In this exhilarating collection of stories, Dwight Yates delivers the range of characters suggested in the title, many of them struggling to salvage situations they feel have been thrust upon them. Yet the smoking gun that accounts for the hole in the foot, is, more often than not, in the hand of the protagonist complaining of the pain.
Self-delusion courts self-destruction in these stories, but not without relief, since revelation is always possible and redemption just might come tumbling after. Though the stakes are sometimes low and the circumstances more rueful than tragic, Yates illuminates the gulf between expectation and reality with humor and compassion.
Seduction does not inevitably lead to abandonment in these tales, although that is certainly one outcome. A disastrous young marriage is another. In one case, a seducer comes to see that a chance encounter with an old flame has not closed an incomplete narrative from the past, but most likely has opened a perilous new chapter.
Other stories investigate dormant dread awakened by the hiccup of circumstance. A family man’s decision to stop and assist a stalled motorist does not imperil his family as his wife fears. Yet the encounter reveals a burden of faith and guilt that continues to haunt this Samaritan and prompts his irrational, yet perhaps admirable, behavior.
Men and women tell many of their own stories here. In other outings, the telling rests with bemused and attentive narrators, crowding in close, better to witness the charm and folly of the memorable characters assembled in this prize-winning collection.
Dwight Yates, a Montana native, grew up mowing lawns, delivering papers, sacking groceries, irrigating crops, bailing hay, driving a milk truck and fighting fires. He was educated at five different universities and served as a secondary school master and medical practitioner in Tanzania, East Africa, prior to a stint in the military. Since the early eighties, he has been teaching English and creative writing at the University of California, Riverside and on occasion assisting his wife with study-abroad students in Salzburg, Austria. His fiction has appeared in numerous literary journals and has been anthologized in Best of the West and Inlandia. His first collection of stories, Haywire Hearts and Slide Trombones, received the Kennedy award, and his second, Bring Everybody, The Juniper Prize. He has been awarded two fiction fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Mr. Yates lives in Redlands, California.