REVIEWED BY ANNE ELIZABETH WEISGERBER
Rain Check: Collected Stories by Levi Andrew Noe | Truth Serum Press, 2016 | ISBN: 978-1-925536-09-6 | 128 pages
Rain Check: Collected Stories by Levi Andrew Noe, from Truth Serum Press, contains 58 flash fictions. Each documents and preserves interesting, cyclical thought patterns of a traveler and self-proclaimed oneironaut. To which one might say: a what? Hold on.
First things first: what’s a rain check? It’s a baseball idiom, a colloquial expression, meaning plans need to be postponed, yet will be resumed at some future time. Literally: the ball game was rained out, so here’s a reentry ticket for a rematch tomorrow. So my guiding assumption was it would concern enjoyable, halted experiences the narrator wished to resume. And it was!
The collection consists of these reentry passes to important ideas and experiences. There are three groupings: “On Time and Place,” “On Relations,” and “On Mind, Body, Heart, and Soul.”
Back to that word. A oneironaut, (WON-ri-nawt) is loosely defined as dream sailor. So it’s new and different, at least it is for me, that a writer might connect to a reader via dream space or shared desire, as dreams are personal. As the stories, sentences, and words of this collection unspooled in reading, I felt assured by Noe’s use of universal archetypes.
The first part of the collection revisits past travels to Denver, New York, Cambodia, India. In some ways, this section reminds me of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, in that there is a young man on a quest, guided via chance encounters and cryptic augurs to his Holy Grail (which makes an appearance in “On the Equinox”). Traveling takes place on planes, on foot, and is spoken by a narrator who is often an observer on the fringe, who wants to “see it all,” but admits to be “barely scratching the surface.” This seems a very truthful admission for any seasoned traveler. Noe says, in “Long Road,” that strange weather “always made me feel like I didn’t belong,” but then along comes a triggering experience back home, the sensory combination of a “hammock, beer and a guitar,” and that sets him longing, in mundane and satisfying ways, to recall past journeys.
Noe’s narrator, having spent “landlocked days of wanderlust when dreams of travel were his only escape,” pursues bucket-list locations and experiences: a sunrise in Angkor Wat, a swim in the Ganga. I think the standout moment for me in this first section occurs in “Southeast Asia Blues,” when, 23 pages into the collection, the first salvo of dialogue broaches the page. It is vulgar and human and meaningless, but welcome.
“Nice place.” Axel headed straight for the shower. “Lordy, Lordy, am I glad to be off that bus. I think the guy next to me crapped his pants.”
I was glad for Axel’s colorful commentary because, like the narrator, I had been traveling the prose and immersed in description. He was very real, and lightened the mood. When the next story, “Thumb Out,” came and went, I found myself wondering where Axel had got to, then other voices – chary old men, kindergarten teachers, Japanese lovebirds – soon joined the narrator.
In the second section, the narrative POV keeps a tight orbit around the first-person, and there is no dialogue. It begins with a tryst in the forest.
“I remember you taking your rain check from me beside the stream, the chanterelles, the devil’s club, making a bed from our clothes. You let out your love like clouds full of rain and your voice rose to the tops of the Sitka spruce. You looked like you belonged there in the moss and dark, damp earth. A wild geranium. And I felt like the outsider, an invasive weed….”
And so the narrator here is no longer an actor, but passive. This whole section seems to revisit the psychology of relationships of boys to their mothers, fathers, lovers, and lifetime friends. Sometimes off in a dream world, this section ends by attending to the needs of the body in “Welcome Back,” which counsels, “It’s OK, your eyes will adjust,” and, “Here, have some tea, beer, wine? Hungry? You must be after what you’ve been through.”
One might not be able to step in the same river twice, even in dreams, but it is possible to step onto familiar shores and feel at home. Each of the flashes in Rain Check is a satisfying report from an experienced traveler.
Anne E. Weisgerber has recent stories published or forthcoming in New South, The Airgonaut, Tahoma Literary Review, Vignette Review, and Jellyfish Review. She is a freelance fiction editor, and has been nominated for Best Small Fictions 2016. When not teaching, she’s working on a novel that spans five generations, or hanging out with the #fishtankwriters. Follow her @AEWeisgerber, or visit anneweisgerber.com.
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