Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Matthew Thomas Meade writes about Strip Mall, his debut story collection out from Tailwinds Press.
If Strip Mall were a wild animal, it would be a melanated fox, looking strange from behind its black fur, its eyes like twin moons burning in the night.
If Strip Mall were a piece of outdated tech, it would be a personal digital assistant because it would seem so plucky, modern, and versatile, so colorful and capable, hinting at possibilities big and new without specifying and—in retrospect—seems so quint, so provincial compared to everything we have now. And also, it shares its acronym with public displays of affection, making it at least a double entendre, if not even a potentially triple or quadruple entendre.
If Strip Mall were a pharmacy, it would be a CVS, all the panoply of razor blades and prophylactics trapped behind plastic, making you choose between stealing them or admitting your needs to the kid who works there, his only qualification two weeks at cashier college and a complete lack of opportunity.
If Strip Mall were a teacher you had from high school, it would be that weird old lady who taught ceramics, and you took her class to get an easy A, but somehow you only managed to maintain a C average, and you hated her until that one assignment where you had to learn how to make a vase and that weird old lady with tight, angry little grey curls on her head told you not to make a pipe, but you did anyway and she said she was required to destroy it, but she somehow never got around to doing it. And then you tell the tale of her every time you use that pipe you made in art class, and she becomes a legend, and you realize she wasn’t so bad after all, and your high school GPA is, like, pretty much the last thing you think about anymore.
If Strip Mall were a gas station, it would be a BP, its offers of fuel and respite glowing green in the night, convincing you to stop there, open so late, providing for you in ways your parents never could.
If Strip Mall were a relative you don’t see very often, it would be that one who is the same age as you but who makes you sort of nervous. Always has. When you ask them how they’ve been, they say everything’s been better now that all that stuff about the accident is taken care of, and you don’t know what accident they are talking about, and you don’t know what they mean by “taken care of” and you are too afraid to ask. But then they say something sweet about your grandma’s old house, and you remember you used to be kids together, and even though they are kind of intimidating with all those tattoos and the fucking car they drive, that they are alright, and you have love for them, the kind of love that blood has for blood, the kind of love you can never shake.
If Strip Mall were a book, it would be peculiar and honest, and it would be called Strip Mall and cost $16.00, and be sold by Tailwinds Press.
MATTHEW THOMAS MEADE’s fiction has appeared in The Sun Magazine, Bourbon Penn, The Saturday Evening Post, and elsewhere. His chapbook, Rocketflower, won the C&R Press Summer Tide Pool Contest. His debut collection of short fiction, Strip Mall, is available for purchase from Tailwinds Press. Some of his work, as well as the one good picture he has of himself, can be found at http://www.matthewthomasmeade.com. And follow him on X at @MatthewTMeade.