Rock and a Hard Place Issue #2

Rock and a Hard Place Issue 2 Winter/Spring 2020Rock and a Hard Place Issue 2 Winter/Spring 2020 by Jay Butkowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rock and a Hard Place is a short fiction 'zine that hones in on stories about characters at the end of their tether languishing at or as close to the bottom as seems possible. It ranges in genre type and even includes a couple of essays to boot. This is their second issue and I greatly enjoyed it.

Paul Gadsby opens the collection with a story of a young DIY store employee finding out the one night stand he had eight months ago is going to result in a child. It's a clearly written and simple tale that proves very effective. My other favourites from this one include "Knees and Toes" by Jeremy Broyles, which is as prescient as ever, about a woman and her baby trying to get shopping during a dystopian time where the shop is mobbed outside and when eventually opened the shelves are ransacked. "The Lives of the Workers in the Cancer Factory" by Jacqueline Freimor imagines cancer as a real life factory with employees and owners profitting from it and uses it as a way to look at some of the things we accept about Capitalism that are fundamentally wrong. Roger Nokes uses these as examples in his essay about late stage Capitalism and dystopia, which is ever more prescient and in this time lends a question to what this will become in the coming months and years.

"Crawdaddy" by, my recent read, J.D. Graves brings the old school noir factor as a crawfish stand owner takes umbrage with the increase in his protection payments and the attention paid to his teenage daughter. "Meantown" by Allan Leverone hues a similar noir path as we join a druggie crook and his girlfriend on the run for a cop killing. Story and Grit's Mark Westmoreland takes in the rural noir path in "Gravedigger" as a man gets dragged from bed to dig up his younger brother's grave in search of some money.

"Emo Night" by Ana Mireles took me back in time to a specific club and the fun and bad decisions that I had made there. "Tenderloin" by Steve Carr is the tale of an Iraq war veteran struggling to re-adjust to civilian life and put me in mind of Willy Vlautin in places. And one of my absolute favourites, Preston Lang, brings "Potato Sandwich Days" in which Lang again brings a unique premise to a tale of revenge.

A highly satisfactory issue and look forward to the next one.


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