Tuesday, June 24, 2008

NOÖ Journal/Aaron Hellem/Elaine Drennon Little/Short Story Review

Nominating Editor: Mike Young

NOÖ Journal
began in 2005. We combine essays, short fiction, poetry, and art. Often we feature contributors from many different 'scenes.' This overlapping of communities is one aspect of NOÖ I'm very proud of. Another thing I'm proud of is how our distribution works. We're an online journal, but we also publish a free print edition and distribute it at coffeeshops and bookstores all across the country with the help of our generous friends and supporters. Through NOÖ, we hope, people can stumble upon the vibrant and exciting independent literary scene taking place outside the university and often on the internet, through e-zines, blogs, and terrific sites such as this one.

I'm nominating "Far From the Eyes of the Sun" by Aaron Hellem (from issue [six]) because I really like it, and also because it's different than much of what we publish. Our stories are usually short, clever, sharp punchers of surprising images and strokes of phrase, sad and hilarious in blistering tandem. But since we're on the subject of diversity, I'd like to showcase Aaron's longer story, which we nominated for a Pushcart in 2007, because it shows a "darker" side that excites me just as much. I like the idea of a literary exhibition that doesn't leave you in one definite emotional state. I like things like cake for breakfast. Tennis in the rain. Wolves in the parade.

To finish, another definition of diversity: you can pronounce NOÖ as new or no oh or nooo! Anything you want. It's a fine thing if you've allowed us to invade your tongue and your head. We promise to be exciting guests.

Nominated Short Story: "Far From the Eyes of the Sun" - Aaron Hellem

Review: by Elaine Drennon Little

THE DOG WAS IN THE OVEN WITH ITS FUR STILL ON. It was stinking to all high heaven, and all the way back down to hell.

That got my attention, though definitely on the road to a place I didn’t want to go. Then I saw the place: a kitchen table, which in another town had been a church pew. Like the previous phrase, another strange posturing of heaven and hell at once, erring on the side of hell. And the nightmare just gets worse.

Three men are trapped in a cabin far away from the rest of civilization. The weather is blizzard-like and they are cooking a dog to keep from starving. Drinking two parts whiskey and one part contaminated water, each man is living in his own personal hell, awaiting what seems an inevitable death. Big Joe seems to be at the top of the three-man food chain. He is too big for either to kill without a bullet. Joe laments the loss of his cattle, remembering their mass death and a black wave of rippling claws and bloody beaks that descended afterward. He seems to be the only one of the trio who can still think outside their current surroundings, remembering colors of trees and lobster boats, pictures from a better life. He reminisces about various sexual activities of the past and contemplates the possibility of one more, here in the confines of a doomed and freezing hell.

Len is the least explained character. He seems to have given up hope and is simply waiting, seeing a parallel between their waiting for the food to cook while waiting for their lives to end. He even wonders if they are dead already. He was not religious, but thought it must be a purgatory: the house, the dog, the wolves.

Mince’s hell seems a few circles more horrifying than the others. The lowest in pecking order, he has already been made to sleep outside and has heard the other two talking of his demise after the dog meat is gone. Big Joe talks of sex while petting Mince, somewhat like one would pet a child. Mince’s fear seems the purest: His predators are all and everywhere.

This story attacks the senses and gives the reader a hands-on feeling of impending doom. The sight and smell of the baking dog, the taste of tainted water, the feel of freezing wind and marauding hands are all intensified as the sounds of the wolves outside draw closer.

They'll wait us out, Big Joe said. They can last three days. Three whole days.

The story’s conclusion is anything but— the three men continue to wait as the nightmare never ends.

Reviewer's Bio:

Elaine Drennon Little’s work has been published in edifice wrecked, Salome, Rumble, deadmule, and other ezines. A wife/mother of two and a high school music/drama teacher, she is also enrolled in the MFA program at Spalding University. Elaine can be reached at elsong@bellsouth.

Thanks for visiting Five Star Literary Stories and reading about this short story.

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