The annual Juked print issue opens with a tight piece of historical fiction by James Scott titled “Watertown,” in which two of Babe Ruth's questionably well-meaning associates decide to do something about Babe's addict wife:
Babe hated her. Babe hated her and they loved him. Hay and Eddie noted and imitated everything he did—tried to wear the same suits, ordered the same drinks. They wanted to keep up but never could. Babe was too fast, too rich, and too huge.
Black-and-white drawings preface all of the stories in this collection, each of the drawings related to its corresponding story in some way, with a quote from the story beneath. This is a nice touch. Artwork that complements the writing really elevates a journal above its peers.
Other pleasing reads within the pages of Juked that come tumbling to mind, in no particular order:
In Max Everhart's story “The Man Who Wore No Pants,” a Chinese man named Mr. Song and his son purchase a lakeside home that comes with a dying man. Mr. Song thinks he is getting a sweet deal, but soon realizes that the control he so expertly exerts on those around him fails to work on this man, thus driving Mr. Song far outside his comfort zone.
Jen Gann profiles an unusual brother-sister relationship in her story “Ugly Brown Car,” in which said beleaguered car is at one point parked in the siblings' driveway, its “dank little nose pointed onward in the direction of work, Jack's Hot House, the part of road that far up enough, might just curl a little.”
With “Snow Monsters,” Stephen Graham Jones delivers an unsettling slice of magical realism in which a father receives an offer he is not likely to refuse. This is one of those stories that lingers like cobwebs in your head for some time afterwards.
JoAnna Novak's prose poems “Love Note #2” (“Mornings, you drive until the speakers harden”) and “Love Note #3” (“There is a key in your pocket, but at the time, I am delicious and unaware”) are fascinating snapshots that had me rereading over and over, if only to relish how Novak forms words into sentences.
The lone piece of nonfiction here stands firm on its own. Ira Sukrungruang's “Abridged Immigrant Narrative” tells the history of an immigrant family in succinct segments, poignant yet unwashed in sentimentality:
When the boy got older, he asked the mother why she could not talk for herself. He knew she could speak English. Speak it relatively well.
She was older, gray creeping into her thinning hair. She said American people were like that one monster villain the boy was so afraid of.
The mother nodded. American people were like Freddy Krueger. They stole her voice.
Also included in this issue are two interviews: one with novelist Lauren Groff, and the other with poet Campbell McGrath. Groff comes across as pleasant and enthusiastic, while McGrath is terse and a bit cranky. It was a nice juxtaposition.