Hit Your Brights
Published by: University of Oklahoma Press
Imprint: University of Oklahoma Press
Hit Your Brights captures people in tough spots, often of their own making. Fusing humor and tragedy, these thirteen gritty stories keep readers in suspense. Danger lurks, the needle skips, the bomb goes off, and the empties pile up. Outcomes are unpredictable, but the car always starts, and, sometimes, love wins.
Constance Squires casts the diminished circumstances of her characters with authentic detail familiar to any reader who has spent time in flyover country—a swath of boom-and-bust middle America that often seems forgotten. Here, marriages, families, and friendships all hit crisis points in a mutable world of army bases, casinos, truck stops, churches, and bars.
Hit Your Brights showcases a virtuosic range of styles and perspectives. The title story, told in second person, excavates the rationalizations of an alcoholic stumbling through the inexorable progress of her disease. After downing nine Rolling Rocks and three tequila shots, she races her car to the nearest liquor store before it closes, turning on her high beams to ease her double vision.
In “Dopamine Agonistes,” a family man, recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s, ventures out to a casino and meets a child he tries to help. Other stories focus on people who find themselves in difficult, potentially violent situations. In “Wounding Radius,” two young women are checking on their marijuana crop in the Wichita Mountains outside of Fort Sill when they are discovered by a troubled soldier who has gone AWOL. And in “An Unscheduled Stop,” a mother traveling with her baby encounters diners at a roadside McDonald’s who might—or might not—be child traffickers.
Beautifully crafted, with a distinctly modern edge, the stories in Hit Your Brights give voice to women and men, young and old, overlooked and disenfranchised, who inhabit worlds that feel at once strange and familiar.
Constance Squires is the award-winning author of Along the Watchtower: A Novel. Her numerous short stories have appeared in Guernica, Shenandoah, Atlantic Monthly, and other magazines. She teaches creative writing at the University of Central Oklahoma.
“Constance Squires is a master of the short story, and she hits it out of the park with this new collection. Here are stories sure to delight, intrigue, warn, and remind us what a frail and fearsome thing it is to be human.”—Rilla Askew, author of Strange Business
“So many characters in these stories are AWOL—from an aspiring future, from family, from jobs, and from each other. With great suspense, Constance Squires hunts them down, suspends them above the voids in their lives, and makes them choose to return or to go up in flame.”—Thomas Fox Averill, author of rode and Ordinary Genius
“Hit Your Brights is a well-crafted collection focusing on Oklahoma and southern characters in a universe full of questions. Here are stories of husbands and wives, musicians, addicts, people whose lives are filled with tragedies that make us feel as if they are our own. Constance Squires writes prose with startling precision and beauty. At times humorous, at times sad, her stories are always profoundly moving.”—Brandon Hobson, author of Where the Dead Sit Talking
“In Hit Your Brights, Constance Squires tells of ‘another Oklahoma,’ one that is not often fictionalized, and rarely written so truthfully. Some of these stories offer hope—others ask, can you forgive us for doing the best we can under the circumstances? It is a collection of deep and complicated humanity, and truly one of the best collections of stories I’ve read in a long time.”—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish, author of Oklahomeland: Essays
“Hit Your Brights is an exercise in ‘double vision’—grief always paired with the utmost grace. The nucleus of these stories, sometimes rock ’n’ roll or sometimes Oklahoma, provides a touchstone for the wandering, a tether between suffering and joy.”—Iliana Rocha, author of Karankawa