About the Book:
: Loss Angeles
: Mathieu Cailler Publisher
: Short Story America Press
: Short Stories
Set in the glamorous city of Los Angeles, California, LOSS ANGELES
skips the shine and celebrity the city is known for and instead dives
deeply into the lives of ordinary Angelenos. In each of the fifteen
stories in this collection, author Mathieu Cailler examines the private
lives of a diverse mix of characters. This collection of stories
showcases the rawness of real life, the complexity of navigating
personal challenges and internal conflicts, and the ever present
possibility of encountering unexpected compassion and empathy.
The stories in LOSS ANGELES
uncover the reality that the interiors of people’s lives often have huge
holes in them. In the collection, a quiet divorced man, who is still
deeply in love with his ex-wife, finally speaks up when his son’s
soon-to-be stepfather becomes enraged over a broken birthday gift. A
young man visiting his parents for the first time in nine years delays
his presence at his family’s Thanksgiving dinner to see an old friend
who was influential in his early life. Cailler also goes beyond loss and
grief to reveal hidden human kindness in the stories of a widower, who
steps out of his melancholy to save the life of a stranger, and an aging
bachelor, who becomes a father figure for a wayward young woman.
In “Over the Bridge,” Ella is a teenager
learning to manage her grief over the death of her mother and the new
life she and her seven-year-old brother have with their father, with
whom the children have not lived with since their parents’ divorce.
While Ella is receiving weekly counseling at school, she continues to
struggle with the changes in her life. When the counselor instructs Ella
to write a letter to her father explaining the uncertainty and distance
she feels in regard to her relationship with him, Ella complies and
writes with the type of honesty that one allows when there is no plan to
share what is written. But when Ella finds herself in a frightening
situation with a boy at a party after consuming drugs and alcohol, the
letter becomes the catalyst for a change in perspective for her father.
“Hit and Stay” is the story of a young
married man making the long drive home from an out-of-town business
trip. Penn is troubled as he drives his SUV through back roads to avoid
the highway traffic. The quiet drive in the warm cocoon of the truck
affords Penn the opportunity to reflect on the one-night stand he had
with a new employee. As he contemplates how or if he will confess his
mistake to his wife, Kimberly, Penn reviews his life with the woman he
was once passionately in love with who has grown distant since the death
of her mother. During the drive, Penn has an unfortunate accident that
breaks the delicate hold he has on his volatile emotional state.
The conflict between familial violence
and love is the foundation of “Dark Timber.” Clevie and his older
brother, Roy, reluctantly accompany their father on a hunting
expedition. Their father, an alcoholic recently released from prison
after serving time for beating the boys’ mother, is determined to teach
his sons how to hunt for their own food.
The relationship between father and sons
is strained. Roy has personal experience with his father’s violent
temper, but young Clevie remains hopeful that life with their father
will improve. Neither boy is interested in hunting. Clevie is the most
reluctant to fire on innocent animals. However, when their father comes
face-to-face with a menacing predator, both boys instinctively respond
to his pleas for help.
“LOSS ANGELES is a throwback to
eclectic short story collections of past years and is only bound by the
theme of loss in a very general sense,” Cailler says. “The stories are
by turns fragile, tender, and always memorable. The characters in this
book are as diverse as the city itself… they all have a story to share,
and it was my job to do just that. I don’t believe in being predestined
while writing; therefore, some of the stories end with a bit of hope
while others reach their coda in a disconcerting fashion.”
Exposing emotions was Cailler’s focus
when writing the collection. “I want the reader to relate to the
feelings and sentiments expressed in the book. I think loss is the
greatest bond we possess as humans, and there isn’t a single person
around who hasn’t experienced it. We’ve all lost something dear to us,
something profound,” the author says. “I think if a reader comes away
from LOSS ANGELES feeling more connected to others and/or him
or herself, I’ll have done my job. Whenever I write, I think of Plato’s
words: ‘Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.’
That’s something that I hope will resonate with the reader.”
For More Information
Penn continued to drive through the
night. Snow and gales of wind assailed his SUV as he barreled towards
home, his foot steady on the gas, his hands positioned firmly at ten and
two. Heat billowed from the vents on the dashboard and moved loose
strands of hair on his face. He didn’t want to replay the scenario—the
quiet L.A. hotel room, the closed drapes, the underwear on the floor,
the moaning, the taste of her lips—but the SUV’s quiet cabin was a
hotbed for reflection.
His headlights brushed a green highway
sign, indicating that there were eighty-nine miles left on his journey
home to Lake Tahoe. With the winter weather, it might take Penn more
than two hours, but that was all right. How would he look at Kimberly
after what he’d done?
“Don’t marry young,” people had told him a
few years ago when he’d passed around the idea of proposing. “You
haven’t tested the waters.” Cliché after cliché came at him, and while
the marriage advice was stale and up there with “enjoy each day like
it’s your last” and “don’t let anyone tell you something’s impossible,”
it wasn’t amiss.
Becky had been with the company for a
couple months now; there’d been some mild flirting, but Penn just
thought that was the way she was, and he flirted back from time to time,
knowing that it was just a game. Becky saw the wedding band on his
finger; she could put two and two together.
But on this recent trip, Penn and Becky
had found themselves at the hotel bar, overlooking the glimmering L.A
skyline. There was a meeting early in the morning, and most of the
company’s employees had gone to bed. She approached Penn and slid onto
the chair next to his. They drank, and their eyes held one another in
the empty bar. The piano man played his versions of “So What” and
“Stardust,” songs that made people more attractive and made
conversations more interesting. The right strap of Becky’s blue dress
kept slipping off her freckled shoulder, and she left her smooth skin
exposed longer than normal before bringing the strap back up. Her
breasts were pressed up and together, and when she crossed her legs, one
of her black heels dangled a few inches from her foot, making it seem
as though she was already undressing. Penn remembered the way she
reached over and touched his right hand.
The worst part was that Penn had only
slept with Becky because of the confidence Kimberly had given him. Many
times she’d reaffirmed his self-esteem, telling him he was worthy of
love, that he was better-looking than he imagined, and that he deserved
Penn believed the burden would be
lightened if he told Kimberly, but at the same time, he thought the
words might destroy her, and that’s not what he wanted. It’d taken
cheating for him to know how much he loved her, but who would believe a
line like that?
The tapping of a snare drum leaked out
from the speakers, accompanied by the beat of an upright bass and the
trill of a clarinet. He lowered the window and let the cold air flow
into the sweltering cabin.
Was there a perfect scenario? Penn thought. He let his mind wander. When he got home maybe Kimberly would be crying.
What’s wrong? Penn would say.
I did something terrible, Kimberly would answer.
Kimberly would go on to tell Penn that
she’d slept with someone else, that she was sorry, and that it didn’t
mean anything. After that, he’d say the same thing. Two wrongs, one
right. But even thinking about her sleeping with someone else made him
sick. That wasn’t at all what he wanted.
High school sweethearts turned lovers
turned husband and wife turned roommates—that’s what they were. Penn
found it more and more difficult to make her laugh. Where there’d been
kisses, there were now smiles. Where there’d been heat, there was now
platitude. Where there’d been love, there was now familiarity.
About Author Mathieu Cailler
Mathieu Cailler is a writer of prose and
poetry. His work has been widely published in national and international
literary journals. Before becoming a full-time writer, Cailler was an
elementary school teacher in inner-city Los Angeles. “I came to writing
in a rather circuitous way. I always penned jokes for stand-up comedy
appearances but later realized it wasn’t just comedy that applealed to
me, but all
writing.” A graduate of Vermont College of Fine
Arts, Cailler was awarded the Short Story America Prize for Short
Fiction and a Shakespeare Award for Poetry. His chapbook, Clotheslines
, was recently published by Red Bird Press. LOSS ANGELES
is Cailler’s first full-length book.
For More Information
- Visit Mathieu Cailler’s website.
- Connect with Mathieu on Facebook and Twitter.
- Find out more about Mathieu at Goodreads.