Everything is just a little more difficult for thirty-something Margaret Rudge. Adjusting to single life after her no-good husband Tommy leaves her for a shrink, Margaret manages to snag a job slinging coffee on the street. “Everyone hooks up waiting for their latte,” her sometimes-fabulous friend Cindy advises. And maybe it’s good advice because it’s while working at Frank’s coffee cart that she meets a handsome young dancer and is drawn into the exhilarating and slightly unhinged world of a NYC modern dance company.
Margaret is stuck in a jack-in-the-box, and author Mark Wagstaff expertly mans the crank, turning the lever over and over, letting eerie circus music slowly fill your head. Will she find what she’s looking for? Is it hiding in the strangely lit aisles of her downstairs grocery store? Maybe it’s avoiding her calls, holed up with a new girlfriend, the cognitive psychology graduate, in a condo in Phoenix. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s coffee-stained and unexpectedly expected.
In Attack of the Lonely Hearts, each character is broken in their own forlorn way. A master of the dark and witty one-liner, Wagstaff manages to spin a hilarious and off-kilter story about what can happen when lonely hearts discover they’re attached to even lonelier bodies.
Since the 1990s, Mark Wagstaff has published stories in journals and anthologies in the US and UK. In 2016, Mark’s story ‘Required Fields’ was named a Notable Contender in the Bristol Short Story Prize. His story ‘Some Secret Space’ won the 2013 William Van Wert Fiction Award. In 2012, Mark’s story ‘Burn Lines’ won The New Guard Machigonne Fiction Contest. Mark’s second short story collection, also called Burn Lines, was published in 2014. Gina Ochsner described the stories in Burn Lines as ‘lyrically intrepid’ while Rick Bass found them ‘sweetly ominous.’