around her, and, really, a family with whom she does not readily identify, along with the stifled dreams of her past. What might have been.

One of the lovelier scenes is a brief flashback of how the protagonist’s mother and father met; a story that the protagonist can play, “like a movie in my mind.” It’s a skinny dipping scene, but as the mother is jumping in, the reader is interrupted by the mother’s commentary about her future, the kind of knowing that she suspends — or ignores — for an adventuresome spirit (the father) who eventually moves her to a pine log cabin in the woods to start a life and a family.

Wings, 1989 isn’t the only gem in the collection, though it might be the only story found online. If you enjoy rural landscapes filled with back-to-the-land types who can’t seem to get ahead, while fighting substance abuse or absent family members, pick up a copy and enjoy. If you’re not convinced, start with this story here.