As the kitchen slowly fills with acrid smoke, Hannah considers the details of last night’s dream. All her dreams are similar. They begin with the vultures from Disney’s movie The Jungle Book: Buzzie, Flaps, Ziggy, and Dizzy, those adorable guys with their shaggy haircuts and Liverpudlian accents. Hannah suspects she giggles in her sleep as the dream gets underway and the feathered quartet exchange their famous banter: Whatcha wanna do? I dunno. Okay, but whatcha wanna do?
This is when Hitchcock enters belly first, and just like that the mock-Beatles birds have blood red eyes, growl like wolves, sprout dripping talons, and hideous, dagger beaks. Hannah shivers just thinking of them. In the dreams, she searches for and locates herself far below, standing in the middle of a cornfield row. She is shading her eyes, looking skyward toward the row of birds, her body no bigger than a black ant on a picnic table. When the birds screech and launch, spears sailing earthward, Hannah starts sprinting.
The vultures, protected black vultures, are the first creatures we meet in Virginia Watt’s wonderful collection of short stories, ECHOES FROM THE HOCKER HOUSE. Like many of the creatures in Watt’s book, the vultures are not functioning correctly. Their settings have been turned up abnormally high. Why? No one seems to be able to fathom, and instead the focus is on how to adapt, how to live with things that are fundamentally unendurable.
Much like the middle of Penn’s woods, i.e. the state of Pennsylvania, many of Watt’s stories take place in a landscape that is beautiful, but challenging: mountains and trees and rocks and coal. Living to a ripe old age is the exception to the rule, but so is leaving home for easier horizons. These hill country folk love their wooded towns, their unusual neighbors, their God, their country, and their struggles.
Have you read the Kirkus review of ECHOES FROM THE HOCKER HOUSE?
ECHOES FROM THE HOCKER HOUSE is a National Book Award nominee, and it is out today in Kindle, with the paperback to release on 11/20/2023. And STILL available at the pre-order price from Devil’s Party Press!
* ARRIVING 11.17.23
Echoes From the Hocker House
Presenting Virginia Watts first short story collection, ECHOES FROM THE HOCKER HOUSE.