The current issue of Prairie Schooner is a good one, and since two of the better short stories from the issue are available online, this is a good time to get a taste of this magazine.
The first story is “Shelter” by Paula W. Peterson. I enjoyed it because one of my own stories (“Pet Palace” in Storyglossia) is also set in a pet store, although that’s about where the similarities end (although Peterson’s protagonist and my antagonist bear a certain resemblance, in that they both have lots of tattoos). Jack not only works in this pet store, he also lives upstairs. He’s been working their for years, it’s where he is comfortable, it’s his shelter. A woman comes into the store and she and Jack hit it off when she lets him tell her all about having a fish tank. But her life is complicated and Jack finds out why. You can read the rest! Although there isn’t much of a plot, the story is a great portrait of Jack—where he comes from, why is the way he is—and shows the depth of him. It’s a closed story, in the sense that it resolves itself in the end. I’m not a fan of tidy endings, but at least this one is a bit dark.
Next is “Lamb” by Colette Sartor, and this one is also online. It’s a layered story about Savina, who has recently given birth to Luca. Savina and Judith are a lesbian couple, both lawyers (on opposite sides of criminal cases) but it is Savina who is home with the baby. And then Savina’s mother arrives, trying in her clumsy way, to be part of Savina’s life even though she disapproves of her relationship with Judith. The startling core of this story is that she arrives with a whole lamb in a suitcase that she intends to cook for Easter, even though Judith is Jewish and Savina has agreed to raise Luca as a Jew. Complications ensue: how to cook the lamb, how long will she stay? And there’s the neat twist on the domestic conflict, since Savina resents Judith’s work life. Again there isn’t much of a plot and the resolution involves everyone coming to terms with everyone else, this time with an ending that’s mostly upbeat.
“The Bones” by Chris Gavaler (a friend of mine in nearby Lexington) is complex and involves a family taking a servant girl into the house. She’s from the Indian school and young Henry is obsessed with her Indian-ness, and is constantly asking her questions. But the girl, Ivy, is smart and educated and Henry’s mother wants a servant, not a girl who’s getting an education.
Also in this issue: “Oranges, Patas, Puddles,” is an excerpt from a novel by Paul Griner and this piece is set in India in 1947. The last fiction in the issue is “The Paprika Ewer” by Marc Fitten, set somewhere in Hungary. It’s an odd little story about Valeria who does a favor for the village potter, and receives from him a pitcher in return, but the village people aren’t happy about this blossoming relationship between the two and things don’t go well. Plus lots of poetry and several book reviews.