An astonishing, long-awaited collection of stories that intersect imaginatively with Pride and Prejudice, Frankenstein, The Wizard of Oz, and Flannery O'Connor. Includes John Kessel's modern classic "Lunar Quartet" sequence about life on the moon.
When I picked her up at the Stop ’n Shop on Route 28, Dot was wearing a short black skirt and red sneakers just like the ones she had taken from the bargain rack the night we broke into the Sears in Hendersonville five years earlier. I couldn’t help but notice the curve of her hip as she slid into the front seat of my old T-Bird. She leaned over and gave me a kiss, bright red lipstick and breath smelling of cigarettes. “Just like old times,” she said.
The Sears had been my idea, but after we got into the store that night all the other ideas had been Dot’s, including the game on the bed in the furniture department and me clocking the night watchman with the anodized aluminum flashlight I took from Hardware, sending him to the hospital with a concussion and me to three years in Central. When the cops showed up, Dot was nowhere to be found. That was all right. A man has to take responsibility for his own actions; at least that’s what they told me in the group therapy sessions that the prison shrink ran on Thursday nights. But I never knew a woman who could make me do the things that Dot could make me do.
One of the guys at those sessions was Radioactive Roy Dunbar, who had a theory about how we were all living in a computer and none of this was real. Well if this isn’t real, I told him, I don’t know what real is. The softness of Dot’s breast or the shit smell of the crapper in the Highway 28 Texaco, how can there be anything more real than that? Radioactive Roy and the people like him are just looking for an exit door. I can understand that. Everybody dreams of an exit door sometimes.
I slipped the car into gear and pulled out of the station onto the highway. The sky was red above the Blue Ridge, the air blowing in the windows smoky with the ash of the forest fires burning a hundred miles to the northwest.
“Cat got your tongue, darlin’?” Dot said.
I pushed the cassette into the deck and Willie Nelson was singing “Hello Walls.” “Where are we going, Dot?”
“Just point this thing west for twenty or so. When you come to a sign that says Potters Glen, make a right on the next dirt road.”
Dot pulled a pack of Kools out of her purse, stuck one in her mouth, and punched the car’s cigarette lighter.
“Doesn’t work,” I said.
She pawed through her purse for thirty seconds, then clipped it shut. “Shit,” she said. “You got a match, Sid?” Out of the corner of my eye I watched the cigarette bobble up and down as she spoke.
"A sustained exploration of the ways gender dynamics can both empower and enslave us. Kessel's wit sparkles throughout, peaking with the most uproariously weird phone-sex conversation you'll ever read ("The Red Phone")."