May is "Short Story Month."
Bringing out characters into full colour beings in a short story is a challenge. The lack of space (word count) and the narrower focus of a tale make it problematic at best to have a flushed out cast of more than a duet.
When I read the first lines of Jonathan Harper's "The Bloated Woman" I had to lean back away from my iPad and pause. This is the third story in THE TOUCH OF THE SEA, and again the theme is treated in another new fashion. Describing the washed-up body of a woman, and the narrator's discovery of her corpse, the story launches from this macabre start into a twisting (and sometimes twisted) glimpse into the psyche of this fishing town.
What Harper does so well in this story could be called tangling. The lives of these characters are so knotted in each other that you find yourself poised on the edge of worry and fear - finding a dead body, the decline of a once beloved professor, strange sea-side traditions, secrets shared - how will it end? There's more than a duet here - and Harper's briefest strokes somehow evoke incredible amounts of information and depth to each character.
Dark and atmospheric, the sea here is the constant background noise as lives fray, collapse, and decay.