Thursday, September 16, 2010

Short Stuff Take 4

For today's post, in the tradition of all those massive eighteenth-century novels, we have a triple-decker.

"A Day Better Spent," by Kat Heckenbach in The Absent Willow Review

The narrator of "A Day Better Spent" is a workaholic, a company president's dream come true. He has worked himself out of his marriage and into a massive coronary. When he at last sees his life for what it is, the Grim Reaper takes pity on him and offers him a chance to relive the day. The narrator agrees, promising that everything will be different. He awakes to find everything as it was the previous morning. True to his word, he changes everything, quitting his job and winning back his wife. However, the mistakes of a lifetime cannot be undone in a single day and there are timetables that the Reaper cannot alter. This kind of story has the potential to become sappy and preachy, but Heckenbach avoids both pitfalls, driving home her point through action and dialogue. The wife's reaction to the protagonist's about-face is believable and engaging, telling us much about her character and the depth of her feelings for the narrator. We hope the protagonist is truly on the verge of altering his life and feel his pain when the Reaper returns.

"Angels of Stone," by Kelly Dillon in Residential Aliens

"Angels of Stone" is a strange story, haunting and beautiful in its simplicity. Much lies beneath the surface. After multiple readings I'm still puzzled but in a good way. The story is narrated by an angel who resides in a cathedral with only the stone gargoyles for companionship. The angel remarks on the past glories of creation and hints at the horrors of Lucifer's treachery and humanity's misunderstanding of angels. Each year, God visits the angel in human form, asking that the angel return with him to heaven, but each year the angel refuses, answering God's entreaties with "'I need more time yet.'" Many years later, the angel makes a decision. The ramifications are not clear but the result brings tears to God's eyes. In the comments to the story, Dillon states that "this short story is based in part on a novel that I’m looking to publish which deals with the Fall of Lucifer, the creation of the Nephilim, and many other misunderstood aspects of angelic mythology."

"The Stable Master’s Tale," by Rachel Swirsky in Fantasy Magazine

Dragons do not make good pets, ever, at all. "The Stable Master’s Tale" weaves together the stories of a runaway noblewoman and a captured dragon. Dissatisfied with the prospect of married life, the narrator flees to a neighboring kingdom and uses her skills with horses to become the king's stable master. One day, the king's knights return unexpectedly with a large amount of treasure taken from a dragon that they had slain. They also bring with them a baby dragon, harmless in its infant state, which becomes a pet for the king's daughter. As the keeper of the king's beasts, the task of caring for the dragon falls to the stable master. She warns the king against keeping the dragon but the king believes the presence of a "pet" dragon in his household will frighten his neighboring enemies. As the dragon grows, the king's men cripple it's wings and forelegs, remove its claws, and file down its teeth. Only the stable master shows the dragon, whom she names Ember, any kindness. The king discovers the foolishness of his plans and pays for it. The characters in this tale are well-drawn. The king's hubris comes under attack in this cautionary tale but he does not act out of cruelty or pride alone.

Photo Credit: StAn at the Polish language Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


  1. Thanks for the mention of my story, Jeff :). And the others sound really interesting. I'll have to check them out!

  2. Well-written reviews, per usual. Perhaps you should receive a portion of their story sales?