Welcome to another installment of If My Book, the Monkeybicycle feature in which authors compare their recently released books to weird things. This week Bradley Sides writes about his debut story collection, Those Fantastic Lives, out now from City of Light.
If Those Fantastic Lives were a holiday, it would be Halloween. It would have to be, really. The book’s ghosts would scare the little ones on Christmas morning. Its monsters would disrupt Thanksgiving dinner even more than weird Uncle Frank. Its aliens would find their spaceships blasted on the 4th of July. To make most everyone happy, it would have to be Halloween.
If Those Fantastic Lives were a fruit, it would be a pumpkin. Specifically, it would already be a transformed pumpkin, doing its job on Halloween night of keeping the bad spirits away—at least for most of the night. (After the moon was in prime position, it would want to have a little fun and would let a few of the bad ones make it to the front door—and maybe even inside.)
If Those Fantastic Lives were an animal, it would be a bird. Any bird that could fly would do the trick, but it would most want to be a crow or a raven so it could blend into the night-time, shadowy Halloween sky as it soared above unsuspecting specks of humanity.
If Those Fantastic Lives wore a Halloween costume, it would be that of a match. Yes, a match. A smoking match. The match would crave fire. Would dream of it. The match would set a fire on one block and hide in the bushes to see what the sugar-fueled kids might do. Later, a few streets over, the match would cause another blaze—a very, very big blaze that is maybe the blaze. An “apocalypse” is the word the match would use. But the match, of course, would soon be haunted by regret and fear…
If Those Fantastic Lives were a treat, it would be a kitchen sink cookie. It would be dozens of kitchen sink cookies, in fact. They would be homemade and baked by the ghosts of the neighborhood’s most beloved grandparents, who, by the way, would always return for Halloween. Their porch, in their haunted house the family would refuse to sell, would host a line of perfectly-carved jack-o’-lanterns that Grandma and Grandpa would’ve already decorated with their ghost-loving grandchildren. They would know of the crows and ravens overhead and would even leave them out some nuts and seeds near the moldy, mud-stained feeder in the back. They would not be bothered by the match’s flames and would tell everyone to just carry on. “He’s confused. Someone will eventually get some water,” Grandma would whisper to her trick-or-treaters. “Poor soul is probably scared of the end anyhow,” Grandpa would say. Anyhow, before the morning’s sun would rise and they would return to the afterlife, they would hand off their delicious kitchen sink cookies, with chunks of chocolate, coconut, peanuts, walnuts, almonds, and pecans. Unless allergic, there would be something almost everyone—at least almost everyone not scared of ghosts—could, hopefully, enjoy inside these kitchen sink cookies.
Bradley Sides’ writing appears at Chapter 16, Chicago Review of Books, Electric Literature, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, The Rumpus, and Southern Review of Books. He holds an MA from the University of North Alabama and is an MFA candidate at Queens University of Charlotte. He lives in Florence, Alabama, with his wife, and he can be found on most days teaching creative writing and English in southern Tennessee. Those Fantastic Lives is his debut.