They were in the living room when I came downstairs. Even I have to admit we’ve got a pretty fantastic living room, which is centered around these two absolutely amazing Chippendale sofas facing each other. I mean, my dad restores furniture for a living, and he’d done nothing but the best job on those sofas. In particular, the leather on them was like butter, which on the one hand feels especially soft but on the other hand means you sort of have to watch yourself when you sit on them, or else you’ll just like slide right off them. But anyway, my mom and dad were sitting on the one sofa and I sat down on the other one. In between the two sofas is this coffee table, which my dad always calls contemporary to the sofas--which means it was made at the same time they were, but he’s not sure who made it--and like right on top of the coffee table was a pair of underwear, and the fly was facing up, and like right on the fly were these stains. The underwear was mine, the stains were mine, too, and if I mention that I was fourteen then I don’t think I have to say anything else.
“Have a seat, Boo,” my dad said, even though I was already sitting down.
from “Making Book” by Dale Peck
If I tell you that stained underwear is the least of Book “Boo” Davis’ worries in Dale Peck’s story in the Watchlist anthology, and if I tell you there is a VCR and a tape of Boo’s best friend Ace Ferucci making out with a “stacked brunette” in the sand dunes at the local beach (filmed by Boo himself from his hiding place in the bushes), and if I mention there are instances of ice-cube-sweating glasses placed on antique coffee tables (without coasters placed beneath them--the horror!), and if I say there are bridge games and drinking and general adult misbehavior, and if I tell you Boo’s parents also have a VCR tape (a sex tape--of themselves) and it’s called Making Book and they actually plug it into the VCR and press Play while Boo is sitting right there with them (the horror, the double, triple horror!), and if I further mention there are unbidden erections in shorts (in plain view of your mother) and that even this is not the most gut-flustered moment of the story....well, then, you’ll really have no choice but to surrender to “Making Book,” won’t you? Peck (author of Visions and Revisions) has done something outstanding here: he’s created a world that doesn’t feel created. It smells like Teen Spirit and rubs like summer sand caught in your crotch and sounds like every Mariah Carey ballad that ever made you weep in the privacy of your bedroom and it is glossed and slicked with a nostalgia you may or may not feel (but comes with a sticker that reads “100% Genuine--Guaranteed or Your Money Back”) and it is simply one of the best damn stories I’ve read in like forever.
Watchlist: 32 Short Stories by Persons of Interest, edited by Bryan Hurt, will be published by O/R Books on May 21. The “persons of interest” contributing short stories to the anthology include Etgar Keret, Robert Coover, Aimee Bender, Jim Shepard, Alissa Nutting, Charles Yu, Cory Doctorow, David Abrams, Randa Jarrar, Katherine Karlin, Miracle Jones, Mark Irwin, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Dale Peck, Bonnie Nadzam, Lucy Corin, Chika Unigwe, Paul Di Filippo, Lincoln Michel, Dana Johnson, Mark Chiusano, Juan Pablo Villalobos, Chanelle Benz, Sean Bernard, Kelly Luce, Zhang Ran, Miles Klee, Carmen Maria Machado, Steven Hayward, Deji Bryce Olukotun, Alexis Landau and Bryan Hurt.