Tales From the Liminal
S. K. Kruse
Publish Date: October 12, 2021
ISBN 978-1-944521-16-5 (Hardcover)
144 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 in.
ISBN 978-1-944521-15-8 (Paperback)
144 pages, 5.5 x 8.5 in.
ISBN 978-1-944521-17-2 (Ebook)
In this collection of curious and delightful short stories by S. K. Kruse, you never know who you’re going to meet or where you’re going to end up. You can be certain, however, that whether you follow Schrödinger’s cat into the zeroth dimension, groove to Barry Manilow with Bigfoot on a beach, or travel with a troubadour of the apocalypse to Belleville, you’ll find yourself smack dab in the middle of some befuddling predicament of existence.
Using humor and horror, satire and allegory, fabulism and realism, Tales From the Liminal takes you for an extraordinary ride, submerging you in spaces where anything is possible, especially transformation.
“The diversity and power of these creations results in a collection that will delight literature readers who want consistently powerful examples of the short story form used to its greatest effectiveness. It delights with hard-hitting messages that linger in the mind long after their reading.”
— D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review
“After reading through a record-breaking number of submissions,
encountering Kruse’s story The Stretch Motel felt like discovering a rare mineral.”
— Timothy Cech, fiction editor, Reed Magazine
Stories & Excerpts
Bigfoot’s Got a Lover
Everybody knows Bumbles bounce but do Bigfoots float? We all paused what we were doing and squinted out into the sparkling waves, secretly rooting for him to make it or conflictedly hoping he would drown. After a nail-biting minute in which his shiny brown coat bobbed and ducked indeterminately in the waves, his long, shaggy arms shot into the air, one after the other in perfect backstrokes that hauled him down the shoreline, impervious to the waves.
The Birthday Party
Nobody knew for sure who started the sixtieth birthday celebrations. Some said they had begun right there in their own town and spread across the country. But other towns made similar claims. Archie was of the minority opinion that the same idea had probably sprung up simultaneously in multiple locations across the country, circumstances being what they were.
The Stretch Motel
“Checkout 184!” I announce, tapping my cigarette butt out with the worn toe of last year’s gym shoe because Francine will worry if I don’t, even though they paved paradise for a goddam mile in any direction you look, and I don’t think it would be any great tragedy if the Stretch Motel, long past its expiration date, were to suddenly make its exit in a defiant blaze of glory.
Previously published in Reed Magazine, Issue 153 (2020).
Mistakes May Have Been Made
The goats broke out in simultaneous bleats of protest, and Horace cringed. The hircines always took umbrage at any vocabulary that implied order or higher consciousness in the universe. It was a long story but, around the time the horses had gone metaphysical, the goats had gone material. It was the only way, they said, they could make sense of such a brutal world.
As far as Horace was concerned, however, it was all wasted smelly goat breath, for only horses and pigs could follow such arguments, and the horses had given up philosophical debate and the pigs didn’t care about philosophy at all.
All He Could Do Is Sing
“You’re useless!” his distraught young wife had screamed one night, throwing cans of cream style corn and then baked beans at him as the world bore full throttle toward its demise. She’d broken a glass punch bowl they’d received as a wedding gift on the wall just inches from his head. He had nothing to say in reply. He knew by then it was true. There were gifts people had. Skills they acquired. Traits and competencies that made them useful in an apocalypse, but he possessed none of them. All he could do is sing.
When They Come for Me
“But did you ever notice how they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but they also say the clothes make the man? They say third time’s a charm, but they also say three strikes and you’re out. They say beware of Greeks bearing gifts, but they also say never look a gift horse in the mouth. I mean, what the hell is that all about?”
The Ferryman and His Brother
It was during the first Great War when I first noticed the change. He developed an alarming sarcasm and would make caustic remarks, sometimes mocking the passengers, sometimes mocking the work. During the Great Purge, he became depressed and didn’t say much of anything at all. Then the Second Great War hit. That’s when I first began to fear my brother was going mad. He started hanging around the dock after making a drop, confusing and terrifying the passengers by shouting absurdities at me as I ferried them across the water.
She Saw Gertrude Stein in the Condensation on Her Window
“Did you know, Rick, that in days gone by, and in some isolated pockets still, those who have dreams and those who can interpret them are valued members of the community? Nowadays, if you know what your dreams mean, you’re just a lonely, middle-aged woman on her way to owning thirteen cats and showing up every lunch hour to play Comfortably Numb on a melodica downtown in front of Starbucks!”
“You’re nothing without a monkey,” I heard another organ grinder say when word got around the Human neighborhood that Bonavento had been taken away. After that, I kept asking Papa when we would buy another monkey, but he would always just say that we didn’t really need one. Sometimes, though, I’d wake up in the night and see him counting coins from the rent can and I wondered if he was telling the truth. I stopped asking him a couple of months ago.
Man Posts Picture of Unusual Rock and Gets Call from Concerned Parties
“You’ve gotten yourself involved with something here, Mr. MacGafferty,” the woman in red began in her sultry voice, “something way above your pay grade.”
First of all, as far as I know though I’ve never subscribed, you can’t tell what a person’s pay grade is from White Pages Premium. And second of all, I was currently unemployed due to accidentally setting Fabian loose inside Chili’s during rush hour the one day I decided to slip him into work, so, technically, I had no pay grade.
It’s the animals that pick the people. Not the other way around. At least on my carousel. Can’t say what it’s like on any other. Never been on any other. On this hand-carved, hand-painted old beauty, though, it’s the animals.
My Streak of Nobody
Outside the black and white confines of the train, everything streaks by in living color—faces on the platform, posters for upcoming movies, graffiti on the walls. In between these bursts of light and color, when there’s only the clacking of the track and the inscrutable expanse of this confusing new kind of night, I start to feel panicked. Lost. Aware only of myself hurtling through oblivion. Always, I am braced for it. Always, it comes again.
I Followed Schrödinger’s Cat and Here’s What I Found
It never occurred to me that if Schrödinger’s cat showed up I shouldn’t feed it, let alone follow it. A humble graduate student of philosophy without health insurance, boyfriend, or engaged advisor, I’d been languishing in the department for years, processing per my advisor’s direction an avalanche of data without any advancement in my apperception.
The Unexpected Consequence of an Unintended Revolution
Evy tilted her head to the side and squinted as a new thought blossomed gently in her mind: This woman was looking in her purse, viewing things through her eyes and feeling them in her hands—the weighty metal of a set of keys, the smooth plastic of a sunscreen bottle, the loose, pinching hinge of her sunglasses. She might be tired or frustrated or eager to get inside. She might be early or late or maybe just on time, but she was there in that parking lot, picking up her kids from that pool, and, from that woman’s vantage point, all the people around her, including Evy, were just little planets in a world that revolved around her.
Summoned by a Star
Your life begins as a seed atop a stalk, beneath azure skies and golden hues of wheat and sun. You sway in the summer breeze on rolling hills of grain, until one day you’re mowed down, plunged into the earth, cut off from the light. You tremble in the darkness.
“The world in Kruse’s new book is bizarre, backward and beautiful. Populated by Bigfoot, Gertrude Stein and Schrödinger’s cat, it is both deeply strange and oddly familiar. There are professorial pigs and typing monkeys and a vast catalogue of philosophical ideas sprung from their hypothetical cages, brought to life as the author gives them form and makes her way, in a series of very short stories, from one odd place to another.”
— Matt Geiger, Mount Horeb Mail
The Liminal Scholarship
The Liminal Scholarship is an award established upon the publication of S. K. Kruse’s collection of short stories Tales From the Liminal.
To compete for the 2023 scholarship, applicants submitted essays on aspects of liminality as observed in “The Stretch Motel,” one of the fifteen short stories from Tales From the Liminal. Of the many submissions, Audrey Sizemore of Arizona State University was determined the winner by juror Lee Siegel.
“The author of the essay ‘In Between at the Stretch Motel’ understood the story so deeply, insightfully, sensitively, and sympathetically that her understanding provided the perfect context in which to illuminate the minds and hearts, fears and desires, of the characters in the story and to bring those characters to life,” said Siegel of the winning essay.
Audrey lives in St. George and is currently a student at Arizona State University, pursuing a BA in English through online study. A 16-year veteran of Starbucks, she’s a proud participant in their College Achievement Program. When Audrey is not working or studying or being a mom to her brood of five, she relaxes by reading fiction. Audrey plans to donate the monetary winnings to Utah Tech, saying, “I appreciate that writers like S. K. Kruse support other writers like me, and I want to offer the same kind of support for other students with writing aspirations.”
You can read Sizemore’s winning essay “In Between at the Stretch Motel” here.
Information for the 2024 Liminal Scholarship will be available August 2023.