Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks
White Whisker Books
Paperback, 170 pages
Author’s website: www.chrismeeks.com
I’m not an avid fan of short story collections, but I have to say I enjoyed Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks. The stories are versatile, interesting, keen snapshots of the human condition and the inner turmoil of people’s lives.
Meeks begins the collection with a light, somewhat humorous story: “Dracula Slinks into the Night,” about a man who, against his wishes, attends a party dressed as a vampire and while he’s there suffers an unusual accident. The event brings him closer to his wife. The story’s theme, that we must be reminded of our mortality in order to appreciate life, is one the reader will encounter throughout the book.
In another story, “The Farms at 93rd and Broadway,” the author presents us with an old married couple who have become strangers to one another. They don’t understand nor appreciate each other anymore; the freshness of new love is long gone. The story has some of the best dialogue in the collection and possesses a melancholic tone. The reality of marriage after the first few years is seldom a pretty picture and the author presents it as it is.
“The Sun is a Billiard Ball” was one if my favorite stories. Funny yet poignant, the tale is about a man who thinks he has cancer. Meeks has a bittersweet way of interweaving soft wit with serious passages: “As Albert ran his fingers over his–this stranger’s–face, he realized he was already two years older than his father had been when he’d died from cancer. Albert gazed at his own nearly bald head and guessed he had inherited more than just a propensity for a lack of hair. He would likely die the same way his father had. Maybe it was good he had shaved because chemotherapy would make him hairless anyway.” (40) The story is about the fear of death and the insensitivity of the medical system, where human beings become nothing more than insurance numbers.
“A Shoe Falls” is also about the disintegration of love and marriage. It’s a funny tale about a man who wants to leave his wife but doesn’t get around to it. He keeps planning the big moment, when he’ll tell her he’ll leave her, but never works out the courage to do so. Meeks often has cats in his stories and this is one of them. The cat, which belongs to his wife and keeps ‘peeing on anything electronic’, serves to add hilarity to the man’s sad predicament.
There are various recurrent themes in this collection: the chaos that exists around us; the fortune of being alive; the fear of disease, suffering and mortality; the idea that there is no death with dignity; the magnificence of life and how blind we are to it; the disintegration of marriage. However, through the use of surprising twists, there’s often hope in spite of the chaos. Interestingly, men are usually depicted sympathetically while their female spouses are presented under a darker light. Often in the stories, the women are presented as antagonists; they don’t listen, but complain instead. Likewise, cats, which are women’s companions, are perversely intended on making the male protagonists’ lives miserable. The writing is honest and refreshing; the prose has a beautiful simplicity. The characters are your very human, next-door neighbors. In sum, the stories are about real people and the often simple, mundane events that plague their existence. Meeks is a keen observer of people and a fine writer worth checking out.