Carmel Magazine

CM Summer 2014_Final

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Close is Fine by Eliot Treichel I n Eliot Treichel's book of shor t stories "Close is Fine," characters are revealed in the midst of chaotic parenting, mar- riages filled with lies and deception, and aimless violence. "She likes to watch cartoons…" is the extent of the instructions that arrive with Michelle, a little girl dropped off at her father's dilapidated house. "It's your turn for a while," the note concludes. Michelle's father, recently carted off to jail for a failed drug test, has two housemates, and it is these two young men who end up caring for the girl, the same two who, in the story's opening scene, get their jollies by destroying breakables in an abandoned barn. "…[We] broke stuff. We sought out every scrap of glass just so we could hear it shatter." In the next story, 9-year-old Mary attempts to save some baby mice from the mouth of her dog. She hides the two surviving babies in the barn, but her father discovers her stash. He's stern when explaining to Mary that mice in a barn multiply, that the whole reason they have cats is to keep mice out. Softening when he sees his girl's sadness, he says, "Besides, a mouse needs its mother. Someone to keep it warm, to nurse it, to teach it how to be a mouse." He says, "We're not that." The line packs a wallop. Motherless herself, Mary has no one to teach her how to be a girl. The ending of this story will break your heart. But Treichel also makes us laugh. In "Paper- maker Pride," an inferior high school soccer team is ignored, invisible. In a school that "reeked of athleticism…[We] got no pep ral- lies, no cheerleaders, no band." Those were reserved for football. The only player capable of making a goal is the new foreign exchange student, Gus, whom the narrator refers to as "our Swedish surprise." "Gus had scored Kemper's first goal in almost a year, and though we were already down five points when it happened, we nearly got a delay of game for how long we celebrated. 'We're totally going to get you laid tonight,' Raymaker said. We totally had no way of doing that." Lines like these make you adore these characters. Abandonment, betrayal, small and large scale losses fill these pages—infidelity and marriages on their way out. A woman whose husband is going off to cheat on her gets up early to make him a thermos of hot chocolate for the drive. A different philan- dering husband sleeps with the wife of a guy serving in Iraq. The philanderer's friend, not privy to the affair, has used the word treason for men who would have sex with the wife of a sol- dier. Before the story is over, the philanderer has brought upon himself bodily harm, not unlike the kind you might get from a tour in Iraq. All the men in "Close is Fine" are deficient, but poignantly so. They're bumbling, but earnest; flawed, but so true. The particular light Treichel shines on human failing and on his characters' inadequacies elevates their yearning and their 108 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S U M M E R / F A L L 2 0 1 4 IN REVIEW B Y M E L A N I E B I S H O P Looking For a Balancing Point, Holding Friends Near and Opening Up to Options Eliot Treichel explores the complicated interior landscapes of American men in his collection of short stories.

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