Balloon Theater: Short Stories and Personal Essays

Steve Moncada Street

Publisher: Contingency Street Press Pages: 330 Price: (paperback) $17.99 ISBN: 978958015063 Reviewed: May, 2024 Author Website: Visit »

In Steve Moncada Street’s posthumously published collection of short stories and personal essays, characters grapple with life’s puzzles, often finding insight through chance encounters.

In the opening story, “Snakes,” Lovo watches the news in a “venerable old bar,” and sees a place he once traveled to. He attempts to share an important memory, but his fellow regulars fail to grasp the significance.

“All the Things,” finds Marty and Susan newly landed in Egypt, where she will start a new job. Then, as the two lunch at a “wobbly card table set in the dirt,” Susan finds herself questioning her new commitment —even more so when she learns of a dead body wrapped in a white sheet, “not fifty feet from their table….”

The story “Age” centers on an older man who disturbs visitors at the local laundromat with his constant “mini rants” and exhortations of: “I am sitty-nine years ode!”

Personal essay topics include the author’s aging neighbor who tends to take advantage of Street’s helpfulness; a ride on the local bus that gives him perspective he missed using other modes of transportation; his poignant, paradoxical joy as he fights the cancer that ultimately killed him.

These are literary works often grounded in one’s struggle for self-awareness while attempting to create a satisfying life. Executed by an author at the top of his craft, they are provocative and descriptive, at times calling to mind Paul Bowles. Portraying Cairo, Street writes of “…the bombs and the balconies and the elevators fixed with string, the sidewalk smells of jasmine and piss… the curtain windowed Mercedes passing lepers on the sidewalk…”

There are occasional missteps. In “Compass,” early identification of characters is vague, and at one point the character “Stu” becomes “Stanley.” In other stories, such as “Zbort Glubb,” foreign terms and English words written phonetically (e.g., “Zbydair Mahn” for Spiderman) can confuse.

Even so, this is a fine literary collection. Its meaningful stories are sure to resonate with readers.