Featuring nine entries – seven short stories, a poem, and a little haiku just to mess with you – Beat On The Brat is a wonderfully diverse collection. Though I enjoyed them all, these two really resonated with me:
“Back in Black” is a beautifully layered recounting of Johnny Sullivan’s return to his hometown for his mother’s funeral. Things are a little more complicated than simply the loss of his mum, however, as it is also Johnny’s first time back since being sent up for child molestation. Things go about as well for Johnny as you’d expect, but you know an author has some serious skills going on if he can make you actually feel sympathy for a child molester.
“Snow-Angel” graphically demonstrates something I fully believe: all practical jokes and other forms of messing with people done in the name of “good fun, no harm intended” in fact comes from a much darker, mean-spirited place. In “Snow Angels,” a group of punks’ snowball ambush on a complete stranger spins horribly out of control, with devastating consequences for a Good Samaritan.
Other entries in the collection include Watery Grave Invitational 2010 winner “Beat on the Brat,” “Dance With Me,” “Mind Your Step,” “Sugar and Spice,” “Regret,” “Hoodwinked” and “Killer Haiku.” In each, Bird quite skillfully establishes and develops character in a way you usually only expect to find in a full-length work. Indeed, several of these stories could easily serve as the jumping-off point for a full-length novel the setting, plot structure, and characterizations are so strong.