Wrong Guy, Wrong Place, Wrong Time: New Stories from Elizabeth and Mary and Elle
by Jerome Spencer
This is how I fell in love; sober with a walking drunk. Neither of us had a parent to call and tell. I guess that was what we had in common.
-Elizabeth Ellen, “Ted the Golfer”
While the title itself insists on fiction, all three of these short stories feel very real, very personal and very authentic. Featuring three of the most exciting names in contemporary fiction, “Elizabeth and Mary and Elle” promises three compelling shorts and adequately delivers. All three of these writers contribute riveting stories about love and the unenviable situations it puts them in. Each story is an honest portrayal of the most primal human instincts and are woven together by the common thread of wrong guy, wrong place, wrong time; although, that is completely up for interpretation. Maybe everyone is exactly where they’re supposed to be.
Elizabeth Ellen’s contribution, “Ted the Golfer,” is a classic boy meets girl tale except said girl is currently living with an older Republican titular character and said boy is a classic bad boy if that bad boy is a genuine trainwreck. It’s a romance that unfolds quickly and intertwines with the narrator’s obsession with Kurt Cobain and his recent suicide. The romance escalates quickly, fueled by a sudden and unexplainable desire, a manipulative acid trip and culminating in attempting to cross the country in a used Dodge van. Now, I’ve obsessed over Elizabeth Ellen enough to know that “Ted the Golfer” is at least mostly based on reality, but that doesn’t make the story any less relatable or universal. Whether you’re the trainwreck or the romantic, anyone who’s ever been doomed in love can find themselves in these words. “Ted the Golfer” is accessible for all of the wrong reasons and painfully empathetic, but that’s exactly what we’ve come to expect from Ellen and precisely what makes her such an imperative writer. And that’s just the first story.
Mary Miller’s “A Thing of the Past” maintains the book’s momentum with a gripping, downright stressful story of a young woman who drives to a small town a dilipatated, downtrodden house to stay with a dilipatated, downtrodden man. This story is all-too-familiar; the story of a girl falling for the run-of-the-mill guy in a band only to find that, outside of the bar and in the daylight, he’s just a troubled man that pays for things with his laundry quarters and doesn’t clean his bathroom. While “A Thing of the Past” takes a (sort of) dark turn, it’s also insightful, funny and all too relevant. Like the first story, the reader is either one or the other characters in this tale and it almost hurts to realize it. Miller says a lot in these 26 pages, though, exploring a darker side of modern dating and the dangers of wanting love so badly that you give people credit where it’s clearly not due. Miller’s prose is masterful and her sentences are rapid-fire, producing a kind of dark-humor and unnerving astuteness that will keep you glued to the page and ready for the next.
The next being a new masterpiece from Elle Nash, “A Deep Well.” Since reading last year’s incredible “Animals Eat Each Other” I’ve been salivating for anything new from Nash and this short does not disappoint. An incredible powderkeg of emotion and suspense about a little apartment complex and the kind of neighbors that come and go, Nash’s narrator is like a character from an edgy YA novel; all grown-up and pregnant with the lovechild of some misguided father figure. This one makes me the most uneasy and fearful, eliciting genuine concern for it’s narrator and her fucked up little kitten. At only 18-pages, it all happens too fast and leaves the reader feeling helpless, unable to stop the events as they unfold and gritting one’s teeth as the foreshadowing captures that gut-feeling all to well. I’m already waiting for the next work from Nash with baited breath.
“Elizabeth and Mary and Elle” is a quick read, yet it showcases the full gamut of emotion and the need for love in all of us without sugarcoating all of the bad decisions along the way. All three of these writers say so much with so little and create genuine and intense connections that are hard to shake once you’ve reached the last page.