Every time I read something by David Schow I get the impression he is trying desperately to impress the reader with his flashy prose and vocabulary. In this case the very title of the story “Obsequy” (a funeral rite or ceremony) sent me scrambling for the dictionary. It’s an approach to word choice that would make hipsters proud (yeah, it’s a pretty obscure little word, you’ve probably never heard of it). Schow seems to spend $5 to $10 on a sentence when often a $1.50 will get the job done:
Their retinue of perception was so predictable that it was almost comically dull.
Jacky’s tone suggested that he was one of those people with an almost canine empathy to discord.
Doug Walcott is a former middle school teacher who wants, no, needs to get out of the town of Triple Pines. His patience with the small town redneck burg he’s been living in is at an end and he’s got a hankering for greener pastures, a point Schow repeats ad nauseum. I think we’re supposed to empathize with Doug, but his attitude toward small town life, justified though it may be, comes off as self-righteous and condescending. We’re supposed to feel for him and his plight, but he’s being such a dick about it.
His current job is on a work crew, digging up the mortal remains of his fellow citizens so the cemetery can be relocated. Anyone who has seen Poltergeist will tell you this can not end well. Sure enough, the residence of the rifled graves make their way into town one night, aiming to add a few citizens to the necropolis. Some of the returned dead are in better shape than others, most notably Michelle, Doug’s late girlfriend. She seems whole and just as passionate as when they were together, but Michelle is out to steal Doug’s body heat one degree at a time.
“Obsequy” is an OK little story, though it seems to exist as an outlet for Schow’s cynicism about small town life and American burial customs. I think there’s too much writing and not enough storytelling going on here.