It’s no secret I like Angel Luis Colón’s writing. I have reviewed both of his Blacky Jaguar books as well as the first in his Fantine Park series, No Happy Endings. So a collection of Colón’s short stories, Meat City on Fire and Other Assorted Debacles (Down & Out Books), would most likely be something I would enjoy. And enjoy I did.
There’s a cadence to Colón’s writing that I can ease right into away whether a story is set in a trailer park or in the Bronx. Colón gets the reader inside his characters’ heads as we witness how so many bad decisions are made, usually quickly and without thought of consequences. In “They’ll Choke On Your Lies”, Gerald, dressed in a priest’s frock, has recently robbed a liquor store and is picked up by two Mormon-looking strangers who have mistaken Gerald for another priest. Nervous about his situation, Gerald convinces himself with a lot of maybes that this would be a good score for him even though all his instincts tell him to run.
Gerald wrung his hands. Uncomfortable with the fraternity talk. It was both familiar and a little unnerving. The instinct to turn tail and run was there, but there was no place to go. The way the theater was positioned—surrounded by highways and no pedestrian path—made it nearly impossible to leave and elude if there was a chase. No, it was better to stay the course. Maybe he’d find a way to steal the Celica as there were no other cars in the lot. Instead, Gerald occupied himself with thoughts of potential gains from this sudden turn of events. Both Jacob and Henry were well-dressed, healthy, and clean. They didn’t seem to be the rich types, but they were also living it up in an abandoned movie theater and did not seem to be in need of a bath or medical attention. All signs pointed to a payoff. Something that would make the charade worth his while.
In Angel Luis Colón’s dialogues, there are no words misspoken, only the true utterances of his characters and never any uncomfortable and extended conversation. In a phone call between Evie and Kathy in “Saltimbocca”, a drunk Kathy calls Evie “love” and Evie, pissed at Kathy, is quite short with her. In lesser hands, everything would have been overexplained, but Colón writes how people actually talk.
My phone rings only steps away from my front door.
“Hello?” I don’t bother to check who it is. I’m finally craving interaction.
“Evie, love, are you sick? You sound dreadful.” Kathy’s voice is slurred, “I’m so so sorry. Lost track of time.”
“Oh, that’s fine,” I lie. Her state is a little annoying. Clearly her morning was fun or she wouldn’t be in the drink.
“Look,” she clears her throat, “I need a little help. Are you home?”
“I’m actually at my front door now.”
“Ah, great. I’m only a few stops off. Eighty-Sixth and Madison, right?”
There is a certain enjoyment in reading a short story collection rather than an anthology.* Even though Colón’s stories wander from a county on fire to two men digging up a treasure in a basement, there is a consistent voice that allows the reader to easily move from a story about bestiality to one about an LSD trip. Colón’s collection has a few previously published short stories from Thuglit, All Due Respect, Spinetingler, Flash Fiction Offensive and other places, but there are plenty, if not more, unpublished stories. If you find revenge, darkness, and desperation attractive then Angel Luis Colon’s Meat City on Fire and Other Assorted Debacles is for you.
* Yes, I know anthologies to provide a purpose, but I find the lurching around of voices difficult to parse