Note: Hector Duarte, Jr. is one of the editors of Flash Fiction Offensive at Out of the Gutter. He along with Rob Pierce, the other editor, have rejected one of my stories and published another. They were right on rejecting the first story, I’m not so sure about publishing the second one.
Hector Duarte, Jr.’s “Desperate Times Call” is divided into two sections, the first being a collection of eight short stories, the second is a novelette broken into four parts, and then there’s “Fish Hook” as a sort of epilogue for the book. The last story tells the tale of a senior in high school whose 10th-grade sister has committed suicide, their father now in a mental hospital, and the boy’s mother barely hanging on. The unnamed narrator is back at school and trying to make it through the day if “everyone would stop talking about my dead sister.” This piece of flash fiction was a great ending to a good collection of short stories.
“Desperate Times Call” is filled with many good stories in the beginning. The collection kicks off with “Of Course She Would”, a teenage girl’s junkie father finally ODs and a detective is becoming too helpful with her. Is the cop helping the young woman out of the goodness of his heart or does he have not-so ulterior motives? Duarte, Jr. immediately follow this with two other tales of desperation that stand out for me, “I-meh Said Two” and “A Father First”. “I-meh Said Two” is the story of two twenty-somethings longing for human connection as they weave through the pitfalls and dangers of internet dating. Told in the second person, “A Father First” is about a man trying to reconnect with his twin daughters when the wife, school and courts are telling him to stay away.
In looking back at the collection there were many stories I enjoyed such as “Accounts Payable”, “Backstage”, “Look What the Earth Got”, and “A Good Moment”. I struggled a bit with the longer stories of “Cabernet” and “Diablo Corrido”. There were character actions that took me out of both stories, but that is a small portion of the collection. “Desperate Times Call” gives us a glimpse at one of the men behind the curtain at Flash Fiction Offensive. Duarte, Jr.’s “Desperate Times Calls” is quite strong with a couple of bumps along the way, but Duarte, Jr.’s is a voice of compassion of those who struggle and is what makes “Desperate Times Call” a worthy read.