In this issue of Kitty Snacks, the introduction belongs to Deb Olin Unferth. Her “Limited Observations” is not so much a story in its traditional form, but an amusing list of things the ubiquitous ‘she’ has observed. This style lends itself well to the itemized life that ‘she’ lives. For example, two delightful items in this list are “Committees” and “Deletion.” For the first, Unferth writes,
There should have been a committee to tell her what to do, although she likely wouldn’t have trusted them. In fact, there was a committee – her family, but she didn’t listen to them much. And there were other committees. Teachers and classmates, bosses and boyfriends. They couldn’t stop discussing and advising. If she doesn’t like how she turned out, well, it’s her own fault.
“Deletion” has the same wit and wonderful sense of craft as the former:
This, she says to herself, is exactly the kind of writing people hate. It’s the kind she has written over and over, put in different spots, and it always gets cut, gets torn off, and not by her – she always leaves it until someone makes her cut it – and years later she is still thinking about it, the writing that got cut. She still keeps putting a little piece of it next to what is left.
In Kevin Wilson’s story, “Blue-Suited Henchman, Kicked Into Shark Tank” is a tightly knit combination of wry self-deprecation and action. At a ridiculously overpriced movie rental store, Rick, the sad hero of this story, recognizes his own image on one of the cassettes. He’s done so many B-movies that he can’t recall which movie this is. He cannot place the title or the image; he is toting a shotgun, dressed in camouflage, one robotic arm:
“Is this guy the star?” Rick asks, pointing to his own image.
“Big star,” the man says.
Rick pays the seven dollars. At his apartment, he places the cassette in his VCR… The movie, in Mandarin, reveals no clues until Rick appears, no camouflage, no shotgun, no robot circuitry, about to lay a beating on the hero, Eagle Han Ying. He realizes instantly that this is a scene from Dragon City Bustup, and he knows what’s coming for him. He watches as Ying sidesteps him and, with a ferocious roundhouse kick, sends Rick into the shark tank and out of the movie forever. He’s down seven dollars, half-drunk, chum for sharks.
It’s one of those rare combinations of action and humor that draws theater-goers to the movies, and readers to good writing, if only to prove that the book was better than movie.
John Brandon’s “Wolf” is a story of the transition of boy to man, in a most dramatic fashion. When a fourteen-year-old wakes to find vultures circling above his yard, he knows with certainty that his rabbit is dead. After shooting most of the vultures, the boy allows himself time for self-reflection: “He couldn’t believe he’d never done this himself. He couldn’t believe he’d never brought hell to a congregation of vultures. It was a sight.” The boy truly is a man now, with knowledge that should have escaped his fourteen-year-old mind, but it is too late. The story is riveting, and Brandon should be acknowledged for his obvious skill.
Several poems by Ryan Ridge are featured, and the most interesting to read, and quite nearly fun, are those featuring John Bell Hood. In “CLXVI,” Ridge writes,
The ghost of John Bell retreats
to an anonymous house on New Orleans.
Only to be devastated by the lack of Frenchman
living in the French Quarter.
He retreats again.
And in “CLXXI,” the poet returns to Bell. “The Ghost of John Bell Hood retreats / to a couples retreat in Aspen // Only to be overcharged and underwhelmed. // Again, he retreats.”
There’s so much to this issue that I cannot possible feature every writer, but especially liked the poem “The Wasp Charmer Tries Butterfly Collecting” by P.A. Levy, and several shorts by Andrew Borgstrom. These are but two of my favorites, and there are many more that deserve enthusiastic mention. Suffice to say that this issue is well worth picking up. And with a name like Kitty Snacks, how can you resist?