The Fiction of Owen Thomas

Signs of Passing

A Novel of Short Fiction


What convinces us that we have been wrong about the world? When do we know that the usual ways are no longer working; that it is time to set down one life and pick up another? Winner of the Pacific Book Award for short fiction, Signs of Passing presents ten stories told from the nearside of epiphany, less a time or place than a state of mind in which one can hear the voice calling from beyond the veil of conscious understanding and singing of how life can be better:

• A young boy, abandoned by divorce, discovers something inexplicable happening in the world of Winchester County, his favorite TV western;

• A waitress at a bar called The Office, so alienated from the tedium of her own existence that she no longer feels any fear walking home at night in the dark when perhaps she should;

• A crime detective novelist so beset by writer’s block that he attends the funerals of strangers looking for advice from the dead, unaware that he is being stalked;

• A young and secretly talented widow struck by the revelation that her late husband was not the man she thought she had married;

• A homeless, rural bus driver forced to confront the possibility that the dreams keeping him alive have been too small for him and that it is better to embrace peril in risking everything for a better life than to live safely in a prison of the familiar;

• A squared away child psychiatrist forced to confront the reality that one of his immature patients and an erotic dancer know more than he does about the fraud of his own existence and the secret to happiness;

• An assistant veterinarian for a small-town zoo who, unbeknownst to her undeniably perfect husband, has taken to following random strangers around the city as a way of escaping both her guilt and her contentment;

• A young photojournalist surrendering herself to the control of a brutish and degenerate winemaker, all to exorcise a past that will not let her go and that holds all love at bay;

• A shopping mall employee whose enmity for a local television weather personality is rewarded with an unlikely opportunity for revenge; and

• An entertainment media mogul, stricken with sudden news of cancer as he battles in court to retain the rights to remake an old television western about a better life in Winchester County.

A collection of separate stories about interconnected characters, Signs of Passing is devoted to the experience of waking up—of recognizing the better life in all of its unlikely disguises—and then summoning the courage to leave everything else behind, and to give chase before it’s too late.