Adam Matson has published an interesting collection of short stories in Sometimes Things Go Horribly Wrong. He majored in cinema and photography at Ithaca College with a concentration in screenwriting and says he has written around a dozen feature-length screenplays.
The 19 stories in the collection—all of them I found interesting—sometimes reminded me of exercises, a writer's efforts to try out different forms, points of view, voices, possibilities. Some seemed very slight. "A Typical Day at the Office" describes in considerable detail J.P. Waterman's life as an "office drone;" he comes to his cubical, fills his day; and goes home. That's pretty much it.
A few of the stories are quite short; "Beneath the Overpass" is three printed pages that begin, "Every time I drive out of the city I see him. I turn onto the highway that will take me home. I glance down. Beneath the overpass I see him standing. Same place, every time." A real man? A statue? Or an illusion.
Matson has two stories, "The Yellow School Bus" and "The Man in the Green Car" that taps nicely into unreasoned panic. What is it like to be eight years old and watch the school bus slaughter your neighbor students as it comes to get you? What if you know you are being followed by a malevolent man as you leave your girlfriend's house sometime after midnight? Matson shows you.
Many of the stories are truly imaginative: While a number of skanky people glide through Dallas airport security, the TSA detains and harasses an innocent, productive Muslim passenger. A middle-aged man considering his life discovers that people he thought he remembered never existed. A professional poker-playing cheat gets into the wrong game. A young man who has a unusual relationship with fire almost kills his girlfriend and himself in trying to attract her attention.
The lead story, "Dream On," exemplifies the book's title. A middle-aged construction worker on his way back to his worksite in his pickup innocently offers a ride to a teen-age girl. He is only doing a good deed, but things go horribly wrong. I found the story so powerful I was not sure I wanted to read the rest of the book. As it turns out, I am glad I did.