Short Story Month: “Timothy” – Colin Greenland.

Interfictions_2
Interfictions has a strange feel, for me.  The best way I can describe my reaction to this book of short stories, thus far, is that I see it like a marching band.  The best high school marching band – award winning, really talented.  If you like that sort of thing, this collection is top notch.  If you don’t, this collection leaves you scratching your head, wondering what the big deal is, thinking that all the hoopla must be generated by relatives of people in the band.  I think I fall somewhere in the middle – some of the pieces have felt like the author was trying to hard to redefine tuba playing, if I may continue my poorly structured metaphor.  As in, dude, settle down a little bit – it’s just a tuba.  Just play the damn thing well and leave it at that.  Other pieces, on the other hand, are really good, and Colin Greenland’s "Timothy" is one of the ones that has stuck with me. 

Before I lose you, here’s a short description of interstitial fiction, from the blog:

Our two cents: "Interstitial" was never really meant to be a label
as such — and certainly not a marketing label. Rather, it’s a
deliberately vague adjective that acknowledges the frustrating
in-betweenness of certain works of art that are therefore difficult to
explain (and, thus, sell). The Interstitial Arts Foundation — still a
very young group — seeks to find ways of supporting and nurturing
those who create such works.

The introduction also describes these pieces as in-between different genres, ideas – not at a crossroads between the two, but simply in the space between.  Which, again, can be either aha! or hooey, depending on where you stand, or even which of these stories hits the bullseye for you as a reader.

Greenland’s story, though – I don’t know, it borders on hokum in idea but the execution, it just works really well.  A woman stands on her doorstep in the late evening, calling home their male black cat, Timothy.  Her husband is away at work, and even if he was home, he might as well be at work for all the companionship he gives her.  So, she’s calling the cat, and out from the darkness strolls a man in a black outfit – like a burglar – and

Leanne is startled.  There is someone coming in the gate, someone she doesn’t know.

She shades her eyes with her hand, trying to see his face.  "Yes?" she says.  "Can I help you?"  Her voice is high with tension.

"You called me," says the man.  His voice is quiet too, self-assured.  "I’m Timothy," he says.

Leanne laughs, flustered.  "Timothy’s our cat!" she says.

"That’s right," says the man again.  "I’m Timothy."  He lifts his arms out to the side.  "I was a cat, until last night.  This morning I woke up like this."

Where the story goes from here is one part absurd, two parts chilling, and a whole lot of provocative.  Is this really the cat?  If I told you that the answer is possibly both yes and no, and that the question is likely more important than any answer, would that make you more or less likely to read it?  In my case, more, and I enjoyed it.  A lot of this collection is like that, and if my lousy marching band metaphor turned you off, then I’ve not succeeded; if something off the beaten path of "short fiction" is what you’re up for, you would do well to snap up a copy.

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