A rootless young man untroubled by theft, accustomed to squatting in abandoned buildings and scrounging food where he can finds an ad for an apartment in a building owned by Dee Dee Day. Gradually they become friends. Their May-December relationship is passionate, but is less a romance than a mutual agreement to be less lonely together, characterized by tentative sweetness and Dee Dee’s hard-edged misery.
Flickers of tenderness illuminate the relationships of the three main characters, but they serve only to emphasize stony survival in the gritty present in spite of the tragic past. The lack of any real compassion or hope for the future among them was remarkable to me.
Dementiuk is either so bravely romantic that he eschews even the simplest romantic device, or he is an unapologetic existentialist who has embraced the pain of the world just as it is, and does not care even to comment on it in passing.
Whatever he is, he is a compelling writer. I had no choice but to believe what he told me through his intelligent, bony prose that most of the time kept me feeling slightly off-balance. He tells the story through a miasma of memories buffered by alcohol, a scratched lens of resignation, regret, bitterness, and capricious cruelty.
The 120-page story is well crafted and engaging, its atmosphere powerful. The characters are defined as much by what they don’t do as they are by their actions, which speaks to Dementiuk’s writing.
Occasionally Bill, the narrator, jumps from past tense to make observations in present tense, as if he were telling the story after many years and was making a current interjection. The technique made more sense toward the end of the story, but I did find it jarring.
My only real beef was with production. The manuscript certainly could have benefited from more careful line edits and proofreading.
If you are looking for happy, non-threatening diversion this story is not for you. If you are willing to hurt a little—with characters you may not like caught in circumstances that you may not want to explore—in order to ponder humanity from an unusually harsh angle, read Dee Dee Day. I’m glad I did.