It had to be unfortunate, to be honest. I had to go home and eat stale bread and tough meat and re-watch what I had just recorded three hours earlier for it to be honest. Litquake’s reading “Original Shorts: Suspicious Circumstances” at The Make-Out Room on Wednesday October 10th, 2012 was fortunately unfortunate. The reading felt quick, never waning, as on the whole it took only an hour and a half—intermission included. The stories as quick as the 1… 2… 3… count of a boxing referee after a knockdown. Wait, why was the crowd getting up when these characters were the ones knocked down?
The six seasoned writers curated to read brought either short fiction collections or novels from their respective resumes. They read of smart troubled people; the stories you eavesdrop in on MUNI trains and miss your stop twice to catch the whole of them.
David Corbett explored the dig-deep honesty of a bank robbery. All in the name of Christmas to stave off a cancer with the promise of a prison’s health care policy. Then there was Valerie Fioravanti’s account of a couple trapped in transit from Turkey to Russia and the daring foreign exchange of hope at a border crossing. How about Christopher Coake’s catalog of a man’s close calls in bathroom stalls and race cars? He shared the little accidents you really want to watch, to hear about, but never be a part of, because that’s what Tarantino films are for.
The introductions felt quick enough for the crowd to get to their feet just to get knocked down again. Will Boast kicked off the second half with a standoff in a berry field, his characters’ get-away picnic becoming a drug bust in the hands of a nervous policeman-in-training. Matt Stewart closed out the night with a ghost story capsizing the unfound verdict of a jury with the extrasensory evidence found on the video recording of an ATM. He swapped a venue for a courtroom in roughly three pages.
One after the other in their own place, their own style and language—the crowd and I were bowled over by the ill-fated crusades of these hapless characters. I will say the complete silence between words as these stories were shared left me guessing the attendance. Of course the venue was packed, as most all Litquake events tend to be, just packed very respectfully. The crowd ever so quietly immersed as I. They were missing their train stops and setting themselves up to get knocked down in the shoes of these unsuspecting, unfortunate characters. It wasn’t Schadenfreude though (the joy in watching others’ pain); it was just good writing. It was good short fiction writing in a classy venue representing a great festival in a city full of stories and suspicious circumstances. It was Litquake in short.
Sean Taylor‘s first collection Everything to Do With You was published in May 2010 by Seventh Tangent Publishing. His features include Sparkle and Blink, The Evergreen Review, Out of Our, the 16th and Mission Review and Instant City.