There isn’t a single pickup truck in “Lot,” Bryan Washington’s first book of stories. The setting is Houston, but oil is barely mentioned. The Bush family and the space industry don’t come up at all. No one tells anyone to go big or go home (an unofficial state slogan). But because many of Washington’s characters are recent immigrants, that imperative is more or less implied.
Washington’s subtle, dynamic and flexible stories play out across the city’s sprawling and multiethnic neighborhoods. His characters move through streets named so often — Richmond and Waugh, Rusk and Fairview — that they come to have talismanic power, like the street names in Springsteen songs.
Washington’s stories, like Philip Levine’s poems, are heavily peopled. “Gonzalo belched it and Neesha sang it and Marilyn prayed for a flash of intuition” is a not untypical sentence. One story gives us a frightened crew of gay hustlers, many of them boys, named Scratch and Google and Poke and Knock and Nacho.
There’s a zigzag through line in “Lot.” About half of the stories are about a single family. In particular they’re about the coming-of-age of a teenager, the son of a black mother and a Latino father, who works in the family restaurant and is discovering, to the delight of his shivering senses, that he likes to fool around with boys.
[ This book was one of our most anticipated titles of March. See the full list. ]
Other stories loop around this boy’s tale. One is about how a woman’s affair with a “whiteboy” rattles an entire apartment building. “When she came around looking for ackee,” Washington writes, slyly, “his was the freshest on the shelf.” Another is a caper about two amiable numbskulls who work at a restaurant called the Sushi Shack. They find what they call a chupacabra under a bridge, and hope their photos of the poor animal will go viral. Others are about drug dealers, the members of a baseball team and hurricane survivors.
The first thing to say about Washington is that he’s an alert and often comic observer of the world. “Denise lived in one of those walk-ups that look like garbage from a distance,” he writes. “Then you get a little closer and they don’t look any better.”
He has a gift for observing things like skin tones. The central character’s father “wore his skin like a sunburnt peach.” His mother has a darker pigment, “like rust on the rim of the stove.”
He places the casual racism of the food industry on display. When the boy goes out looking for work in restaurants besides his family’s, “They read my name and they saw my face and they pointed to the dishes.”
There’s nothing overtly or pretentiously literary about his stories, but when books are mentioned you tend to want to visit the passages twice. Here he is on a young woman, a sometime prostitute, and her bookishness:
“She hit the resorts; she discovered Milton; she worked the coast; she discovered Rimbaud; she bought some heels; she discovered Babel; she took care of her skin; she discovered Rumi; she tried not to catch the clap; she discovered Borges; she caught the clap; she discovered Allende; she waited it out; she discovered Plath; she tried not to catch anything else.”
Washington cracks open a vibrant, polyglot side of Houston about which few outsiders are aware. On one level, this landscape is bleak. These stories take place amid dismal laundromats and broken-down pharmacies. There are turf wars and shootouts. Things happen near Dollar Tree stores or in Whataburger parking lots. The men and women here are extended hope only in minuscule, homeopathic amounts. Perversely, their neighborhoods are gentrifying at the same time, pricing many long-timers out.
But there is a fair amount of joy in Washington’s stories, too. (Some have previously appeared in magazines like Tin House and The New Yorker.) An underthrob of emotion beats inside them. He’s confident enough not to force the action. The stories feel loose, their cellular juices free to flow.
Living in what the critic Albert Murray called “this great hit-and-miss republic,” Washington’s characters pivot between alienation and longing. Many of them lack papers or have expiring visas or worry about getting deported over a traffic ticket.
“I haven’t seen the stars since I made it to Houston,” one recent immigrant says. She feels the city’s smog in her throat. She wants to learn not just English but “English english, the language of money,” the kind she hears in banks.
These newcomers are mostly welcome. As one character remarks, “With our not-legals shuffling in, people who don’t have time for the violence, people whose only reason for bouncing was to get away from the violence, we’ve mellowed out, found our rhythm. Slowed down. You can raise a kid in the complex. Start a garden.”
A few of these stories are barely more than vignettes. One or two don’t quite coalesce. This is on a certain level a modest book, one that isn’t going to drive other young short story writers into the shadows. But the promise Washington displays is real and large.
One of the moving things about “Lot” is its communal sensibility. There’s a sense that these characters are all in it together, and the narrators have a way of gliding between “I” and “we.”
One of them tries to remember “a time when you could probably look at the four of us and still call us okay.”B:
【萧】【尘】【看】【着】【李】【师】【师】，【有】【些】【无】【奈】：“【师】【师】，【你】【到】【底】【想】【说】【什】【么】，【就】【直】【接】【说】【吧】。” “【夫】【君】，【原】【来】【你】【也】【不】【笨】【啊】。”【李】【师】【师】【忽】【然】【嘻】【嘻】【一】【笑】。 【萧】【尘】【的】【脸】【色】【有】【些】【黑】：“【我】【若】【是】【真】【笨】【的】【话】，【也】【没】【办】【法】【将】【你】【们】【几】【位】【娇】【妻】【骗】【回】【家】【啊】。” “【真】【是】【的】。”【李】【师】【师】【白】【了】【他】【一】【眼】，“【人】【家】【好】【不】【容】【易】【开】【个】【玩】【笑】，【夫】【君】【也】【不】【知】【道】【让】【让】【人】【家】。”
【一】【月】【十】【四】【日】，【星】【期】【四】。【尽】【在】 【依】【旧】【是】【甲】【级】【联】【赛】【的】【场】【馆】，【依】【旧】【是】【恶】【魔】【战】【队】【熟】【悉】【的】【地】【方】。【这】【个】【地】【方】，【他】【们】【一】【个】【赛】【季】【打】【了】【四】【十】【场】【比】【赛】，【这】【里】，【就】【是】【恶】【魔】【战】【队】***【正】【式】【在】【国】【内】【崛】【起】【的】【地】【方】。 【今】【天】，【他】【们】【就】【要】【在】【这】【里】【进】【行】【季】【后】【赛】，【第】【三】【轮】，【冠】【军】【之】【战】！ 【两】【支】【战】【队】【将】【会】【为】【了】【最】【后】【一】【个】【难】【得】【的】【名】【次】【而】【厮】【杀】。 【恶】【魔】***
【他】【们】【可】【是】【从】【沙】【匪】【之】【后】【就】【一】【直】【跟】【在】【这】【个】【大】【哥】【队】【后】【面】【的】，【亲】【眼】【看】【着】【大】【哥】【队】【是】【如】【何】【突】【破】【重】【重】【险】【阻】，【成】【功】【到】【了】【如】【今】【这】【个】【装】【分】。 【更】【何】【况】【一】【路】【跟】【着】【大】【哥】【队】【捡】【垃】【圾】，【他】【们】【现】【在】【的】【装】【分】【也】【不】【小】【了】，【即】【便】【不】【能】【吃】【鸡】，【拿】【个】【第】【二】【也】【是】【不】【错】【的】。 “【冲】【冲】【冲】，【清】【场】！”【眼】【看】【在】【场】【的】【人】【数】【越】【来】【越】【少】，【墨】【依】【依】【比】【沐】【雨】【鸾】【还】【要】【激】【动】。【她】【一】【个】【百】【足】【往】
【给】【增】【援】【部】【队】【发】【报】【后】，【长】【平】【林】【盛】【人】【便】【终】【止】【了】【白】【天】【进】【攻】【的】【计】【划】【了】。【毕】【竟】【在】【没】【有】【重】【炮】【掩】【护】【的】【情】【况】【下】【强】【行】【进】【攻】，【跟】【送】【死】【差】【不】【多】。 【虽】【然】【在】【长】【平】【林】【盛】【人】【眼】【里】，【士】【兵】【就】【是】【消】【耗】【品】，【但】【是】【消】【耗】【品】【用】【量】【过】【大】，【上】【面】【也】【不】【太】【好】【交】【代】【啊】。【再】【说】【了】，【炮】【兵】【调】【整】【阵】【地】【也】【是】【需】【要】【时】【间】【的】。 【晚】【上】【八】【点】，【长】【平】【林】【盛】【人】【派】【出】【两】【个】【中】【队】【进】【行】【了】【一】【次】【试】【探】【性】今期平码单数出特——【演】【唱】【会】【当】【天】—— 【林】【晴】【难】【得】【穿】【了】【一】【身】【露】【背】【长】【裙】，【点】【了】【几】【颗】【星】【星】【在】【眼】【下】，【耀】【眼】【的】【不】【像】【话】。 【她】【不】【经】【意】【问】【助】【理】【道】“【只】【只】【呢】？” 【助】【理】【道】“【刚】【刚】【出】【去】【了】。” 【说】【是】【要】【拿】【什】【么】【东】【西】。 【说】【曹】【操】【曹】【操】【到】。 【温】【知】【抱】【着】【一】【堆】【袋】【子】【过】【来】，【林】【晴】【挑】【眉】【看】【他】，【他】【无】【奈】【一】【笑】，【打】【开】【袋】【子】，【林】【晴】【差】【点】【被】【金】【光】【亮】【瞎】。 【各】【种】【林】【晴】
【程】【咬】【金】：“【尐】【弟】【聴】【哥】【哥】【地】，【妳】【往】【哪】【佉】，【偶】【噈】【往】【哪】【佉】。” 【仼】【君】【廓】：“【投】【唐】【吔】【丕】【错】，【忝】【丅】【冂】【阀】【惧】【怕】【李】【渊】【离】【做】【夨】，【巳】【經】【李】【续】【投】【奔】【李】【阀】【咊】【宋】【阀】，**【谁】【掌】，【尚】【未】【岢】【倁】。” 【罗】【土】【信】【冇】【丕】【哃】【噫】【見】，【祂】【説】：“【溱】【夨】【哥】，【話】【吔】【丕】【螚】【這】ㄙ【説】。【依】【尐】【弟】【堪】【來】，【渊】【仼】【求】【贤】【箬】【渴】，【唯】【材】【驶】【苚】，【丕】【褈】【冂】【弟】，【姃】【驶】【吾】【辈】【效】【忠】【地】【眀】【宔】，【尐】【弟】【巳】【經】【决】
“【娘】【娘】，【那】【边】【有】【消】【息】【了】【呢】。”【金】【月】【站】【在】【纯】【贵】【妃】【身】【后】，【一】【边】【为】【她】【整】【理】【云】【鬓】，【一】【边】【悄】【声】【在】【她】【耳】【边】【说】【着】【什】【么】。 【纯】【贵】【妃】【面】【色】【如】【常】，【听】【过】【也】【只】【当】【什】【么】【都】【没】【听】【到】。【后】【宫】【人】【多】【口】【杂】，【她】【深】【谙】【这】【其】【中】【的】【道】【道】【儿】，【对】【于】【金】【月】【禀】【报】【的】【事】【情】，【本】【就】【在】【她】【的】【预】【料】【之】【中】，【只】【不】【过】【现】【在】【还】【不】【到】【时】【候】。 “【陪】【本】【宫】【出】【去】【走】【走】，【这】【成】【天】【闷】【在】【屋】【里】，【再】【可】
【雪】【见】【开】【始】【了】【她】【的】【说】【明】。 【似】【乎】【在】【魔】【力】【森】【林】【的】【边】【缘】，【有】【一】【处】【山】【谷】【矿】【床】。 【那】【里】【面】【的】【原】【生】【怪】【物】【是】【狗】【头】【人】【和】【豺】【狼】【人】，【这】【算】【是】【最】【低】【级】【的】【有】【智】【慧】【人】【形】【魔】【物】。 【兽】【化】【人】（【半】【身】【人】【类】，【半】【身】【兽】【类】【的】【种】【群】，）【的】【生】【物】，【基】【本】【上】【都】【是】【魔】【王】【创】【造】【的】【种】【族】。 【从】【将】【近】【三】【米】【高】【的】【米】【陶】【诺】【斯】【牛】【头】【人】，【一】【直】【到】【最】【弱】【小】【的】【类】【似】【狗】【头】【人】【的】【这】【种】【生】【物】，