John R. Phythyon, Jr
on Sep. 14, 2012 :
George and Chloe are graduating from high school. They have plans to go to local schools and see each other on the weekends. But when Chloe gets accepted at UC-Berkeley, everything changes.
Chloe believes their love can survive the distance. George isn't so sure. He worries she really just wants to get away from him, and, when she makes plans to share an apartment with the handsome Giovanni out in California, George becomes convinced he has to do something to keep them together forever.
Darnell "Saki" Dickerson weaves a creepy and enthralling tale of love gone horribly wrong. Told entirely from George's point of view but for an epilogue, "Flowers" sucks the reader slowly into the mind of a madman. Dickerson is a skillful storyteller. It's not at all obvious from the outset that his narrator is crazy. He's just a kid in love, who is obviously dating out of his league.
As the story moves forward, we can feel disaster appproaching inexorably. One bad choice after another lets the reader know the relationship is doomed, even as the truth eludes George. And, while we know something bad is going to happen, George's break with reality is as surprising as it is disturbing.
The best thing about Dickerson's narrative is his constant resistance to the temptation to give too much information. We come to discover George has a past and that his father did something horrific. But he never tells us exactly what it is, which builds the suspense and makes the reader want to continue turning the page.
Likewise, once George reveals himself to be a psychopath, Dickerson doesn't provide gory details. He gives just enough for us to know what's happened and to be horrified. He leaves much of his description of the baser crimes George commits to imagination and innuendo. That leaves the horror of the story right where it should be: on the idea of his narrator's madness, not on the gross details.
If the story has a flaw, it's the editing. There are a number of grammatical mistakes that distract from what is otherwise a captivating read. Overall, though, this is a tight, enthralling short story that'll leave chills on your spine. I highly recommend "Flowers" and look forward to reading more of Dickerson's work.
(reviewed the day of purchase)