With ‘Five Stories,’ less is more

In “Dudley’s Sacrifice,” Eric Sheridan Wyatt tackles the absurdities of corporate life like Jane Goodall attacking fleas in a short piece by T.C. Boyle. One of five short stories in Wyatt’s first collection of published fiction, Five Stories, “Dudley’s Sacrifice” opens with a regional manager contemplating layoffs at a company whose owner has scraped the marrow from the bone.

Five Stories coverOne by one the narrator weeds a list of potential layoffs until the owner takes the decision out of his hands. Wyatt follows cost-cutting and downsizing to its logically absurd conclusion with an irony that characterizes much of his work here.

More rewards follow, from the snarky narrative voice of “Cop-Cop Cop,” a loopy love story set on a planet that has outlawed coffee, to the tender, wistful “Solomon’s Ditch,” a standout about a tobacco farmer, a runaway girl and a dog.

Wyatt excels at capturing character, setting and mood in a small space, using language that enhances without distraction, as in the final story, where a child discovers a dead robin with eyes that are “dimpled like tiny raisins.”

In Five Stories, Wyatt writes with a quick wit and a wry voice. It’s one that deserves a wider audience . . . and a bigger collection.