tangerine press

SHORT STORY OF THE MONTH

Short Story of the Month:

The Broken Nazi

by Chris Wilson

‘So Kitten had been trained like a Pavlovian doggie from an early age to equate a hit of crack with a cock ramming down her esophagus; it’s like strawberries and cream to her. But Pigpen’s in new territory, now he’s just a walking residue of a psychotic breakdown – he’s a testament to the powers of crystal meth’s ability to shed the illusion of humanity and leave just a husk in its place and somehow I kind of realised the sweetness of the incongruity I was witnessing in front of my eyes. A breaking down of cultural perceptions and belief systems; here was a white Nazi redneck from Modesto, he could have been Charlton Heston’s grandson, being pinned to the wall by a six-foot-two black male transvestite with fake tits and wearing a spandex leotard, who’s got her thumb up his asshole wriggling it about while she sucks down on his white pride cock and both of his Nazi balls and he’s helpless to do anything but roll his eyes and groan as he comes in spurts and rolls his jaw in dumb zombie circles.’ 

For observers of ‘natural law’, there’s a lesson to learn in everything – if one only cares to see. Every element, every plant, tree, animal and human being – each has an ‘essence’, a centre of gravity from which they can never escape. A fly, for instance, is attracted to shit. Will always be attracted to shit. It’s hardwired – literally, in the DNA. And so the takeaway here is…don’t be like a fly. Emulate instead, the honeybee. Of all creatures, none is more careful to distance themselves from the crap of this world; none more dedicated in seeking out only that which is pure. But here’s the rub – dirt is, well, attractive. Being good can satisfy but being bad is thrilling. The only emotion purer than love, is hate. Those who get in the ring and fight, sweat and bleed for that extra 1%, won’t ever know the bliss of abandonment, of simply throwing in the towel. From a certain perspective, sobriety is an insane lifestyle choice. Something which the characters in Chris Wilson’s short fiction collection, The Glue Ponys, would fully endorse. 

Wilson’s collection is about human flotsam and jetsam. The dedication reads: ‘This is a book about the broken and discarded, the lost and wandering of America, with whom I shared some moments on the way to the abattoir.’ But stories exclusively featuring combinations of the homeless, junkies and prostitutes (and sometimes all three in one), is a curious fetish. What is the author trying to say? Is this fiction as social commentary, are his motley crew mere pawns for humour, or is Wilson just, well – partial to a bit of dirt? This puzzle at the heart of The Glue Ponys – one that is admittedly less about the stories per se than their ‘politics’ – is (rather cleverly) never answered. But here’s my punt: it’s all three. Which if true is, in and of itself, standout. Wilson has chosen to tell stories about young and dumb girls in porn, and old and even dumber men getting stabbed in the arse (literally, not figuratively) – and not place any commentary front & centre. There is no searing tirade against the ruling classes, nor solemn hymn for the Proles. Instead of heavy emoting, mental anguish and moral dilemmas, there is humour. Were any of the above not true, it’s likely that my short story of the month, The Broken Nazi, would open with something other than ‘Kitten was an ugly bitch.’ This story of uhm, an unlikely coming together, works precisely because it’s un-heavy – because it’s light and free. If your inclination is to feel sympathy for Kitten and pals, don’t waste your energy – the outlook of the piece is such that if anyone needs feeling sorry for, it’s ‘us’ – smug in our Barratt boxes, and convinced that there are better things to do than get high, before being sucked off by a transvestite. That’s not to say that political commentary is wholly absent, and neither is it soft-peddled – rather, it’s opaque: ‘…Kitten had been trained like a Pavlovian doggie from an early age…’ For all that this one line says, well – un-pack that Pandora’s box yourself. And that, friends, is how the best fiction rolls.   

I’m a fan of Tangerine Press – another of their publications, the late season by Stephen Hines, was my favourite short story collection of 2017. There’s a special thrill in stumbling across a new voice, and Wilson’s skill in revealing fundamentally broken lives, and not demand that his reader spend the whole-time self-flagellating – well that’s a pretty good trick. But to then give them space to laugh – laugh with and laugh at – and then (and only then) maybe wonder about the ‘before’ and ‘after’ for these ghosts… Well, that’s art.

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Reviewed and recommended by Tamim Sadikali

The Glue Ponys (Tangerine Pressby Chris Wilson was originally released in August 2016. Buy now.