When I first sat down to read Vincent V. Cava’s “Just a Little Terrible” I thought it would be just another one of the average short story collections you find on Amazon–poorly written and relying only on shock value to make them memorable. What I found, however, was a collection that was well-crafted, entertaining, and left we wanting more. “Just a Little Terrible” contains sixteen flash fiction stories and I have decided that I will take a few that I liked the best and write up some flash-reviews. Here it goes:
Right out of the gate Cava has me hooked. “Schizo” is the story of a man plagued by the visions of a monster from his youth. A grotesque picture of rotting flesh and foul odor; the beast visits him in the night. Is it a side-effect of being off his medication or is it a grim reality reasserting itself? What really does it for me here is the ongoing description of the monster, relentless and truly terrifying.
“What you seek is just beyond this door, young man.”
Cava, Vincent V. (2015-03-27). Just A Little Terrible (p. 9). . Kindle Edition.
A departure from the horror that is the rest of the book, this short would feel right at home as an episode of the Twilight Zone. A man on a quest for immortality through various occult means, finds himself in a “monkey’s paw” type situation.
The Old House
The story of two brothers exploring your typical abandoned house in the woods. This might be the most predictable story in the collection, but the description of what happens to one of the boys is extremely compelling, and what happens in the end only raises other disturbing questions.
No More Sins
The mocking chortles gushing from his mouth sounded like the howls of a dozen dying dogs all crying out together in unison.
Cava, Vincent V. (2015-03-27). Just A Little Terrible (pp. 51-52). . Kindle Edition.
A woman deals with the unexpected consequences of unprotected sex. Sure, I may have given away a huge clue to the outcome of this story with the quote above but I don’t care. The thing about this short, and many of the others in the collection, is that it is all about the end. Most of these close with a line that will either send chills up your spine or leave you with a goofy grin on your face.
To Make An Omelette
Your not-so-typical “kill-Hitler-in-the-past” story. A science fiction trope turned on its head.
I was really surprised how much I enjoyed “Just a Little Terrible”. The short story, and especially its little brother flash fiction, can be the last refuge for an inferior author. To take an idea and flesh it out in under 1,000 words is not an easy task. Cava manages to introduce you to characters you understand and settings you can believe and still have time to make a compelling plot. But, let’s be honest here, not all of them are shining beacons of the form. To me there were a few duds. Most notable was “A Novice Killer”. I think I understand what he was going for, an inner monologue of someone who is truly disturbed, but to me it comes off as very “try-hard”. Case in point:
Nobody cheats on Phineas P. Woldsworth! That’s not my name, but nobody cheats on me either!
Cava, Vincent V. (2015-03-27). Just A Little Terrible (pp. 39-40). . Kindle Edition.
But I wouldn’t let that deter you. If you pick up “Just a Little Terrible” you will not be disappointed.