Review of Where Alligators Sleep by Sheldon Compton

alligator Compton_Back

 

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Foxhead Books (August 22, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1940876087
  • ISBN-13: 978-1940876085
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.4 inches

 

On a couple downtown subway rides I read Where Alligators Sleep. I first got locked into the short story “Case Study” about a railway foreman who has a tamping iron go through his eye and out the top of his head. When the injured man sneezes at the doctor’s office, a teacup full of his brains hit the floor. The foreman survives his injuries and uses the tamping iron as a weapon, when killing a man with it while working for the circus. These are the kinds of things that Sheldon Lee Compton is fixated on, the dark circle of one’s life and the ramifications of cruel and random dread. The narrator in “Case Study” is a man who says, “It’s fear that makes us the most human. I’d trade a thousand peaceful nights for one second of fear.”

Where Alligators Sleep concentrates on hard lives. Hard lives written well. I’ve read a lot of flash fiction in the last few years and most of it hovers on the fridges of the bizarre, the other worldly, the near-supernatural. Where Alligators Sleep is different. Sheldon Lee Compton is mostly a realist, writing about reality and all of its ugly consequence.

Stories here strike a match in a dark room. Even when the narrator is a famous gunman/folk hero, as in “Billy the Kid After the Photo Shoot” where Billy explains, as only a gunman can, what true love is and why you’d kill a person for telling you to stop grinning, or, why you wouldn’t kill them. In “Textbook” a girl suffers through biology class, her mind on a bigger problem of her own, than a mouse about to get eaten by a boa constrictor.

Standout story, “The Shiniest Shoes In The Graveyard” is about a man attending his father’s funeral and recalling how proud his dad would be to know that the grave isn’t being dug by the family with their own shovels in hand, but by a man with a backhoe.
Another standout, “Random Things at the Bottom and the Beginning of My Cliche” is a trip through the Polaroid snapshots of a youth spent growing up in the south. The story eats cliches for lunch. It crushes nostalgia in its bloody jaws. It’s writing done with a wrecking ball.
Check this book out if you like your beauty to be laced with darkness. The evening news if the newscasters were fucked up poets. The humanity is deep in these pages and the read moves along like a downtown subway, through much underground darkness, that explodes up into the unexpected light of 125th street. A surprise.
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