There are stories which you read and then there are stories which get into your bones. “Magnets of Faith and Knowing” got into my bones. Matt Dennison didn’t write this story as much as he poured it from one of those unknown places, one of those deep places where shadows are the light. Matt opens this story with a shot across the bow in the first paragraph which puts the reader on notice. On notice that we are going to be inside the mind of a woman who has not only been broken but who now speaks with the kind of righteous power that being broken gives to some of the relentless and indomitable ones. The ones who have taken and taken until they simply cannot take anymore. On notice that if we get too close, we might get cut by one of the broken pieces. But the thing is, I wanted to be close. I didn’t want to be one of the others, one of the “wild dogs” barking at her, and I did not want to be on the other side of her door. I wanted to be with her, because I felt like I knew her.
This story and this character are expertly crafted. The language is both simple and complex, and it rings with poetry throughout. In fact, even if I were not aware of Matt’s poetry, I would have guessed I was in the hands of a poet who knew how to slip extended metaphors into their prose with grace and subtlety. From start to finish I was in the mind of this character, and the author never veered or wavered elsewhere. It was like reading Faulkner with a compass, and it was a privilege.
Sometimes the stories that surprise you the most aren’t the ones about unique topics or characters. Sometimes it’s the stories that run over the same worn-in treads but somehow still feel shiny and new. Andrew Roe’s “Why We Came to Target at 9:58 on a Monday Night” is like that for me.
I don’t find myself moved by stories very much these days. Perhaps I’m being too cerebral when I read. Or maybe I’m reading too many “ooh, look at my well-crafted prose!” stories. But Roe’s first-person narrator is perfect. She’s more than real. We all probably know her.
And that’s exactly it: sometimes we don’t need to see something we’ve never seen before. We just need to really see what we thought we knew.
The language of “Bread, Fish, Serpent, Stone” by Stephanie Bobo is so damned beautiful that I’m tongue tied trying to write about why it’s one of my favorite stories, not just on Fictionaut but period. Ever. That’s right. Ever. It’s a long story, 7500 words (part 1, part 2). So thank goodness the wise people at Fictionaut give us the option of downloading stories on PDF because I think that’s the way to read this story about Ezra Cato, just released from the mental hospital and looking for a place to stay: to sleep and also to stay his fears and confusion about how to be in the world. Ezra follows the Golden Rule, which “while it might serve him well someday in the eyes of the Lord, it usually served him ill down here on earth simply because he assumed that everyone else had the same attitude.” There is great wise humor in this story about vulnerable Ezra, eager to explore every new and mostly disastrous prospect, often afraid, always hopeful. Which is exactly how I feel when I read this story. Ezra Cato is alive on the page and under my skin.
Fictionaut Faves, a series in which Fictionaut members recommend stories on the site, is edited by Marcelle Heath, a fiction writer, freelance editor, and assistant editor for Luna Park. She lives in Portland, Oregon.