Voices on the Stair
by Elizabeth Routen
Category: Fiction / General
236 pages; ISBN: 0738858358
Rating: 8/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Paul Lappen
Included in this group of contemporary short stories written over the last few years is the story of a young boy, whose father was a cop who committed suicide, has a difficult relationship with his mother's new boyfriend, a man who thinks that every young boy should enjoy deer hunting. An elderly couple are apart at the holidays, because she is in a nursing home. One day, he discovers that the one thing he has kept with which to remember her, a black mohair scarf, is full of moth holes, so he heads to the mall to replace it, not an easy thing, no matter your age. A local bar has a weekly Liars' Club meeting. Phillippe, one of the regulars, tells everyone about Cherise, his girlfriend. The trouble is, Philippe's real name is Peter, he's an accountant, and he lives with his handicapped sister.
A group of women meet monthly in a restaurant and talk about their relationships with men, or, more likely, the lack thereof. A man meets a woman in a diner. He apparently says the worng thing to her, and she walks off in a huff, leaving an untouched cup of coffee. The waitress, and then the cook, insists that he pay for the coffee, something he has no intention of doing. The situation deteriorates until the man pulls out a small knife, just so he can get out of there. The waitress falls into the knife, and the cook starts screaming, rather loudly. There is a story about a trip to a palm reader.
In her introduction, the author (who, believe it or not, is only 21 years old) says that these stories are not intended as a Great Contribution to Literature. But, if they can get the reader to forget, for a while, about the dishes in the sink that need washing, or the colicky baby that will wake up at midnight, then that is all that matters. In that respect, she succeeds very well. This is a first-rate group of stories that is well worth reading.