• An executive breaks free of the cloud of locusts that threatens to eat him, and the best waitress in town glimpses a path out of her cul-de-sac.
  • A mother connects with her daughter during a triumphant women’s night out, and a man gazes into the fountain of youth through his boarder’s eyes.
  • Marty blows into town in a red convertible Caddy and a whirlwind of hope, and a bored banker flies into a dizzying opportunity.
  • A man reaches the age when every change is assumed to be a dire symptom of something; Ingrid shoves her husband into the wrong trench on the battlefield between the sexes, and a woman struggles with dread when she is drawn back to the scene of a past life.

These nine, and thirteen more Cityality Stories that explore the salts and peppers that season life: Hope and disappointment, youth and old age, good faith and betrayal; enemies, allies, strangers, and a red convertible Cadillac with white leather seats.

Experience multiple characters in snapshots of their varied lives through short fiction. If you love the form, or if you haven’t tried it for a while, buy the book, read it, and feel the joy of brevity and variety wrapped up in one eclectic volume!

Excerpted from the story: Midnight, the Grant Hotel

* * *

Miller wasn’t much, so the Ulysses S. Grant Hotel wasn’t much either. It was the best hotel in town before the Davenport sank in the depression, now the only; not much but something.

Carol Finch went to work at the Grant Hotel coffee shop the year she quit Miller High, and in the ten years since no one doubted she had become the best waitress in Miller. Not much, but something. Other waitresses came and went but Carol stayed, and after two years she could name her own shift. She chose swing, four to midnight, because nearly everything in Miller closed up by six—it was a fact for both her and the hotel guests—so she didn’t miss what little there was during the day and tips were better after the cafés closed at three.

She had a boyfriend for a while in high school. Almost everybody did because Miller was so small it was safest to speak for someone early, but it didn’t work out. He was on the football team—about a third of the boys in school always were—and that was okay, but he drank too much from age fourteen on and he hit her sometimes when he was drunk. He only lasted the six months it took her to see it was only going to get worse, but that was long enough for him to get her in trouble. She had to go over to Anthem to get that fixed before her parents found out and her dad killed somebody. There were people who knew, which was the main reason she quit near the end of junior year and maybe one reason nobody was much interested in her afterward.

She wasn’t the only single woman in town but as the years passed, she got closer to becoming the oldest one who wasn’t a widow when others either got married or went somewhere else to try. Daddy died when his liver gave out and Mama moved to Topeka to be with her sister who was a widow too. Carol stayed because she had nowhere to go; because she was the best waitress in town and it looked like the only best thing she was ever going to be, and because things hadn’t worked out like she thought they would at all.

When Mama told her she could stay in the house until Mama had to sell it, depending on how things went in Topeka with Aunt Elma, it sounded almost like an apology for her marrying Daddy and having Carol with a man like him. Maybe so, but both of them also knew the house wouldn’t be sold. Miller was dying and houses could sit for sale until they rotted to the ground. Sometimes Carol knew she should look to her future because the town didn’t have one but looking to her future felt like looking into a terrible storm with high winds and clouds the color of bruises. No one could look to a future like that for long.

Now, the future was coming out of the sky and pressing down on Miller. There were signs that after years of rumor, work would finally begin on the section of new interstate highway that would divert what little traffic there was almost a mile south of Miller and leave the town stranded to bleach like animal bones in the desert. The only bright spot, like a candle’s burst of energy at the bitter bottom of its wick, was that until they moved on, the men of the highway crew would have little choice but to stay in Miller and eat Miller’s food …