Passing Through; Tails from the Road – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Passing Through; Tails from the Road [edited by Weasel]
Manvil, TX, Weasel Press, September 2017, trade paperback, $9.99 (138 pages), Kindle $2.99.

There is an editor’s introduction that sets the mood of hitchhiking drama, but isn’t clear whether it’s just a mood piece for this anthro universe, or if it was a real-life personal event that inspired this anthology. Here are six short stories and novelettes about anthro hitchhikers. “Cash, Grass, or Ass, open up and hitch a ride!” (blurb)

In “First Time Ain’t Easy” by Tyson West, Rod (called both Roderick and Rodney) is a 20-year-old raccoon whose father and friends consider to be soft and immature. He hitchhikes from Illinois to Seattle to visit a cousin, gets a ride from a friendly black panther (clearly an African-American), and the two are arrested and jailed in Montana. Rod hopes to be released in a few days, but is he tough enough to survive in prison until then?

“Seed of a Doubt” by Frances Pauli is a rare anthro story with sealife:

“‘Raise your right fin.’ The bailiff fluttered silver gills and rolled one eyeball the size of Ray’s head in the direction of the judge. ‘And state your name.’

‘I’m Ray.’ The courtroom water ran a good five degrees warmer than he was used to, but the increase in temperature behind his scales was more from nerves than the fact that hey were in the shallows. ‘Sorry. Ray Blythe.’” (p. 27)

The judge is a squid, the bailiff is a cod, and the defendant who Ray is a reluctant witness against is a shark mob boss. A big shark. Ray is a remora who had hitched a ride — was attached to Carl Sanguini, the shark, at the time of the alleged murder. A remora is a small fish, used to being silent and unnoticed, as Ray was when the alleged murder took place. He is extra nervous at being the center of attention in the coral courtroom.

What happens in the trial could only happen if the characters are anthro sealife. Kudos to Pauli.

“The Savage Caravan” by Jako Malan takes advantage of the author being South African:

“It was then I saw her by the roadside.

Her tiny hooves leisurely disturbed the roadside gravel. A small backpack of possessions slung over her shoulder and a pinstripe of smoke curled upward from a cigarette clasped in her left hoof. An upturned third digit on her right signaled her intentions. She trawled the highway or transportation. Companionship. Maybe more? I would take the bait. A twisted smile stretched across my muzzle, and my tail flicked beneath my backside on the sagging leather seat.

[…]

Rebellious, small-town adolescent,’ I thought to myself. Not the kind of ewe your parents would want you to bring home. My parents, however, would hardly approve of anyone or anything that didn’t have a wonderfully shiny coat, sported canines, perky ears, and had a bushy tail.’” (pgs. 53-54)

The narrator is Ed, the lorry driver, a dog (breed unspecified but German shepherd would fit). Any description of what happens would be a spoiler, but let’s just say that they’re both psychopaths; there are zebras, leopards, and meerkats; and there’s a lot of blood. And that this is another story that requires the characters to be anthro animals. Kudos to Malan, too.

In “El Vucko” by Billy Leigh, Jamie (Dingo) and Evelyn (Vixen) are a couple of tourists who fly to Spain a rent a van to tour the countryside. As they set out they hear a radio news report that the police are looking for El Vucko, a jewel thief. They pick up a hitchhiker; Rufus, a handsome Wolf with a British accent who claims that his car has broken down. As they spend time camping out together, Jamie who is gay begins to resent the attention that Evelyn shows for Rufus. He also begins to suspect Rufus of being El Vucko. There is a bit of excitement at the end. “El Vucko” isn’t a bad story but not much happens. It’s successful mainly as a story about three young friends camping out in the Spanish countryside.

“Highway to Hell” by Thurston Howl is about Harry, a drunken driver, and Stan, the hitchhiker he picks up. I can’t say anything about the story, not even their species, except that it’s short; less than four pages.

“Underpass” by BanWynn Oakshadow is stream-of-consciousness narration from Sutah, a cougar mutie vagrant with Bi-Polar Personality Disorder who usually lives under the eaves of a highway underpass, to a government shrink examining him:

“I’ve got my bedroll, but I ain’t ‘bout to use it here. Highway Patrol cops are total shits ‘bout ‘vagrants’ sleeping up here, specially muties. They grab my tail most every time I try, haul my fuzzy ass in to take my paw prints and check for priors – I got one for ‘Inducing Panic’ and a couple for vagrancy – then, if I’m lucky, they’ll toss me in a cell ‘til I get a TV face-to-face with the judge an’ DA. It don’t matter if I’m found guilty; I ain’t got no money to pay the fine, so I get a couple weeks in the county jail instead. […]

[…]

“I was also seeing animals, natural looking, not like muties, but they talked and did shit. Once, a raccoon climbed out of the trash can in my California shrink’s office. He crawled up onto her desk behind her and swiped some of her paper clips. I pretty much ignored the shrink; which pretty much put her girdle in a twist. The ‘coon unbent and rebent the paperclips and made them into glasses just like the ones Dr. Yeng was wearing. He put them on and started making faces at her and imitating every move she made behind her back. Made me laugh so hard, I blew snot bubbles. I wished I had a mirror. I’d kill a skin to see what a big cat with a snot bubble hanging from his muzzle looked like. […]

[…]

After a couple months, the VA decided that I had enough fixing. They measured that by dollars, not recovery. Even that I was a disabled vet didn’t help me stay. Mutie disabled vets is only worth half as much. The food was actually good there, and my yowling from the nightmares got me a private room. I gotta love my anal glands. Spraying the bed when I had one of them nightmares made the other seven muties in the room raise hell til I was gone. […]” (pgs. 113-115)

Sutah rambles on and on. The government in this country doesn’t cure those fucked up with mental problems; it dumps them out into the public, and onto the road. “NO FUR!” muties included.

Passing Through; Tails from the Road (cover by Tabsley) is a short anthology about anthro hitchhikers with someplace to go; hitchhikers with nowhere to go; hitchhiker predators and victims; and permanent drifters. “Seed of a Doubt” and “The Savage Caravan” depend on their characters being anthro animals in an anthro world. “Highway to Hell” and “Underpass” depend on their characters being anthro animals in a human world. “First Time Ain’t Easy” and “El Vucko” are just funny-animal stories. The former is a fine one, but the latter is the kind of story where the writing is good enough but you keep waiting for something to happen, and waiting … and when it does, it wasn’t worth the wait. Sorry. “Seed of a Doubt” and “The Savage Caravan” are worth the price of Passing Through alone, though. Overall: recommended.

Fred Patten

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