A Satisfying Mixture of Light and Darkness

I’m slow to point this out, but Ramsey Shehadeh had a story in Strange Horizons at the end of June, called “Jimmy’s Roadside Cafe.” I’m crazy about Shehadeh’s work, based on this story and his debut story in Weird Tales, “Creature.” What gets me is that Shehadeh has this signature quirkiness that allows him to be very dark and very loving within the same story. An example from the Strange Horizons story:

His second customer appeared out of the north as well, pulling a large red wagon with two children inside, a boy and a girl, both laid neatly out and dressed formally, as if for a wedding, the boy in a black suit and a little red bow tie, the girl in a frilly blue dress with lacework at the sleeves.

Hello there! said Jimmy, scurrying up the bank to the road. This new visitor was large, bald, and broad-shouldered, and wore a charcoal Giants jersey and a pair of blue sweats, torn at the knees. He slowed, but did not stop, and fixed Jimmy with a hard glare.

The man snorted, and picked up his pace. He was leaving. Jimmy felt a thrill of panic. He said: You have lovely children.

The man stopped, dropped the wagon’s handle, and, in one fluid motion, spun around and slammed his fist into the center of Jimmy’s face. Jimmy heard his nose crack, and the world went dark. When he came back to it, he was on the street, and the man was straddling his chest, hitting him and hitting him. Every blow was seismic, the pain monstrous, and then incomprehensible. A gentle thrill of peace passed through Jimmy’s body. He felt sure that he would die soon.

I am absolutely convinced that the characters in a Shehadeh story are good people. They are wrapped, however, in a strangeness that is at once terrifying and delightful. Go read him.

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