Sometimes they’re contemplative:
“I picture him, my grandfather, or I try to. Envision him. My grandfather, his father, his father’s father, and so on. I turn around and go the other way, forward in time but by a different route – I picture me if my settler forebears hadn’t fled their own lives, if they’d never overrun this land and leached into my bloodstream. I picture me at home here. I picture me at home anywhere, a stranger to nothing.”
Sometimes, they offer the unexpected: “By the time you read this, I’ll still be alive.”
In the same story, you might find both The Tibetan Book of the Dead and a Woody Allen movie (Sleeper, if you want to know). There are references to Born Free and Star Wars, Gogol and Tolkien, to Kierkegaard and Liszt and Van Gogh. There are gardenias for prom night and there’s half a joint in a tampon box. There’s a wife with “a laugh like a cat after a bird it can’t quite reach” and a mother who loved reading hardboiled American mysteries but looked “more than part of an Agatha Christie character”.
There’s a character who is “all limb, his torso a knot at the hub of his pipe cleaner physique”, like “pulled taffy”. And a student writing to his music teacher: “It would be an exaggeration to say that I think of you whenever I breathe, but you did change my attitude to the air that moves in and out of me, and I suspect there’s nothing more fundamental.”
Maybe you think that a mugful of stories about death and dying could use a dash of sugar, but there’s a hint of Simon Rich and a pinch of Etgar Keret, and at least there’s no arsenic.