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Months and Seasons 

Christopher Meeks

"I like chickens," she said plainly. "In a previous life, I was a chicken."
Hubert gasped, then saw a seated woman's mouth fall open. "Mind your business, all right?" he told the lady. "We're rehearsing a play, My Life as a Chicken."
He turned back to Edith and said "Ix-nay the Ikin-chay."
"You're sweeping me off my feet with Pig Latin?"

Reviewed by Stevan Allred

The quintessential character moment in Chris Meeks' collection of stories occurs in The Holes In My Door. We meet Frank Philo, an obsessive, self-involved man who has driven away his first wife with his "fixations". Frank hears what turns out to be the four shots which have destroyed the front and rear windshields of his Volvo while it sits parked in his garage. Unnerved by this, he blows off a real world second date with a woman he's met online and goes to a gun shop instead, where the sales man talks him into a shotgun. Frank has absolutely no experience with guns, so he drives out to the desert to try out his new toy, and there, while shooting at a sign, he manages to shoot himself in the foot. 

Metaphorically speaking, nearly all of Meeks' characters have shot themselves in the foot. His people are average Joes and Janes caught up in relationships that teeter on the brink of failure. Often they manage to rescue themselves, but his characters, particularly the men, are blissfully unaware of their own foibles. This affords the reader the voyeuristic pleasure of cringing on their behalf. Or, when they are being particularly obtuse, of wanting to slap them. 

Meeks has a gift for showing how people fail to connect. In Dracula Slinks Into The Night we watch Hugh drive his wife Kathleen crazy with his inability to loosen up at a costume party. In the opening passage of The Farm at 93rd and Broadway a couple of empty nesters try to communicate their love to one another but end up feeling like they're just not in sync. Meeks illuminates the particular shape of the space between these couples, and love's continual urging to bridge those gaps. 

In the title story, Spillman, a movie producer who specializes in films with mutants and vampires preying upon cheerleaders and "buxom airline stewardesses", tells us that his life "can't possibly all be coincidence . . . Something has guided me." Meeks immediately punctures the self-importance of that observation, coming as it does from a producer of soft porn. But it's another issue Meeks raises often in his stories--the question of how much is accidental in our lives, and how much do we bring upon ourselves. 

In two of the stories an accidental fall is crucial to the plot, and in three of them, the accidental is represented by a health crisis. These range from exposure to AIDS to prostate cancer to a congenital heart problem, and in each case, the story turns in some way on the health issue. Given that most of the eleven stories in this collection are relationship stories, Meeks' reliance on accidental threats to the body as the pivotal plot point feels a bit repetitive. If his characters were more self-aware in the face of these events, instead of simply reacting to them, this plot device might have risen to the level of a theme that helped bind the collection together. Still, each of the stories works on its own; it's only by comparing them to one another that we notice his repeated use of the same trick. 

The tone of most of these stories is comic, but Meeks heightens his comedy with a dash of heartbreak--the closer we are to heartbreak, the harder we laugh. He's adept at landing his stories on an image that straddles the comic and the tragic, hitting an emotional note that mingles what is laughable about the human condition with hope for a better day tomorrow.

Read an excerpt from one of the stories from this collection on Chris Meek's Red Room Page

Stevan Allred lives in rural Oregon, halfway between Fisher's Mill and Viola. He has recently had poems published in Windfall and Perceptions. He was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2007. In his spare time he enjoys directing plays for his local community theater group.

Stevan's other Short Reviews: Rebecca Barry "Later at the Bar"

Steven Millhauser "Dangerous Laughter"

PublisherWhite Whisker Books

Publication Date: 2008

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?: No, second. 

Author bio: Christopher Meeks describes himself as "a working writer who teaches". He has published a previous collection of stories entitled The Middle-Aged Man & The Sea, and he has had three original plays produced.

Read an interview with Christopher Meeks

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The Publisher's Website: White Whiskers/Lulu





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