Our “Intersections” short story contest has concluded and it was an extremely competitive one. The winner is “Chum” by Christopher X. Ryan, which tells the story of a young insomniac roaming muggy Florida streets in the wee hours of the morning. He’s not from around here and it’s not just the heat that’s beating him down. He’s unemployed and his girlfriend is pregnant and readying herself for an abortion. Everyone he runs into assumes he’s homeless, including the local cops. It’s a weird world out there and so many people are not what they seem. “Chum” is a play on words…it can mean a friend or it can mean shark, or better, in this case, alligator bait. Who we are at the moment–predator, prey, ambivalent, friend–depends on who we encounter and how we interact and intersect. Most of the time we get by through pure obliviousness to the danger around us.
This is a fascinating story, largely due to Christopher’s extremely skilled characterization: the middle-aged street couple with their grocery carts, the waitress at the late night dive, the guy who runs the local homeless shelter, an assortment of cops and a park ranger, a young couple out for what proves to be a wild night, the overworked yet practical girlfriend, an alligator…everyone is painted with depth and nuance. We wonder at their murky motivation, so astonishingly human. This is achingly beautiful writing about the quirky margins of a big city.
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Born on the East Coast island of Martha’s Vineyard, Christopher X. Ryan now lives in Helsinki, Finland, where he writes fiction, edits books, and basks in the kaamos, or the season of darkness. His debut novel HELIOPHOBIA from Montag Press (www.montagpress.com) launches in December 2022, and he can be found at www.christopherXryan.com.