by Bruce Holland Rogers, Feb. 28, 2007 - April 19, 2007

Sunday, 05 August 2007 18:00 Douglas Hoffman
“How We Met”
“Not a Daffodil”
“Meeting Her Parents”
“Unpleasant Features of our New Address”
“The Illusionist”
“Without a Plan”

Subscribers to receive three stories a month from ultra-short story writer Bruce Holland Rogers. In this group, Rogers stretches his legs with the 2900-word “Not a Daffodil,” tells a love story, and leaves his readers with a variety of thought-provoking cameos.

Couples at a dinner party swap personal histories in “How We Met,” a tale Rogers calls a love story. The narrator’s spouse ends the exchange on a flat note—sorry, move along, nothing romantic to see here—but the narrator has a different take. Like many of Rogers’s short stories, “How We Met” is more an exploration of storytelling than a conventional love story. What do we share in our personal histories? What do we omit—not only to friends, but to our beloved? “How We Met” conveys a uniquely pragmatic philosophy which, while not romantic, is poignant nonetheless.

“Not a Daffodil” is a shaggy dog story about a procrastinating husband who, with a full day off, can’t manage to do one simple task. He is supposed to take a cutting of his wife’s favorite shrub to the local garden center for identification. There’s nothing surprising about his inevitable failure, nor his wife’s placid acceptance. If there’s much point to this one, I’m missing it.

Brief even by Rogers’s standards, “Meeting Her Parents” is an appealing modern-day fairy tale that ends all too soon. Something as commonplace (yet anxiety-provoking) as meeting a girlfriend’s parents for the first time becomes transformed by a forest, darkness, and a low, sexy growl. The abrupt ending allows for two interpretations: is she playfully stoking her boyfriend’s fears, or leading him to his doom?

The unnamed narrator of “Unpleasant Features of our New Address” provides a list of complaints regarding his current flat. That’s all, just a list; but Rogers has the talent to turn that list into a story told in semaphore. Cats multiply with notable fecundity, cars careen out of control, bloody drivers leave stains on the walkway. The tale’s punch derives from the narrator’s mounting sense of annoyance, as well as his pointed lack of compassion.

“The Illusionist” is part of Rogers’s series based on the Tarot: here, the Eight of Cups provides inspiration. In typical decks, the Eight of Cups shows a traveler in a stark, watery terrain, beneath a watchful moon. The Cups are in the foreground, and the traveler’s back is to the reader, suggesting that he leaves behind something of great worth.

In “The Illusionist,” Jerome turns a childhood interest in magic into a productive career which treats him well, yet leaves him feeling empty. Rogers leaves unstated the reasons for Jerome’s despair, unless the title provides the key. Jerome’s illusions have given him everything he has, but he still seeks “the one real thing.” His fate is sadly inevitable.

Amos has an odd conflict in “Without a Plan”: on the one hand, he wants to let chance guide today’s journey through the city, but on the other hand, he sees the hand of fate in everything. The old folks who slow his progress, are they here by chance, or to promote some other purpose? Are they guardian angels? Rogers doesn’t answer the question, and indeed, the story is more concerned with the question than with the answer. As with the first story in this set, Rogers appears fascinated by the interplay between chance events and final outcomes.