Howling at the Moon
by Steven Mayfield
Mount Parnassus Press

"Hours later he was still awake, clinging tightly to her; so tightly it was as if she were a reliquary in which he kept all the things he had ever thought important or held dear."

These nine short stories by Mayfield elicit many emotions. Mayfield is an artist who can illustrate love between different sets of married couples, devotion between parents and children, friends, caregivers, and teachers, self-loathing turned to exploitation and sadism, and the whimsy of "what-if" demonstrated by a fictitious, Lindbergh-like (except in its execution) flight in 1927.

The common themes of the tales of Howling at the Moon seem to be human vulnerability and, ironically, the power that that vulnerability can unleash. We are at the mercy of our dreams, our commitments, our geography, our socio-economic status, our health, our weaknesses, and most of all, our needs for relationships to one another. Mayfield shines especially in the stories about marriage. After he tells a tale that truly is a poem to marital devotion, experienced mostly through the daily routine of an elderly couple who are coping with the after-effects of the wife's severely disabling cerebral "accidents," he begins another observing and documenting one couple's time of marital ambiguity to the extent that the reader doesn't know how each of the pair might react next.

There is little room for passive entertainment. Mayfield demands of his readers that they pay attention and identify with the situations. Nearly every line shakes the reader in some way; sometimes leaving the reader wanting an escape, and sometimes an explanation before its time. Each story differs significantly from the others not only in its setting, but in the expectations that the author sets up and then changes, lest the reader assume too much.

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