cover image Pool-Hopping and Other Stories

Pool-Hopping and Other Stories

Anne Fleming. Polestar Book Publishers, $13.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-1-896095-18-9

The earthy, emotional characters of Fleming's first collection can, in moments of poetic sobriety, call a sheep a sheep (or a suicide a suicide, a betrayal a betrayal, a cancer a cancer as the case happens to be). ""Atmospherics"" brings a group of lesbian friends together for Christmas in a farmhouse banked by Canadian snow. Susan, pregnant by artificial insemination, finds that her dislike for punky Marla (her ex's new girl) wanes when Marla callously announces she's slept with a man and now is pregnant, too. The title story places Julie and her husband on the deck of their apartment building in a heat wave, on the evening of the death of Julie's twin. Julie remembers the impulse to transgress--and another heat wave--that urged their teenage gang to make free use of their richer neighbors' pools. A 17-year-old whose thin and greasy hair and puffed-up face make him look decades older than he is discovers his inner Don Juan in ""Solar Plexus,"" in which Craig's calculated moves toward intimacy with a girl whose father is dying of cancer are beginning to have the intended effect when he pushes her too far. Canadian herself, Fleming sets most of her stories in Vancouver, Toronto and the country at large. At once ruthlessly precise with her descriptions (""Winters now were petulant and bitter, like the brothers of kings"") and generous to her characters, she makes a bracing, truthful debut with these 13 stories. (Mar.)