Guy Ware’s debut short story collection is called You Have 24 Hours To Love Us. It took me roughly that amount of time to read through it for the first time and immediately fall in love with the author’s style.
Ware’s take on life is original and thought-provoking but not without a hint of humour. In ‘In Plain Sight’, a chicken farmer Stan in a far away country is suddenly put under blockade by a government led by a President and a General Weedon from the other side of the world. ‘You have twenty-four hours to love us,’ they tell him. They build a concrete wall around his friend Jeannie’s goat farm, and then they play ‘Imagine’ over and over again on one end of the wall, and ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ on the other, until all their goats die. Then they bomb the farm with chicken carcasses. The satirical resemblance with the Western approach of dealing with those who, as they put it, ‘don’t want to join the twenty-first century’, is clear, as is the allusion to all ‘chicken farmers’ who are ‘a threat’ to Weedon’s security.
In ‘Hostage’, a woman takes a wrong turn on her way home and walks into a different life, a life that could be hers, with the identical IKEA wardrobe in a similar semi-detached house and with its own grief and sorrow. When she cannot bear her own life, she will make a choice. Another favourite of mine, ‘All Downhill From Here’, is a story of Noah’s Ark told from the perspective of one of the creatures the captain took with him, a hoofed mammal similar to a wolf. As she stays on top of the hill with the old captain, watching with him the appearance of the new world, she thinks about the other wolf, Yvan, who was too late to board the boat. That is what she believes anyway.
Guy Ware is not an author that makes reading too easy for us. He leaves enough gaps to require a few rereads, some thinking, a couple of days’ of the story sinking in. His stories are diverse, his topics fascinating: the identities we choose, the turns we take, the illusions we prefer to believe in.
Any Cop?: You Have 24 Hours To Love Us is a clever, playfully uncanny debut collection that has left me looking forward to more of Guy Ware’s writing.