An Assortment of Somebodies
Somebody Who Knows Somebody
by Charles Rafferty
Gold Wake, 2021
reviewed by Seana Graham
Charles Rafferty is no stranger to us here at Escape Into Life. We’ve not only reviewed an earlier collection of his stories but featured a selection of his poetry (links below). This newest flash and micro-fiction collection comes in a very lovely little volume from Gold Wake Press, which is a small, fairly young independent group, aiming to publish an eclectic mixture of four to six books a year.
This anthology alternates between flash fiction of a few hundred words and micro-fiction that may be only a paragraph—or a sentence. Many of these tales focus on the beginnings of what often prove to be transitory relationships—in the beginning of “The Light Made Everything Hard to See”, Tommy is heading out into the night in search of condoms for a tryst he maybe shouldn’t be having when he notices the porchlight already going out behind him. In “For Official Use Only”, Marcus is wooing a woman and scores some flowers to bring her from an unconventional place.( It’s taboo for sure, but is it actually wrong? And if so, why?) Couples–and in many instances, coupling–get off track for small or odd tangential reasons; “An Inability to Focus”, say, or the surprising sounds in the midst of lovemaking that occur in “Mary and Bernard: A Cautionary Tale.”
But there are also many stories of marriage, often focusing on some moment of disagreement, which may end up being serious but then again may not. In “It Would Never Be This Clean Again,” Christopher’s new wife practically pushes him across the street to be the bearer of bad tidings about a neighbor’s cat. In “Rhododendron,” the husband is able to withstand his wife’s plans for him more successfully, and it’s she who ends up going out to get the shovel, though that doesn’t necessarily mean that things have ended well.
In “Then I Felt the Floor Beneath Me,” a couple go out to a show with some married friends. Nancy is in the late stages of pregnancy and their friends’ reassurances do not, in fact, reassure them about the future. Once they’ve arrived, Nancy leaves the group to use the restroom. Have you ever had the experience of having a conversation with someone, or watching an event unfold before your eyes that the person you’re with completely misses? Multiply that experience exponentially and you’ll have something comparable to what happens to the narrator in Nancy’s absence. Let’s just say that it even gave me vertigo. In one of the more hopeful stories, the couple seems headed in a new direction as the adventure comes to an end.
One of my favorite stories is “That Cupola Lying on Its Side and Covered in Vines”, which is not about a romantic or marital couple but is told from the point of view of a man teaching his daughter to drive. It’s about passing on from one phase of life to another and beautifully conveys both the advantages and the fears of this right of passage.
Since this is a strong collection as a whole, I won’t go as far as to say that Rafferty saves the best for last, but he does save the title story for the end, and it packs a punch. The narrator relates a tale that he heard from a friend while they are both delayed in an airport. His friend’s sister is using a breast pump several times a day to induce lactation, even though she doesn’t have a child. The whys and wherefores involve a complicated linking of people who are doing extraordinary things in the interest of compassion and love. The fact that a person who they are not even conscious of is hearing their story as it’s unfolding and who then goes on to tell us demonstrates the incredible, often entirely unsuspected interconnections between all of us.
“Somebody Who Knows Somebody.” Read the story. Get the book.
Seana Graham is the book review editor at Escape Into Life. She has also reviewed for the biography website Simply Charly. She attempts to keep up with her various blogs, including Confessions of Ignorance, where she tries to learn a little bit more about the many things she does not know. You can find links to many of her short stories at her blog Story Dump. The recent anthology, Annihilation Radiation from Storgy Press, includes one of her stories. Santa Cruz Noir, a title from Akashic Press, features a story of hers about the city in which she currently resides.