After seeing the cover of Pithead Chapel—a colorful collection of birds amongst flowers and plants—I expected something a little different. I’m not sure what, but I somehow expected stories of nature, or stories that were calm, and safe. But what I got was a different kind of surprise.
After reading the first paragraph of “Stanco Y Nudo” by N. T. Brown—
Rose—long, lanky brunette with babydoll haircut and grey eyes—sits at a typewriter crying. Her mascara runs. She can’t see the words on her page through the tears. All she knows is her title, typed in caps at the top of the page: STANCO Y NUDO. She punches keys madly, blindly, hoping that her heart will supply the words her brain cannot.
—I never thought that the story would evolve into a kitchen scene in which the character Juan Carlos is stuck between his wife, who comes to tell him that his son is very sick even though he isn’t, and his mistress, who is cooking an entire carton of eggs on the stove into one big, mushy omelet. If you think this is enough tension, wait until you find out that the two women know about each other as well as about the second mistress to whom Juan Carlos is trying to escape. If that is not enough, Rose’s friend Nicholas is also present: “Let me get this straight, Nicolas says. He points at Juan Carlos. You sleep with all three of these women regularly, and I don’t sleep with anyone, ever. How is that fair?” Juan Carlos simply replies that it isn’t. This story proportions details and characters that balance into an odd, yet evenly humorous and uncomfortable tale.
Kirby Wright’s short piece “Safe and Perfectly Normal” has a very opposite feel. In the mind of the narrator, it takes place in a short time as his plane is close to landing. He notices small things about his travels—“fat” Alec Baldwin on the T.V., the “blind as bats” passengers, the cars below that looked like M&Ms—and thinks about how his wife Becky will be waiting for him, how they will stop and get dinner, and how that day will be “safe and perfectly normal.”
Pair those up with the other two pieces in this issue—Edward Hagelstein’s “The New Guy’s Mess” which takes place in a jail cell and Anika Scott’s “The Olive Branch” about a boy Karim, the best olive picker in his family, and his encounter with a girl—and I’m not quite sure what we have here. It’s a collection I wouldn’t necessarily piece together; they each offer something different, yet they all seem to engrave and leave the reader with a little bit to wonder about.