The first collection of short stories released by Thomas Porky McDonald, Paradise Oval spans the worlds of baseball, mass transit and a number of other venues that the otherwise rambling poet has drifted through. Brought to life in three distinct sections, the characters that roam through the pages of McDonald's sometimes longing narratives seem connected only in their divergent quests for faith and loyalties.
In "A Subtle Reunion", a young man faces up pensively with his whispering past, while tales like "Always Identities", "Equidistant" and "Paradise Oval" each trek the terrain of where one might have been and how that might shape where we choose to go in the future. In addition, the caustic sportscaster Chauncey McGee and the genuine observer Riley O'Reilly are memorable characters that McDonald summonses to give you pause for thought, while also bringing a grin to the face or a sigh to the heart. On each occasion, different aspects of baseball and/or the ballpark are cited to stress a point.
A half dozen tales explore some of the intricacies of a large metropolitan transit system, drawn from almost two decades of experience in that most public sector. Internal stories, such as "When We Musketeered", "Tales of Odie" and "Three Months in a Blender" are nonetheless balanced with the roads that we all might encounter, beyond the workplace. "A Moment in Malverne", set in the smallest of towns, questions the meanings of life and death, and the fact-based "Two Words of Christmas " gives a positive spin on relations among all men and women.
A collage of life tales closes the volume, with such diverse characters as the mysterious former high school buddy Mo Oh and the sly and calculating thief Frankie Jingo leading the way. Along the way, "A Stop Far Away" and "A Seat of Honor" recall McDonald's childhood vibrantly. The manic "Beyond the Forbidden Zone" offers up a most amusing take on the world just around the one that defined the writer's New York City upbringing. Throughout, Paradise Oval takes the reader to places they may not have been, but may well choose to return to again and again.