Was about to start on this book, then decided it'd be better as a holiday read. So it went into the cabin bag, and what did I know? As slowly as I read it, I finished it in 1.5 hours, leaving the Kindle to entertain me for the next few waking hours during the flight to London. Arrrrrgh.
Oddly, I know of Ethan Rutherford as the guitarist of a Minneapolis indie-pop rock duo Pennyroyal first, over his other identity as a lecturer of creative writing. So when I saw the book at the bookstore, some quick googling confirmed that this is the same guy. Okay. Buy. I like the cover. Anyway, this is Ethan Rutherford's debut collection of short stories in 'The Peripatetic Coffin And Other Stories'. It's bound slim and printed in uneven pages, titles with stylized fonts and all, in that sort of hipster way that ought to be flaunted around at cafes. Yes, of course the man stole the book and brought it along to erm hip cafes to flip through. Heh. (Read reviews here, here and here.)
Within the collection of eight stories, there're three about the sea, appropriately fixed at opening, in the middle, and at the end. In between, there're light-hearted stories of teenage angst and and the loss of childhood innocence in 'summer boys', 'john, for christmas', 'camp winnesaka', 'the broken group', 'a mugging'. Dark little stories of being trapped, feeling stifled, and being locked in, figuratively and literally. Rather witty.
Now, about the thread of the sea. The book opens with one of 'the peripatetic coffin' set in a Confederate submarine during the Civil War, an experimental vessel that drowned its first two crews. Midway through, there's 'saint Anna' which tells of a ill-fated Russian ship drifting in Artic ice, set in the time of Czar Nicholas in 1913, and then there's the final story to end the collection- 'Dirwhals!', set in year 2228 aboard shipper-tanker Halcyon in the ocean-like dunes of the Gulf of Mexico.
In 'a mugging', it speaks of a husband and wife's relationship from an almost fun perspective, of how each of them dealt with the mugging. The husband Charles, was punched in the face, and the wife Claire, had her purse snatched. The husband was dealing with it in a most unusual way and became seemingly, a little paranoid about extra security, locks and all. This is how the story ended,
He wishes she were anyone, at this point, but his wife. He'll reach down for some snow, pack a snowball, and underhand it at the window. She'll startle, and glance at the direction of the sound. She'll turn her body toward the window, and roll her shoulders forward, unsure of herself, and he'll know then that he loves her, but he can't help, or stop, himself. He's pulled his hood low over his face. He doesn't want to be recognised, even if, and this he doubts, she can see beyond her own reflection in the glass. He'll pick up a stick, chuck it onto the roof so it pinball-clatters between the gables, and be pleased with the sound. She won't take her eyes off the window. He'll reach down again, and pack another snowball, this one he'll toss overhand, aimed right for the centre of the painting. He hasn't thrown like this since high school. He hasn't moved like this since before he knew Claire. He hadn't ever in his life been hit in the face, and this snowball is aimed directly at her face. It is flying perfectly And directly before impact, the instant before the snowball flattens and Velcro-sticks to the window with its hollow thwack, the lights, in the kitchen, go dark.