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Natalie's Grove
Mikal Trimm
Scrybe Press, 32 pages

Natalie's Grove
Mikal Trimm
Mikal Trimm has sold over 50 pieces of speculative fiction in the last three years. His poems and stories have been published in three countries in such venues as, NFG, Andromeda Spaceways, SAY..., Flytrap, and Polyphony 4. He lives in Lockhart, Texas.

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Scrybe Press

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

Scrybe Press has been putting out a series of short story and novelette chapbooks, nicely designed. Mikal Trimm's Natalie's Grove squeaks into the not-quite-novelette short story category.

Mason, friend-sitting the pregnant Becky as she mourns the loss of her boyfriend just when she needs him, offers to take her boyfriend's place and marry her. She turns him down with compliments on his good husband potential for someone else and, instead, introduces him to Natalie. Natalie and Mason hit it off. She immediately takes Mason to her grove, a place where the trees whistle their unique song. Becky, however, feels regret at turning Mason down, which is when the trouble begins.

Trimm's short story probably should have been a novelette, as much seems left out -- both evocative and story details. It could be that this is a style that Trimm is attempting to cultivate, which is admirable if true, but the suggestions of details are as yet far too sparse to suggest. The one exception is this description of the grove in which Trimm lets his imagination run:

"It stood apart from the rest of the woods, as if it had priority over the most common for a. Seven trees clustered in a ragged semi-circle around a small clearing…. They resembled willows; they had that same mournful quality, that sense of unknowable tragedy, but their bark was almost completely smooth, fleshy. They looked resilient but spongy, as if you could press your hands into the trunks and leave a momentary impression…. And listening, I heard the song."
Apart from the admirable description of the grove, almost none of the setting is described. The best character description goes to a roommate who doesn't put in many appearances: "will-o-the-wisp." We get a vague sense that Becky and Mason's relationship goes back a ways, but nothing concrete. What does Mason do for a living? Or is he in college? Why does Becky turn Mason down when she's most desperate? Perhaps these are all the wrong questions to ask, but the wrong ones are less likely to come to mind when the details are absent.

Some of the best descriptions are metaphors for feelings, albeit a bit over-the-top: "Every word from her mouth tore into him like the teeth of jackals, like vulture's beaks shredding a ripe corpse," and "Paradise crumbled."

But why does paradise crumble? There's a hint of suggestion here, which could be powerful, but there's not enough context for us to place why it might be happening. Why does Mason's relationship with both Becky and Natalie sour? There's an explanation at the end, but it feels somewhat forced on the text. The accumulated story details should explain what has happened inside Mason, but they don't.

It's clear that Mikal Trimm has a handle on the structure stories can take, but the whole is not quite pieced together yet. Revised, this could be a potent story of how the mind deceives us.

If you'd like to sample some of Trimm's work to see if it fits you, visit his blog which lists several works available online.

Copyright © 2004 Trent Walters

Trent Walters' work has appeared or will appear in The Distillery, Fantastical Visions, Full Unit Hookup, Futures, Glyph, Harpweaver, Nebo, The Pittsburgh Quarterly, Speculon, Spires, Vacancy, The Zone and blah blah blah. He has interviewed for, Speculon and the Nebraska Center for Writers. More of his reviews can be found here. When he's not studying medicine, he can be seen coaching Notre Dame (formerly with the Minnesota Vikings as an assistant coach), or writing masterpieces of journalistic advertising, or making guest appearances in a novel by E. Lynn Harris. All other rumored Web appearances are lies.

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