Send More Tourists…the Last Ones Were Delicious [Breakwater Books]. Sure, the title alone is worth five or six loonies, eh b’ys?
Here’s what happened. I tossed a tiresome tome that was causing me cardiovascular contractions into the trash, climbed up my Books-To-Read tower, and — attracted first by its “pick me, pick me” yellow cover and second by the bewitching title — I selected Send More Tourists.
A mug of Tension Tamer herbal tea at hand, I hove off in my Lay-Z-Boy and commenced reading.
I forgot my Tension Tamer.
I neglected my supper.
In one sitting, I read from cover to cover with a Great Big WOW swelling to the point of bursting in my chest…which it eventually did. Burst, that is — the WOW, not my chest.
B’ys, if a deflated balloon can make a statement about the aftermath of catharsis, then that’s how I felt. Does that make any sense?
Still slopped in my chair, I imitated Jim Furlong.
You know Jim of NTV’s A Matter of Reflection, eh?
I reflected…on…well, Tracy Waddleton’s stories and decided she was no Joyce Carol Oates…and hurray for that.
An explanation. In a previous century, attempting to be high-brow, or nurture my feminine side, I tackled a collection of Joyce Carol Oates stories. P’raps it’s only me — a Philistine with no sensitive feminine side, with no appreciation of modern lit-er-a-ture — but I hated Oates’ long ‘ol crawling-along stories. I chucked the book in the trash.
Yes, childishly spitefully, I’m inclined to dump books that displease me. (Hey, listen, I’m not destroying literature because millions of other copies exist. Besides, no one cares a fig about what I think.)
Where was I?
Oh. Tracy Waddleton’s stories are not long ‘ol anything.
They are gunslinger stories — quick-drawn, shot-from-the-hip, Bang, Bang, Bang.
Tracy Waddleton’s stories strike like bullets to the heart.
Hurray for that.
But, at the same time, they are scary, sobering, substantial.
Please hear me out before clicking the trashcan icon. From first to final line,Tracy’s shuff-off story — “It Lunged” — is only a foot long. (Yes, I measured with a ruler.) It’s as swift and piercing as a hornet’s sting.
It’s a horror story about a monster beneath a little girl’s bed. Even though the monster might ultimately gobble her up, it says it’s sorry for grabbing her ankle with its claws, and further explains that it does nasty things because — “It’s my job.”
In the concluding couple of inches of the story the monster rears up — “It stood and fanned, its tentacles scraping the wall.”
Fanned…with tentacles, for frig sake!
And then it lunged. There you have it. Smidgens of sympathy or not, the monsters that lurk under our beds will ultimately lunge for the neck’s tender flesh.
Consequently, we mortals on this planet are always tormented, always anxious about the monsters that lurk under our beds and eventually lunge.
B’ys, there’s likely some symbolic stuff involved here that I’m not qualified to remark on.
The eponymous Martha in “Martha Rides the Bus at Three”, suffers anxiety, fears the lurking monsters, fears the boys she sees on the bus — “Perhaps these boys would follow, knock her down in broad daylight, take her purse and her few dollars.”
In “A Person of Chasity and Correct Habits” there’s a monster lurking in Mary Moore’s life, a monster that lunges and leaves Mary floating in the duck pond behind Mr. Walton’s shop.
When innocent bay-girl, Elizabeth, first attends MUN she fears shadowy, knife-toting figures haunting the tunnelled hallways — “Even when it doesn’t happen again and again, you think of it lurking, leaning in under the pipes.”
And in “Home Again With the Fire Out” — “I think the ocean is some great beast, that any moment it will rise and climb the beach for us.”
Last example. At the end of “Deep Blue Sea” the narrator, choking on pills and powder, lies dying, caught between the story’s title and the Devil figure — "...a tall man with an empty vase and a slow smile spreading.”
Listen. I’ve chuff-chuffed down a single track aboard my imperfect train of thought. There’s plenty of other freight in Tracy’s stories.
…in “The Lottery” there’s a pile of rocks suggesting the possibility of stones being thrown.
While Tracy Waddleton may be no Joyce Carol Oates, she just might — just might — show shades of Shirley Jackson.
Thank you for reading…
…and not dumping these scribbles in the garbage. You didn’t, did you?
Harold Walters lives in Dunville, N.L, doing his damnedest to live Happily Ever After. Reach him at email@example.com