In “Ghosts of Venice” we are privy to the inner thoughts of Gil, a man living in Venice Beach. He starts his day trying to mend his relationship with his girlfriend after fighting the night before. Gil has two powerful forces acting within him: his analytical/logical thought system, and his irrational impulses. Gil tries to understand the dynamics of what makes himself and others happy, while ironically causing his own pain. The story asks these fundamental questions: Who are we? Do we choose our identities or are they chosen for us? And, do we get to choose what we want?
“Clean Kitchen” addresses the issues of elder abuse and the devastating effects dementia has on relationships.
“The Abscondment” explores the seductiveness of saving a community over tending to the needs of a child — is one more important than the other? Can selflessness, anti-materialism, and community work justify child neglect?
This is a story about a troubled man’s relationship with authority. In psychoanalysis, Freud’s concept of “transference” has to do with a process where the analyst becomes the object of all the patient’s emotional energy and neediness. But does it happen only in a psychoanalytic context?
One inescapable attribute of the human condition is that events do not always proceed as people expect, intend, or wish. Another characteristic of the human condition is that humans rarely, if ever, find an optimal solution to any problem or situation. Nevertheless, people manage, muddle through, and find a path that works for them. “Phone Tag” addresses those and other aspects of what it means to be human. The characters in “Phone Tag” see, as people in the real world see every day, that small, even minute, perturbations in external conditions and circumstances can lead to enormous differences in results.
“Flight of Fancy” explores themes of adolescent attraction, personal freedom, disappointment, and misunderstanding. There is a strong focus on the ego as part of the human experience and the way it disrupts relationships. The protagonist is guided via his perception of supposed “signals” of attraction and acts according to what he believes is expected of him. There is rarely a display of his honest feelings; rather, he often interprets the behavior of his female companion in terms of what the other boys at the school yard have told him. There is a mode of behavior, a template, which he believes dictates female displays of attraction. That mode is of course incorrect, but the protagonist is too young and inexperienced to escape that mentality. This exploration of the protagonist’s expectations is relevant today because it speaks to the very human difficulty of establishing stable relationships early into one’s life. Due to simple inexperience, a potential relationship can be abandoned or ruined based on perception and a lack of open communication.
‘Caul’ is a short story about the passage of time and how memory is what ties us to our existence. In this short story, the narrator observes and understands what was taking place in his family and the lives of his neighbours; through this understanding, he empathises with their experiences. No matter how much time passes, memory is still relevant and is part of identity — even if the physical environment has changed, the history that underpins a place is still relevant.
The story “Movier & Stillier” looks at how, as adults, we accept the use of misleading language as normative and how, when our perceptions are challenged, indeed, even when our perceptions are bested, we revert to what we know. It also bespeaks the use of language for control: in the story, a young girl decides to use more honest language, and is teased for it, thereby causing her to abandon her principled stance on word use. In short, this is a story about human habit, and how words are used to enforce that habit.
“The Complicated Life of a Fictional Therapist” uses satirical humor and quirky point of view to delve into how the people we consider the most “put-together” are honestly struggling with average problems like caring and motivation.
Mistakes or poor treatment in romantic relationships create tension and leave the individuals involved with a choice — to forgive or not to forgive? If the goal is to stay together, forgiveness is a huge part of moving on. But is the partner more likely to make the same mistakes or behave in the same inappropriate ways if forgiveness is granted? Holding the partner accountable might encourage changed behavior, but what if that doesn’t work? How do you know when the healthy choice is to forgive or to let go?