The Town Drunk, February-March 2007

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“Haunting Clues” by Maria Schneider
“The Color of Time” by Monte Davis begins with an anonymous second person narrator telling the reader about the many cell phone conversations that float around the world and pass through people at every moment.  Several examples are offered, including one calling, “Carl, come home! That alien’s back! He’s in our backyard right now, playing with the dog.”  The reader seemingly presses the narrator to learn more about this, and “we” listen into this conversation, which culminates with the husband, Carl, returning home to his wife to help her deal with the unusual situation.  After the phone conversation ends, the narrator quickly realizes that (s)he possesses the power to bend the story however (s)he desires.  “We” go to the house of Carl and Robyn and watch as the alien explains its intentions. 

“The Color of Time” did not work for me.  I found the informal, chatty tone of the narrator irritating, and the gimmick—being spoken to and being included in the action—failed to draw me into the story.  Consequently, the twist at the ending had no effect; it felt like the punch line of a bad joke.  The story itself was not original enough to carry through these stylistic issues.

While this story might work for some people, I’m definitely not one of them. 

I was more impressed by Maria Schneider’s “Haunting Clues.”  The narrator, Max Killian, is a private detective losing business to the elves running a similar agency across the street.  His most recent client, Mr. Delan, wants to get rid of the troublesome ghosts haunting his property, specifically the new extension of two limestone turrets.  Delan’s stubborn refusal to share any details about the limestone’s origins pushes Max to fill in the gaps.  The conclusion is a simple, fitting one, rounding off a reasonably enjoyable story.

However, I did experience some problems with the author’s choice of style.  Occasionally, the narration sounded hackneyed, as if Schneider was trying too hard to create the “typical” private detective voice, and this made it difficult for me to connect with Max.  The “elves across the street” and the reason they existed openly in society felt a little gimmicky, but were unimportant enough to be forgivable. 

Unlike the previous story’s plot, this one’s stood despite the flaws in its telling; I wanted to know the conclusion to the case and was not disappointed by it.