Wishes, Sins and the Wissahickon Creek by P. J. Devlin is a collection of ten short stories. Some have been published before, one is to be published in 2017. This gives the reader an insight into the mind of a developing writer. If I had to develop a linear scale that on the low end would be marked “tame and nostalgic” to the high end marked “amazing and surprising,” these stories could be placed on that line in their order of presentation. For me, the writer who wrote the first story is a different writer from the one of the last story, the one that will appear in 2017. But they are all good. Following are my takeaways on each story.
I Wish It Every Day Julia and Mary were life-long friends but hadn’t seen each other in a long time. Mary was surprised late in life to again meet Julia. She had always known Julia to be self-centered but that hadn’t stood in the way of their friendship when they were young. It took the appearance of Connie, a new “mutual” friend to initiate the mature development of Mary. Julia never got it.
Piece Man The title of this story is brilliant. I could not help but think of the homonym of the first word in the title. Would the story make equal sense? I thought so.
Original Sins This is a highly emotional story of the break-up of a family due to closely held secrets. A lot of secrets. Look at the title and think of the Catholic church. Frank loved his mother. His mother wanted Frank to become a priest. So Frank loved the church, Frank loved the teachings of Father Smith and Father Smith loved Frank. Way too much. And that secret is the tamest one to be revealed in this story. Read to find out the story of Frank’s dad, his mother, and his sister. Is there any hope for Frank as he tries to go home again?
The Witch Sometimes when people have nowhere to turn in dealing with a life-threatening emergency they will try any measure, even calling upon a witch. And when (surprise) magic works, there is a debt to be repaid. Betsy James is working on it.
Roll On Some songs once heard will just never leave you. You might feel tempted to sing along but you don’t because you feel silly doing so, especially in public. Althea learns to get over her shyness. Just sing it.
The Decline and Fall Helen is forty-two years old and still living with her mom. But not for too much longer. Mom sold the house and told Helen she was on her own. Where could Helen go? She finally found a job as a volunteer to serve meals to elderly shut-ins. There was no pay, but when Helen met Gloria she saw an opportunity. Gloria was eighty-eight and wouldn’t be around much longer. She had a house, a nice car she didn’t drive, and a lot of jewelry she didn’t pay attention to. If she became Gloria’s BFF, the future looked good. And near.
Withered Hope Joe was in a bad car wreck and was lucky the stranger appeared to help him. He couldn’t have made it home without help, possibly he couldn’t have stopped the bleeding. The stranger didn’t like to talk much but assured Joe that he did not want any form of repayment. He had felt the call of someone needing help. Sometimes help might even require a form of replacement therapy.
Muscle Town Evan had always had trouble fitting in. Even with his parents. In a memorable line on impressions of Evan “His parents, however, despaired of the preppy conservative fellow who entered the world through their flower-child loins. Peace, love, and rock and roll was their motto. Evan was a Republican.” (loc 1969-1971). Essentially, Evan was a nerd. When Jimmy Boyd joined Evan’s firm Evan was extremely jealous. Jimmy Boyd wasn’t slick or well educated, he seemed one level above a street thug. But he was popular. Who will win in this contest for company leadership? The answer is a surprise.
Pogo’s Bridge Pogo was a dwarf. Brother Willie always took care him, included him in activities and protected him from the scorn of others. In 1979 Pogo, Willie and friend George played a game. They dared to cross a bridge that had frequent trains. The idea was to get across in between train appearances. Willie lost. In 2016 Pogo would revisit the bridge. What was the result of that visit? Read the story.
The Lantern Willow used to be afraid of monsters until she was “introduced.” And now she would introduce the (unnamed) protagonist of this story.
This is a very good collection of short stories to fill work day time-outs. Maybe I have read stories from her before and not known it. I don’t pay a lot of attention to pseudonyms that authors use and PJ Devlin seems to use a few. I will look for more of her work after figuring out where to look for it.