Chizine, Issue #32

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“The Man Who Eats Angels” by David de Beer
“Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range” by Matthew Sanborn Smith
“Snow for Flowers” by Leslie Claire Walker

Welcome to a review of issue #32 of Chizine.  My name is Phil, and I’ll be your captain today.  If you look out to our left you can see the remnants of the ruthless teddy bear wars, while those seated on the right can view a brutal tale of lives shattered.  If some image or description proves to be too much for you, vomit bags are provided, while in the event of a water landing, any handy bloated corpse can be used as a floatation device…

David de Beer’s “The Man Who Eats Angels” is a story about just that—a young girl awakens one night to find a man (or at least a creature shaped like a man) eating her guardian angel.  This bit of surrealism is almost too strange to be horrific, and in some ways it distracts from what I feel to be the more terrifying story, that of the woman living a life that is as awful and unspeakable as only other humans can make it.  I mean, does it really matter that something is sitting there eating your guardian angels, one after the other like some kind of endless bucket of take-out fried chicken, when all the other serious tangible crap is going on?  So crushed is her spirit that her reaction to the man, essentially wholesale surrender, is depressing and feels more inevitable than anything else.  Furthermore, the conclusion is almost a relief when it comes.

Teddy bears: soft, cuddly, heartwarming, and loyal.  Also hunted, shell-shocked, worn out, and desperate.  In a truly bizarre mix of A Bear Called Paddington meets Band of Brothers, Matthew Sanborn Smith’s “Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range” brings the horrors of war home at the preschool level.  Some will perhaps feel the story is just a war story with teddy bears in all the roles, and that viewpoint has some merit, but it is really Smith’s delicious descriptions that carry the narrative.  When teddy bears go to war, the results are far from pretty.

Leslie Claire Walker’s “Snow for Flowers” has biblical roots.  I’m going to admit right off the bat that I’m not good with biblical stories.  I read the Bible for Humanities class back in college about two decades ago and purged the entire thing from my brain ninety seconds after the final.  “Snow for Flowers” has a woman turned into a pillar of salt and a boy named Jacob, and something about a war that has driven everyone to live underground.  I’m pretty sure that last bit is not from the Bible.  There are also these creatures made from rock, or perhaps they just commune with rocks.  I realize that I’m making a complete hash of my synopsis, but as I continually tried to make the story correlate with the vague biblical images still dancing in my head, I found the overall story clear but the subtext entirely lost to me.  If the author wanted to write a story for a more biblically-oriented audience, then I’m definitely not what she planned, and the fault for my lack of understanding is mine.  However, if these biblical references are just what they seemed to me to be, sort of narrative red herrings, then their inclusion repeatedly distracted me from enjoying the intended story, even on the third reading.  And as I sit here now and think about “Snow for Flowers,” I’m left with only a vague outline of the events it described and the continually nagging question: “What was the significance of the woman turned into salt?”