First is “Confabulation” by Ann Hood. Although the story is maybe a little too familiar--nanny is attracted to the father of her charges and makes her move--the story is beautifully written and there are fresh twists, including the wife’s apparent complicity in the arrangement. Linda is a normal young graduate student in Boston with not much going for her. When her mother dies, she pulls up stakes and moves to California to become au pair for an attractive couple with two small children. She watches the couple make love, and the wife is aware that she watches. She steels small things, then larger things, and the wife is almost certainly aware of that as well. And then she makes a move on the husband.
“Linda watched from her window as Bryce pulled Gaby’s white nightgown off, over her head. Their routine never changed. Every morning was the same and every morning Linda watched, right up until this moment. Today, she waited a little longer at the window. Gaby stood naked at her bedroom window, facing out, as if she were offering herself to Linda.”The reader sees where this is headed, but fortunately the author sends the story in a slightly different direction, so that the ending is not quite what we expect.
The second story is “The Standard Male Equipment” by Steve Almond and it is pretty much a standard Almond story, amusing yet serious. Here we have a guy who has broken up with his girlfriend and is driving north to visit family and to provide moral support when his gay brother introduces his partner to the parents for the first time. The narrator is fine with his brother’s homosexuality, he says, and the reader might get the sense that the narrator protests too much, which might be the point of the story. He spends a fair amount of time recollecting an incident in college with his friend Roger when they came close to experimenting sexually, and it almost seems like the narrator regrets that he didn’t, although part of his regret is about he isn’t as close to his brother as he used to be. It’s instructional to watch how Almond writes about sex . . .
Next is “I’m Wanda Robbins” by Russell Rowland, in which Wanda, after the funeral of her brother, confronts her father’s former mistress and, essentially, blames her for the drug problem that killed him.
The final story is “Greenskeeping” by Katie Hays, about Tang (a nickname for Whiting), who is celebrating turning 36. Tang seems to be obsessive-compulsive, requires order, makes lists, must have his cake just so, and his job as a greenskeeper seems perfect for him—the meticulous care of the grass being both repetitive and focused. But Tang has suffered deaths in the family and these trouble him, so he clings to the expected visit of his father and we see him while he waits. It’s a quirky, moving story.
The issue also has poetry, as I noted, including two poems by my friend Julie Funderburk. And did I mention the cover art by Heidi Reszies Lewis? Fantastic. So now I’m looking forward to seeing the next issue of this fine new magazine.
Next up: One Story