Friday, June 22, 2007

Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range, by Matthew Sanborn Smith

Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range
Matthew Sanborn Smith
Chiaroscuro: Issue 32

Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range is a hard boiled, western of a story with a twist. The characters are all teddy bears. While this adds a level of storytelling and interest in what is going on, this twist does not take the edge of the story.

Death comes swiftly on the teddy bear range when the night devils' silhouettes mar the purpling sky. I shiver in the chill nightfall. Muffin turns his back to me, lights a cigarette as if to ward off the darkness.

"Get the little ones inside," I say. "We're burning the fires bright tonight."

At our feet, the wind blew in a piece of red yarn tangled in a few strands of yellow fur. After a quiet couple of weeks the bastards are feeding again.

The feel of this story is of frontier life where there are dangerous creatures hunting the denizens at night and there is a slow war of attrition occurring. Two things make Fluff and Buttons on the Teddy Bear Range work as a story: First, the language, the style of the story, how Smith paces things and provides the feel of the story (yes, that's more than one thing, but it all ties together as what I’m talking about).

I drop a rock on the glass vial and the eggs go up in a roar of flame. Willoughby yelps, falls back on his ass. I love tenderfoots.

"What are you worried about?" I ask. "You're young. I thought all you kids nowadays were fire-retardant!"

"That ain't the same as fire-proof! What’s that squealing sound?"

The second thing is simply the fact that these are walking, talking teddy bears with dreams of being held by little girls, even though such a thing doesn't exist in their world. The combination of it all works perfectly. It's a heck of a story and one I was absorbed into.

"There wasn't much left to identify," I say, "But you knew him. He had yellow fur, always wore that red sweater no matter what the weather was like. Never wore any pants."

Oh...that just cracks me up.

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