‘The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past’ by Claire Vaye Watkins

The Past Perfect, The Past Continuous, The Simple Past by Claire Vaye Watkins, 2010

The magic trick:

Characters with universal desires played across very specific backdrops and situations

As if yesterday’s CVW feature, “Rondine Al Nido,” weren’t devastating enough for one weekend, we bring you another short piece of violent, tragic genius.

Seriously, these stories in her Battleborn collection are just stunningly good.

Today’s story takes us to a brothel/peacock ranch just outside Vegas. If that sounds like a unique setting, yes, you’re right. But the real gift is that the story delivers specific characters worthy of the setting.

This isn’t a story with an interesting setting and an interesting idea populated by types. These are very well drawn, memorably unique characters with universal desires that get played across very specific backdrops and situations.

And that’s quite a trick on Watkins’s part.

The selection:

Manny doesn’t card him. It’s a slow night, better to keep him around that lose the customer. Better for business. You never make money on people leaving you. Jim taught him that.

Most of the girls see no business in the scared-looking teenager and return to the karaoke machine they’d paused when the doorbell rang. But Darla, Army Amy, and Lacy follow him to the bar. Manny fixes them their drinks. They jostle sweetly for a place at the boy’s elbows, but Darla jostles sweetest.

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