Short, long and longer stories
Imagine you’re given the startling news that your body is only capable of having six more orgasms. “It’s either buck up or fuck up,” decides Mel in “Six Degrees of Altered Sensation,” adding this new restraint to the perplexity of single life with progressive Multiple Sclerosis. In “Flickering,” Francis becomes a pyromaniac in order to give her grown sons the opportunity to become heroes. Mundane directions for propane use parallel a brief sizzling affair in “Dick & Jane & the Barbecue and No, It’s Not a Love Story.”
Altered and twisted realities make the impossible possible for Clark’s characters. Lillian, an arthritic senior in “Solitaire,” discovers the rejuvenating properties of the bones of her lively, new young neighbour. Looming dementia is replaced by ravenous desire. In “Split Ends” a woman finds a book that contains her own memories, but it is written by a stranger with the same name; in “No U’s,” a woman slips away through the mail slot to escape her stagnant life.
Ranging from micro-fiction to near maxi-fiction, the stories in Attemptations are peopled by women, often physically challenged women—darkly humourous, feisty, sexy, manic, persevering, observant, contemplative women. These characters will snag you and hold you there ’til they’re good and done.
Dick & Jane and The Barbecue
Propane tanks have a multitude of connections: valves, gauges and other attachments that look interestingly complex.
Dick and Jane were uncomplicated strangers, and then they weren’t. They were casual acquaintances, and then they were friendly acquaintances, and that’s how they remained “¦ in public.
They each went home alone—Dick to sleep with his epileptic dog, Rusty, and Jane to her microwaveable foot warmer even though it was May on the west coast of Canada, all hummingbirds and blooming dogwoods. They went home alone because their kids were grown and distant and their marriages had failed to live up to the North American dream. They went home alone because they were both past their prime, Jane even further past than Dick, and because failures wreak havoc on acceptability and desirability in social encounters of the third kind.
They each went home alone until one night they didn’t. After Dick’s multiple advances outside her car and Jane’s adamant refusals inside her car, they ended up in private. And in private, they became friends. With benefits. And soon-to-be-disclosed baggage. And loneliness, which unleashed a lot more than Rusty, left at home with his seizures.
The visible parts of the propane tank play a vital role in the usability and serviceability of the gas tank.
They were seized by the mutual and unquenchable need for human touch in every way, shape, and form—all fingers and lips and whatever else they could find. You can’t beat Stop-Swap-‘n-Go fornication, they decided. But even a long night is only so long. Jane said goodbye. Dick said he’d call. Jane said no, it was just a one-time thing. Dick raised his eyebrow, kissed her nipple, and went home to Rusty.
The second time, failures were revealed. Jane’s failures included multiple undefined marriages and an obscure disease involving physical wasting, which she couldn’t always conceal, especially in private. Dick’s failures and wounds were salted away, revealed only in the light of day—the serpentine scar along his thigh, a pair of healed punctures near the shoulder blade. Proof of violence, even before the rest of his story came out: a cracked-out ex with a knife, a mention of AIDS. (But we just! “¦ Dick, with sweat still on his lip, said no, it’s okay, he’d been tested.) Dick’s disclosure had something to do with honesty. Jane candidly repeated that a relationship was out of the question. Her privacy was at risk, but she couldn’t resist ruffling his hair before he left.
The inside of the OPD valve is engineered to only allow propane in or out if the internal valve is depressed.
And so, there was a third time. And it was so ridiculously fine, that is, until Jane flailed around the kitchen, spilling morning coffee, and said that was really enough. They couldn’t go on bangin’ their brains out all over the house. Dick asked Jane where, then, did she want to do it. Jane said in the car. One last time.
The writing is refreshing and far from ordinary even while describing ordinary events. Clark, who is also a poet, appears to delight in her own word wizardry and readers get to share in that delight. … Quirky, darkly humorous and not quickly forgotten.
With a punctuated style and tone similar to Carolyn Black’s The Odious Child, Kim Clark’s stories offer up a darker slice of individuality. Her characters are universally flawed, often with physical manifestations to their idiosyncrasies. Often times employing an extraneous narrative mechanic (barbeque instructions, medical terminology, and repetitive—and manipulative—nomenclature), the stories in Attemptations are quite deliberately structured; Clark’s writing is organized and neat, leaving little to chance.
978-1-894759-66-3 / 1-894759-66-4
5.5x8, 160 pages
Paperback price: $18.95
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