The Booked. Anthology Review 5: “The Removal Kind” by Caleb J Ross

There are some stories that are generally innocuous. That doesn’t speak to the lack of voice, the flow of sentence structure, tone, or whatever. Just because a story is a story that sits there like a dead weight rising and falling with each breath filling your chest, it doesn’t mean that the story isn’t good. Maybe it doesn’t quite fit with the rest of a collection, or maybe there isn’t some hidden meaning. Perhaps the author just saw something and wanted to create a grander scheme to entertain themselves, rather than making another ridiculous YouTube video. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, you know? It just is what it is; a story.

Caleb J Ross is a disturbing fellow. Sure, his forehead is kissable in the dim light of a restaurant, when you’re in Boston, trying to feel normal. However, what is normal, anyway?

Not, “The Removal Kind,” but that’s what’s to be expected. Ross doesn’t exactly ever do normal. His characters are flawed in ways that everyone really is, but he puts a little extra stank on those flaws. And he addresses those flaws with a blunt honesty that makes the reader just a little more uncomfortable. Like a lover that just won’t quit, when you think you’ve found some equilibrium with his particular brand of weird, he twists the knife just once more.

Merkle is a dealer of rare items, primarily rats in jars; her other half is the voice on the other end of the phone, making that connection between Merkle and buyer. So, after a deal goes sour (the buyer doesn’t show), she goes back to her hotel room, to find that the guy she had brought to bed has stolen her product – a guy, no less, that was comfortable enough to forgo the scarring and staples of a fresh surgery that Merkle suffered.

Yes. That’s a Caleb J Ross story. He’s a weird little man and I love him for it. His stories don’t always fit, but they’re good, in that sore thumb sort of way. Always. He’ll never be Jonathan Franzen, all literary and boring in some classically trained New Yorker bullshit manner, and I appreciate that. That’s what I want, the weird and the circus sideshows, the fantastic and brilliant.


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