Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet has a distinctive voice and features one type of story, usually of the absurd or gently Weird variety. Usually that works for this occasional publication (roughly twice a year, but you never know; the publishing scheduling is erratic), but this time there is too much sameness in the stories, and they often cross the line from charming and odd into twee.
In the opening story, “Smash,” by Jennifer Linnaea, a girl discovers that she is a sea monster by finding a glass sea monster in the forest — an odd way to discover one’s essential nature. Still, the story is charming, particularly as the girl rejoices in her sea monster form, which she can apparently put on and off at will. The story continues through her education in both the study of lost treasure and how to be a proper sea monster. The piece is too long to be called flash fiction, but too short to play out much of a plot; still, it’s enjoyable.
“The Groomsmen” by Sarah Blackman tells the story of a woman who gives birth to seven sons, all at once. Her husband is apparently completely surprised (where was he during the pregnancy?!), but ultimately pitches in to caring for the seven babies. The boys grow quickly; by the second page one is already getting married. The wedding proves to be a problem for the woman, who hates the colors her son and his bride have chosen. The trip the woman and her husband take to the church takes longer to tell than did the childhood and adolescence of her children. The ending takes a sharp turn into the absurd, and it’s impossible to tell if this is where the author intended to end up all along. There were certainly no clues planted to prepare the reader.
“Re-load,” a poem by Kara Singletary, is about playing video games. The poet may be trying to draw a parallel between the violence of video games and the mass shootings that keep happening in America these days, but if so, the metaphor is so cloaked the reader can only guess at its meaning.
Nina Allan’s “Fairy Skulls” is the most enjoyable story in this issue. Vinnie inherits her aunt’s fortune — an aunt who was the black sheep of the family, adventuresome, perhaps even a paid “companion” for the powerful men around whom she spent her life, but Vinnie loves and admires her very much. Finding herself with much more money than she expected ever to have, Vinnie, at the urging of her lover, buys a cottage in the countryside. There, she is pestered by fairies. Their infiltration of the house has more of the characteristics of a rat or mice infestation, and she tries a number of methods to get rid of them. She knows what they’re after: a bracelet her aunt left her, the charms of which are the skulls of fairies. It’s another quietly and softly strange story.
Eileen Widebrauk’s “Yaga Dreams of Growing Up” is a piece of flash fiction. The young Yaga, picked upon by her classmates, dreams of a house on chicken legs. It’s an imaginative idea, but would have benefited from further development.
“Dietus Interruptus” by Ian Breen is another good story. It’s about a pair of eccentric brothers who both eat too much, and therefore have engaged one another in a plan to disrupt each other’s meals to cut down on their eating. As the story opens, a water balloon in a plate of pork piccata launched by Rondelé makes Montal cease eating as the story opens. But Rondelé throws an even bigger spanner into the works when he falls in love. Will he and his Eve win Montal over? This is one of the few stories in the magazine that has a full-fledged plot, and it is fun to read.
J. Brundage writes about a society that grows a type of corn underground in “Good Keith!” Her narrator makes a living by constructing the underground walls that support the corn, but the meat of the story is the narrator’s attendance at a movie with his friends Eddi and Dove and their baby. Eddi and Dove don’t seem to be precisely human, and the baby certainly isn’t; ultimately, the narrator seems to be something apart as well. It’s too cute for its own good, with none of the power of Joe Hill’s “Pop Art,” of which it is reminiscent.
In “Three Rights Make a Left” by Rhonda Eikamp, the first person narrator works with a writer named Gregor — which, of course, makes one immediately think of Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.” Gregor and the narrator live in a series of caves regularly visited by tourists, who are something of a scourge. The narrator protects Gregor from them. Their friends include Leila, a topless Brazilian samba dancer, and a knight in white rags. It’s all far too mannered for its own good.
David Galef’s poem, “Noise,” is nice and spooky, and I enjoyed the rhyme scheme.
“Egg” by Claire Hero is another piece of flash fiction about an Easter egg hunt. It seems to be a metaphor about the precariousness of mother-daughter relationships.
Is it child abuse that Christopher Stabback is writing about in “Disaster Movies”? We don’t know the age of the narrator, but there is a suggestion that the man she plans to meet in person that day is a 36-year-old predator on a teenager he met online. But while the narrator is childish is some ways, she seems adult in others. The tale never gels because the author never provides enough clues to allow the reader to figure out what’s going on.
“How to Seduce a Vegetarian” by Nicole Kimberling is about how to make good vegetarian sandwiches. There’s always a short foodie piece in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and they’re usually nicely utilitarian. This one works.
Neile Graham offers two poems. The first, “Ksampguiyaeps — Woman-Out-To-Sea,” seems to be a retelling of a fairy tale, but I could find no antecedent tale matching the unpronounceable name of the narrator. It’s not a bad poem, but reaches for a fairy tale atmosphere it never actually creates. “Hermitage” is better; it’s about a Scottish castle and the weight it carries of feuds, abductions and other horrible events. Here, Graham manages to establish the atmosphere she is attempting.
“Four Phoebes” by Maya Sonenberg is a story of transformation as four girls become birds. It’s an incoherent tale with lots of alternatives given at key plot points and characters who become other characters. The suffering of women and their ability to overcome a world turned against them seems to be the theme, but it is hidden by fairy tale frippery and never coalesces.
I usually love Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet. This time around, I didn’t.