Staff Book Reviewer Spencer Dew is the author of the novel Here Is How It Happens (Ampersand Books, 2013), the short story collection Songs of Insurgency (Vagabond Press, 2008), the chapbook Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres (Another New Calligraphy, 2010), and the critical study Learning for Revolution: The Work of Kathy Acker (San Diego State University Press, 2011). His Web site is spencerdew.com.
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This chapbook is linked stories of coming-of-age in the A-1 mobile home park, stitched together by
themes—voyeurism and burgeoning sexuality, young love and a sweet crush, the scope and mysteriousness of
the world, the nonchalant brutality of boys, the longing for cheap euphoria, the small embarrassments rendered
epic—and by chronology—“On the morning of the day I cut Tater’s nipple off, five days
after the tornado and three days after the 4th of July, Clay woke me with a smack...”
Our narrator and his best friend Tater Tot play out the roach-ends of their childhood, myriad disasters waiting, meteorological and otherwise. The age is at once tender and invulnerable, a time of play capes and real violence. Scrawny kids with skateboards, “...belching manly from our guts for the girls to hear” spy on sleeping neighbors and “smoke cheap brown weed out of an empty soda can in the overgrown lot behind the Food Lion,” hanging out in an abandoned trailer, its freezer of hamburger meat gone foul and writhing with rot and maggots.
There is also a recurrent turn to the heavenly perspective, the image of angels acting as lookouts for the preteens, “catching us when we fell, blinding the eyes of patrolling officers, getting us miraculously high.” The kids are still kids, awkward and slightly still in heaven themselves, existing in a semi-innocent daydream, where some things seem funny but it’s not clear why. A dildo found at the bottom of a pool, for instance. Kicking each other. Drinking fast and in volume, while “suppressing the urge to gag.” That thing that happens with the nipple, its removal.
But, again, the age they’re at: straddling the onset of hardons yet at the far cusp of late infancy. When asked if he’s ever seen a girl naked, for instance, our narrator naturally thinks of
the brightly painted woman I’d seen in National Geographic, and about the summer before, when I accidentally shat myself at the babysitter’s trailer, and hid my shat-filled Underoos inside the light fixture in her bathroom. She found them there, burning behind the bulb, shit smoke blinding her eyes as she dug them out with her fingertips, standing on the sink with her t-shirt over her mouth and nose, gagging. I stood just below her at the base of the sink and, looking up, I could see the dips and crevices of her vagina through the fabric of her bathing suit. Small blonde pubic hairs wound round its outer edge.
But romance is still telling jokes memorized from Laffy Taffy wrappers, even as the pooches of teen pregnancy
swell around them, and parents preach of blood and devils, and the storm clouds swirl in “and a sound comes
screaming down on our heads like Gabriel’s trumpet and the end of everything.”
Official Aaron Teel Web Site
Official Rose Metal Press Web Site