When Mystical Creatures Attack! (John Simmons Short Fiction Awards) (Paperback)

By Kathleen Founds

University of Iowa Press, 9781609382834, 162pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2014

List Price: 16.00*
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In "When Mystical Creatures Attack ," Ms. Freedman's high school English class writes essays in which mystical creatures resolve the greatest sociopolitical problems of our time. Students include Janice Gibbs, a feral child with excessive eyeliner and an anti-authoritarian complex that would be interesting were it not so ill-informed, and Cody Splunk, an aspiring writer working on a time machine. Following a nervous breakdown, Ms. Freedman corresponds with Janice and Cody from an insane asylum run on the capitalist model of cognitive-behavioral therapy, where inmates practice water aerobics to rebuild their Psychiatric Credit Scores.
The lives of Janice, Cody, and Ms. Freedman are revealed through in-class essays, letters, therapeutic journal exercises, an advice column, a reality show television transcript, a diary, and a Methodist women's fundraising cookbook. (Recipes include Dark Night of the Soul Food, Render Unto Caesar Salad, and Valley of the Shadow of Death by Chocolate Cake. ) In Virtue of the Month, the ghost of Ms. Freedman's mother argues that suicide is not a choice. In The Un-Game, Janice's chain-smoking nursing home charge composes a dirty limerick. In The Hall of Old-Testament Miracles, wax figures of Bible characters come to life, hungry for Cody's flesh.
Set against a South Texas landscape where cicadas hum and the air smells of taco stands and jasmine flowers, these stories range from laugh-out-loud funny to achingly poignant. This surreal, exuberant collection mines the dark recesses of the soul while illuminating the human heart.

About the Author

Kathleen Founds has worked at a nursing home, a phone bank, a South Texas middle school, and a Midwestern technical college specializing in truck-driving certificates. She got her undergraduate degree at Stanford and her MFA at Syracuse. She teaches social justice themed English classes at Cabrillo College and lives in Marina, California, where she writes while her toddler is napping. Her fiction has been published in "The Sun, Epiphany, ""Booth Journal, "" The MacGuffin," and "Stanford Alumni Magazine."