Monday, October 13, 2014

A completely 'Killer' collection of short stories

I truly enjoyed my four years at The Ohio State University from 1991 to 1995. And a big reason why was my college roommate — Ryan Kenealy.

Ryan had many nicknames. Initially, it was "Killer." Then, I started calling him "Big Bear" and then "Big Ass."

The name "Big Ass" didn't make any sense because he was not overweight, which might have made it funny. Eventually, I realized that maybe "Big Ass" wasn't the most flattering name, so I curtailed my usage of it. But damn it, a few others were using that name by then. Sorry.

Ryan was my roommate for three of my four years at OSU. We met at St. Ignatius High School, then we roomed at Baker Hall our freshman year. For sophomore year, we got an apartment at High Street and Frambes Avenue, and for junior year, we lived with Will, Greg and Zach at 48 Frambes Ave. Man, that was a fun year!

Ryan is an all-around good guy and cool dude. Because of the years we lived together, I am pretty sure he knows a bunch of embarrassing stories that could keep me out of the Supreme Court. I either have no comment or deny them all.

The main reason I'm writing about Ryan is that I just finished reading his debut book, "Animals in Peril" (Curbside Splendor). The book is a tour de force. It is a magnificent collection of short stories, and I think it should be read by all. It can be ordered by clicking here.

I went into "Animals in Peril" not knowing what to expect, and by the middle of the collection with a story called "It Can Take All That Talk Without Purpose," I realized that the book commanded attention not by just me, but perhaps all.

The stories until that one were all good, quirky and with unexpected paths and connected to animals. He wrote about an Uncle Dave bringing his sister discounted jewelry described as "gum ball jewelry." He talked about circus life, hinted at the possibilities of selling drugs, displayed the ins and outs of working at a flea market and put together an all-around worthwhile collection as is.

The book has so many unique and meaningful lines that it's a good read just for those alone. But as I read "It Can Take All That Talk Without Purpose," I got chills, and it made me realize Ryan's skills aren't just with the quirky one-liners of truth but to connect our 2014 existences with nature in ways that are totally true but hardly considered.
In "It Can Take All That Talk Without Purpose, " a divorced woman named Siobhan treats herself to a stay in a luxurious hotel and meets a hotel worker in her room described partly as "a Bears fan, Siobhan thought, but in the best possible way."

Siobhan is attracted to the man and remembers that "she'd once read how easy it was for a woman to get a man to have sex. All you had to do was laugh at his jokes then, at some point, take his hand in yours."

In an array of subtle, yet awkward, advances, Siobhan nervously chats to Paul — the Bears fan — and he responds, "You keep telling me how I feel about you. Do you usually tell people how they feel about you?"

Soon, Siobhan and Paul do indeed engage in sex. As both find their encounter meaningful, the story shifts to the hotel's valet who is talking about a bird called a junco, which was introduced to start the story.
The valet says, "Dis bird. Dis bird is very famous for it can take — if you are talking, you know, just like talking to talk — it can help you understand why you are talking to talk, and it can take all that talk without purpose and put it on its wings and fly it away from you."

I sometimes find myself talking to talk. I am that type of person, to fill in the silences, to do away with perceived awkwardness. I like smoothness— like on late night talk shows.

Maybe we all talk too much. Later in the story, the relatively quiet Paul says, "... I am a lucky man. And now I've met you."

In the story, Ryan then writes, "Siobhan smiled, but felt nervous about what Paul might be implying."

I feel we often forget we are walking animals. We think we are not connected to the junco, the squirrel, the skunk or the shih tzu, but we are.

I'm definitely connected to my college roommate Ryan. It seems like only yesterday that we'd stay up late, drink beer out of plastic cups and talk about how import art was to us. And now, his art is in print for all the world to see. Ryan, you da man!



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