Months and Seasons is the follow-up story collection to Christopher Meeks's award-winning The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea. With a combination of main characters from young to old and with drama and humor, the tales pursue such people as a supermodel who awakens after open-heart surgery, a famous playwright who faces a firestorm consuming the landscape, a reluctant man who attends a Halloween party as Dracula, and a New Yorker who thinks she's a chicken. (Sarah Palin gives the book two winks up.)
Christopher gives an overview of the book:
Merrill stood on top of the white roof of funny the little red car. The car could have been a Mini Cooper with a lot of tall clowns in it, but rather it was another brand of vehicle, empty, floating, moving and sinking in a river edged by trees and steep banks. The movement made her dizzy. She froze at the sound of a waterfall. Oh-oh. If she didn't drown, she'd fall to her death. Life was over at thirty-six.
Shattering glass startled her, and she felt herself lurch up, heart beating quickly. She sat in a bed. Her sister Stassi, in a yellow protective gown, stood nearby, grimacing. "Whoops," she said. "I'll clean it up, I promise. It was a gift I bought for you. Hey, you're awake!"
Water lay amid a broken crystal pitcher on the linoleum floor.
"Gift?" said Merrill, but what came out was a grunt. Merrill noticed to her left the ventilator tube emerging from her mouth that led to a machine with pumping noises. It forced her to breathe, and Merrill hated that sensation. She wanted to breathe by herself, damn it. A clear IV line shot into the crook of her left arm, and wires emerged from under her gown. She was the bionic woman, meat at the end of medical methodology. Instantly she wanted to be back at the waterfalls. There at least she was healthy.
"Dan," she tried to say, but the tube made it sound like another grunt.
"What?" said Stassi moving closer. "You can't really talk with that in your throat." Stassi wore latex gloves. "Should I get a nurse?"
Merrill shook her head and repeated "Dan."
"I'm sorry, I can't understand," Stassi said. "But you're okay! Isn't that great? You made it through the operation."
During the summer, when she couldn't get pregnant and Dan seemed angrier all the time, Merrill had had problems breathing. At first she'd thought it was her asthma or maybe even panic attacks, but a battery of tests gave her the news she had obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Trying to overcome the obstructive component, the heart had become overmuscled and stiff, reducing its output and putting backup pressure on her lungs. Her lungs no longer fully oxygenated her blood, so she was very short of breath.
"It's congenital," she'd told her sister one day at Burger King. A clear breathing line had led from Merrill's nose to a portable oxygen tank on wheels at her side. "It's funny-nothing I did-just in the genes."
"Funny?" said Stassi.
"Not funny as in ha-ha," Merrill had said, taking off the nose clip to eat an onion ring right. "Funny as in what timing-a perfect ending to an absurd life."
"It's not an ending. Don't talk that way."
"I can continue breathing one-hundred-percent oxygen until I slowly succumb to suffocation, or I can have open-heart surgery at Mayo and die on the table." The Mayo Clinic was only seventy miles south in Rochester, Minnesota. "They want to stop my heart, cut it open, and slice some inner muscle away in the way we clean out a pumpkin at Halloween."
"What do you mean it's in the genes?" asked Stassi.
"It means you might have it, too."
"Get yourself an echocardiogram. It's an easy test. They rub something like KY Jelly on your chest, but instead of having your husband play your hooters like bicycle horns, they skate a device the size of a stapler over you to see your heart."
"They look at your chambers and valves in motion."
"Yeah. Like you had for your last baby."
"Might my babies have this disease, too?"
"Shit." Stassi seemed to ponder that over a few bites of Whopper, then said, "You're going for the surgery, I hope."
"I don't know."
"You're not going to die," said Stassi as a statement.
Merrill had accepted her pronouncement then as well as now. Clearly the surgery had worked. All had gone as planned. Her heart was repaired, sewn back up, restarted, and functioning again. What a strange world this was.
"You're okay," Stassi now said.
Merrill let herself drop back into the bed, and it hurt like falling onto a frozen lake. She closed her eyes.
* * *
(the story continues in the book; read reviews of the book on Christopher Meeks's page at http://www.redroom.com/author/christopher-meeks)
Christopher Meeks writes short fiction and novels. His book of short stories, The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea earned great reviews including the Los Angeles Times ("poignant and wise") and a blurb in Entertainment Weekly that said, "A...
For those readers fortunate enough to have read Christopher Meeks’ first short story collection - THE MIDDLE-AGED MAN AND THE SEA - and discovered the idiosyncrasies of Meeks’ writing style and content,...