March is short story month. These are three that I have read to date.
No Pedigree by Nonnie Jules
It is an irony that I read this book the week after I finished reading The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald with its two central themes of the wealthy in American not being accountable for their actions and how the America dream of equality for all and an ability for people who have ability and who work hard to attain social status regardless of their backgrounds.
This short story, No Pedigree, explores these same two themes but in a modern setting rather than Fizgerald’s setting of the 1920’s. I could help thinking, as I read this book, how tragic it is that 100 years later these same themes of prejudice, abuse and unfairness are still prevalent in some parts our society.
Baylee Pierre is a young girl of extraordinary beauty and sound intellectual ability who ends up attending a high school in a wealthy area populated by privileged youngsters and their families. Baylee is different from her peer group in that she is the child of a black native American mother and a white father and also, her mother is the housekeeper of a one of the wealthy residents of the school’s feeder area who allows Baylee’s mother to use her home address to register her daughter at the local school. Baylee’s mother thinks she is doing the best for her daughter by giving her this educational opportunity, but her spoiled rich school school associates don’t give her an opportunity to become part of their world and Baylee is ostracised in the most cruel way right from the start.
There is one girl, Carson Beckett, who is different and who becomes best friends with Baylee. Carson puts herself out on a limb to support Baylee against the majority. I enjoyed this touch in the book because it made it even more real and possible, as there is good out there and it was nice to have the bit of positiveness which gives the story some good balance.
Baylee is subjected to the most horrific treatment any person could suffer and due to her mother’s limited finances, she is not initially able to seek the justice the situation clearly warrants.
To bring my thoughts back around to my initial comments about The Great Gatsby, this book ends on a positive note with a clear indication, through the change in Baylee’s circumstances depicted in the book, that there has been some progress and movement towards the American dream being more attainable for all. There are good people out there who aren’t filled with prejudice and who embrace difference and enable progression for all.
An excellent read.
A Perilous Thirst by Rhani D’Chai
This unusual short story is about a vampire who is struggling to find food due to his preference for the blood of good looking males. This tale is set at the beginning of the HIV/Aids epidemic and envisages that vampires are affected by the virus in an even more potent and unpleasant way.
The writing is very vivid and gripping, for example, the first sentence is “Acute hunger – that white-hot blaze which starts as a small cinder and then, over time, becomes a raging forest fire of agony – is especially horrific for one of the undead.” I thought this was brilliant as it set the stage in those few words and I knew the story was about a starving vampire. The question was, why is he starving? By the end of the first page, that particular question is answered and the reader knows that the vampire is scared of the promiscuous behaviour of many young gay men at that time and also that they don’t tell each other about their indiscretions. This puts the vampire at risk of contracting HIV/Aids in the same way as for any other person. Unlike people, however, using a condom can’t help the vampire as he must ingest blood in order to live.
How does the vampire solve his problem? You will have to read this fascinating story to find out.
I enjoyed the way in which this story was told, in the style of a conversation. I thought this fitted the era and the personality of the vampire.
This story is not a horror story and does not provide any graphic details about death, rather it is an intriguing peep into the psyche of someone who is faced with the possibility of contracting a life threatening disease through fulfilling his natural and essential needs. A terrible conundrum for anyone.
The Shirt by Richard Dee
Do you purchase second hand clothes? Have you ever wondered who owned them before you? I must be honest that I don’t buy second hand clothes or shoes but I do buy lots of second hand books. This story could apply to any pre-owned article and work equally well.
The story is told in the first person from the point of view of a married man who finds a shirt has has admired elsewhere in a local charity shop. The shirt, a long-sleeved blue and white checked one with no collar, is missing a button, but his wife assures him she will mend it for him and encourages him to buy the shirt.
When he wears the shirt for the first time, it gives him a strange feeling of wanting to stay on him and the next time he seems a similar shirt it is being worn by a local man who has gone missing. That night he has a bad dream which feels like a vision or a memory. This dream, together with some other co-incidents relating to the shirt, are the beginning of a journey of discovery as to who the shirt belonged to previously and what happened to that person? Could it have been the missing man? To find out you’ll have to read the book.
This is an interesting and face paced short story which keeps the reader entertained from start to finish.