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Monday, March 4

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Reviews Fri Sep 28 2012

Book Review: Shampoo Horns by Aaron Teel

Shampoo Horns by Aaron TeelThere were two brothers who grew up in a trailer park, and one of them who used to run around in his Underoos snipped off his best friend's nipple with a nail clipper.

It sounds like one of those odd stories about childhood you'd hear over a few beers at the end of the night; something brought out from the trenches. In fact, it may have been for anyone who grew up with Aaron Teel, Austin, Texas-based author of Shampoo Horns and winner of the 6th annual Rosemetal Press Chapbook Contest. "Tater's Nipple" is based on a real memory from Teel's childhood and it's one of the chapbook's semi-autobiographical shorts told from the perspective of Cherry Tree, a 12-year-old living in Seaview, Texas.

Shampoo Horns -- named after the horns twisted into Cherry's red, curly shampooed hair by his mother as she bathed him -- is a collection of 19 shorts presented anachronistically that could stand alone, yet together they make a powerful compilation.

Cherry's bittersweet summer begins with his 16-year-old half-brother Clay arriving from California to live with Cherry's family after he set a girl's hair on fire. Clay is moody and rebellious, and often uses Cherry's crotch as a "make-believe gas pedal for the Indy 500." He takes Cherry on a series of petty adventures, robbing people's trailers, drinking Shiners and catching glimpses of naked women.

Cherry's home is the kind of place where people either stay for the rest of their lives or leave and never look back. His world is sun-scorched and always smells of slaughtered cattle from the meatpacking and processing plant. Children are perpetually dirty and sweaty, running around barefoot and eating bowls of Chef Boyardee ravioli, adults adorn their houses with porcelain angels and their lawns with stone animals, and carpets are the color of "sun-baked dog shit." Teel has a talent for creating evocative descriptions, and his depictions of Seaview's characters satisfyingly indulgent: "Tina is the sexy teenage babysitter in tight stonewashed jean shorts and neon green halter-tops, who made me ramen-wiener stew, got herself knocked up and had to quit school, and I know no other woman will ever compare."

What's beautiful about this story is despite the violence and despair festering Cherry's community (a tornado tears through the park), Cherry's perspective remains that of a pubescent boy who is still trying to figure everything out. He empathizes with the people around him because living in Seaview is the only life he knows. Even though Cherry clamps his best friend Tater Tot's nipple with a nail clipper, he ultimately goes to his trailer to help tend the wound because Tater's mom is an alcoholic and Tater has no one else to look up to.

TeelPhoto.jpgIn the age of flash fiction, this chapbook stands out as one of the best pieces of work coming out of the Millennial Generation. I'm looking forward to reading more from this rising author. You can purchase Shampoo Horns and watch the trailer at the author's website.

Teel is reading at Sunday Salon (8pm Sunday at Black Rock Pub and Kitchen, 3614 N. Damen Ave.) with fellow Rose Metal Press author Kyle Manor, and local writers Randy Richardson and Paul Jones.

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