We can legitimately lament, and perhaps mourn, the transition of the bookstore and the rise of the electronic book. But one of the benefits of e-books, and there is more than one benefit, is the accessibility of short works – short stories, novellas, short novels – that would never have seen the light of day except packaged with similar-length works. I’ve been working now and then on my own novella, which will most likely emerge one day in pixilated form.
Before us are four such short works – two children’s stories, two suspense stories.
Peter Pollock’s A Very Different School is the first of his Professor Alexander stories. The town of Rosefields has constructed a new school. Even if only a small number of students will be attending. The teacher is Professor Alexander, and he has a unique way of teaching – by time machine. In this first story, he takes his students to the very first Easter week, to see Jesus enter Jerusalem on a donkey, the last supper, the betrayal by Judas, the prayer in the garden of Gethsemane and the arrest of Jesus, Peter’s denial, the crucifixion and the resurrection. Three of the children in the story just happened to share the same names of Pollock’s own children – and that’s how the story came to be written.
Pat Hatt’s Tune at High Noon is a very different kind of story – a rhyming story about the town of Rumbling Tumblewood and a host of animals who are the townspeople. It’s a sleepy, happy kind of town, until a band of outlaws (played by cats; Hatt has a cat or two that he often writes poems about) arrives and takes over. Things go from bad to worse, until Goosey Air (who runs the saloon) figures out a way to corral the cat gang and their cohorts. It’s great fun, and it’s mean to be read aloud.
I can see myself reading both of these works to my grandchildren, an engaging way to learn about Easter and a fun way to learn about standing up to bullies.
And now two for adults.
Rearview by Mike Dellosso was originally part of a collection of seven stories by various mystery and suspense writers, and then broken out as a separate novella (or long short story). Dan Blakely is a college professor who arrives at school one morning to find himself accused of assaulting one of his female students. He’s told to clear out his office and leave. As he experiences his life turning upside down, he decides to kill himself, but survives a car crash to find his been given a reprieve of seven hours. So what would you do with your last seven hours? We find out what Blakely does, and Dellosso weaves a story that is reminiscent of the old Twilight Zone television programs.
Mirror Image, a short story by Dellosso and Aaron Reed, begins in a library. A man finds a book, and the picture of the author is the man’s doppelganger. He finds himself tracking the author down, learning what his life is like, and then determining to take the author’s life as his own, even if murder is required. This is another story with twists and turns, as we come to occupy the mind of a man determined on a fateful course of action.
Four short works, two for children and two for adults. And all thoroughly enjoyable.
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