September 2009

Gina Myers

fiction

MLKNG SCKLS by Justin Sirois

In his collection of poetry, Secondary Sound, Justin Sirois demonstrates a command of prose which extends to his new book, MLKNG SCKLS. Subtitled "deleted Word documents from the laptop of Salim Abid, April 2004," this slim novella consists of excerpts from Sirois's yet-to-be-published novel Falcons on the Floor, which was written in collaboration with Haneen Alshujairy, an Iraqi refugee.

MLKNG SCKLS documents two young men, Salim and Khalil, on their journey through the desert as they flee Fallujah in April 2004. The narrative is told through Salim's brief diary-like entries which are demarcated not by a date, but by how much battery power remains on the laptop. With 91% batter power remaining, Salim recounts what it was like when leaving Fallujah: "Now black skies burp fire and the water boils poisonous. Boot heels collapse the necks of doorknobs. Men go and go missing." While the language is sparse, Sirois is still incredibly detailed, capturing the tone and mood through his careful word choices.

Salim is an engaging character whose wry humor shows up time and time again. He describes trying to sleep at night: "The night has no soundtrack but creaks and snaps. Every bird chirp could be a radio squawking attack; every splash becomes boots rushing us blind. I've sat up so many times I probably have a six pack from paranoia -- it could be marketed as The Ultimate, 480 Minute, Don't Stab Me in My Sleep Workout." Salim and Khalil give a human face to the Iraqis suffering in this war. They joke, laugh, love, are frightened, frustrated, angry, and they are not so different from us. In one particularly imaginative and touching scene, Salim recounts uncooking a meal for his girlfriend, Rana: "To show Rana how much I love her, I'd uncook an entire meal, the whole thing, just for her. Anyone can cook, but uncooking -- that's hard. That's really hard. But it would be so worth it." He then goes on to describe the process of cooking and then uncooking chicken curry while Rana waits. This scene in particular plays with the reader's desire to know more. Is this a flashback or a dream? Who is Rana? What happened to her? Though the reader most likely knows the answer to this last question.

If the purpose of this book is to build anticipation for Falcons on the Floor, the larger puzzle these pieces fit into, then Sirois is successful. These fragments are almost sure to engage the reader and leave him or her wanting more. MLKNG SCKLS is a smart and compassionate little book.

 

MLKNG SCKLS by Justin Sirois
Publishing Genius
55 pages

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