Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Drangle. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Drangle. Show all posts

25 February, 2017

Chris Drangle, "Optimistic People"

The story is told in simple past tense and divided into three sections with the point of view switching from Soleil to Warren and back to Soleil. The theme of the story, for me,
is that optimistic people come in all sorts, evil and good. The story started right out with suspense and then a short sigh of relief and then more suspense and then a sigh of relief again, etc., a wonderful roller coaster. I was quite happy that the story was such a tease but fulfilling and believable, even if a bit coincidental, in the end.

A smarter and more sophisticated girl moved into a rural area and met a boy who she liked even though he seemed simplistic and a bit dumb. "Warren was a nice guy, a good one, but not necessarily sharpened to the finest point. There was a thin line between being good and being a moron, and he straddled it."

The time frame must be sometime in the 1980s or 1990s as Warren listened to cassette tapes and Soleil had no cell phone or Starlink etc. to call for help when her car ran out of gas. One of my favorite lines describes Soleil's father. "Her father, the animal rights lobbyist with a heart of granola."

"Optimistic People" by Chris Drangle is issue number 224 of One Story. There's an interview with editor Will Allison at the One Story website.

02 December, 2016

Chris Drangle, "A Local's Guide to Dating in Slocomb County"

Gosh, another great story from Chris Drangle first published in the Oxford American and then included in the 2017 Pushcart Prize XLI: Best of the Small Presses. 

The previous Drangle story, "Nice Shot," I wrote about on my blog also featured war and soldiers. In this one, Army Private Fisher Bray was wounded in Mosul. He returned to the states and learned to use his prosthetics and adopted the dog, Barbie, that had been one of his companions and bomb sniffer in northern Iraq. He loses the dog but meets a girl.

There are many great descriptions and a few bits of humor. "'I'd like to be senile,' she said, 'and get all my jobs confused. Get the animals drunk, cut barflies' hair, and euthanize people at the salon.'"

Back in the US, Barbie was accidentally euthanized at the shelter and this was how Fisher Bray ended up meeting Naomi Connelly who worked at the animal shelter. The story brings two people together who have made attempts to guide and better their lives but circumstances just haven't quite worked out how they expected. For me, I think, that is the main theme, expectations are only that, expectations. And, that the title has nothing to do with war or fighting or killing, but alludes to the simple matter of one human being wanting to be with another human being.

These are hard-working people getting by mostly okay. They haven't totally lost hope, but their positive expectations have withered somewhat. But a case could be made for many other themes as well. Drangle deftly marries and intertwines imagery, language, situations, mood, and setting into a wonderful story that ultimately reminds the reader, he or she is not alone in their daily struggle and that even though expectations might not come to fruition, one still has to do something.

The story is about 19 pages long and told in past tense. It takes place in southeastern Arkansas. A cotton field and a row of black hickory trees are behind the squat, concrete animal shelter that is always overcrowded. There are about 4 pages of exposition about Fisher's childhood and army experiences. While his early years were somewhat tough, the writing is not maudlin.

A minor incident, "his air conditioner broke," sets the encounter in motion. The story opens with a young woman who we know right away would like to meet a man. "It figured that the most attractive man in town her age was also a triple amputee." And, first thing she does at work is to "update her online dating profile."

Buy the anthology or journal and read it!
Or, it's available online at the Oxford American website.

05 January, 2016

Chris Drangle, "Nice Shot"

The theme of the story, for me, is that war is never over, even after the soldier has returned home. Jeremy watches his thirteen-year old nephew, Fred, and together play violent online war games. Some harsh words are shared online that really anger Jeremy. He decides they should meet, in person, the rude gamer who they both assume is a young male, online name, Nail3ater. It turns out that it is a fifteen-year old girl without much personality. "Her posture is reminiscent of a plant dying in the heat." Her mother escorts her to the agreed upon meeting place, a pizza restaurant. Jeremy demands an apology from Dakota for her insults. Jeremy tells Dakota and her mother, Elaine, that he didn't fight in Afghanistan to suffer insults at home. "'I didn't do two combat tours in Afghanistan to come back and get called a bitch by a fifteen-year-old girl.'" He storms out.

"Nice Shot" was published in the Fall 2015 issue of Crazyhorse. There are just enough gruesome details to give the story an edge. There's also a secondary story about Jeremy's attempt to hold down a part-time job in a bookstore. The difficulties he faces are poignant and believable. One detail that was eye-opening for me was the competitive nature of "shots" in war. "Not even God can shoot that well. Jeremy's record would have been short lived." This story reminds me how art is a lie that tells the truth.

My Favorite Lines:
"She's not smug, exactly, just blank, like she has turned off the aggressive part of herself, the part she lets out when she doesn't have to see who she's talking to."

"His thirteen-year-old cousin is not interested in the politics of international conflict, in bumper-sticker morality, or in the cost to the economy or national psyche, things that have nothing to do with soldiering anyway. He's interested in the visceral experience."

Drangle's web page