This is a continuation of a week-long review series featuring Kindle short stories from authors from reddit’s /r/selfpublish. Check back throughout the week for more reviews.
While my call for short stories to review was for genres I typically read—scifi, speculative fiction, fantasy, horror—Adam Bertocci took me at my word that I occasionally read other things, and offered me this piece of literary fiction. And, boy, am I glad he did.
If you have ever taken part in a wedding—whether as the bride or groom, or one of the other essential wedding party members—you know that planning a wedding can be a tense, awkward, nervous affair. Adam Bertocci’s “Second Thoughts About the Fourth Dimension” captures this feeling almost perfectly as it follows bride and groom, Harper and Sean, as they discuss their upcoming wedding.
Bertocci’s dialogue between Harper and Sean feels quite genuine, full of all the tentative, half-spoken second thoughts a bride or groom might have before the big day, and all the ways in which someone, or their loved one, might try to dismiss or rationalize those thoughts. There are some little moments in the prose that just click with the experience of planning a wedding: “they’d chosen her parents’ house to receive all the gifts. Which he’d been more than fine with. Sean was fine with everything.” In this little moment, Bertocci captures Sean as the yes-man groom stereotype, agreeing to anything to make the planning process easier.
Meanwhile Harper epitomizes the anxieties of planning and imagining the upcoming wedding. Upon observing another bride on her wedding day, Harper watches the bride’s reactions critically: “the bride’s eyes were wet and her cheeks were flaming red and her mouth was going in several directions; Harper made a mental note to try and not be like that.” While such a silly thing to read as an outsider, this is quite true to the process some brides and grooms might put themselves through in order to conjure up that perfectly photogenic expression on the Big Day. A wedding is a paradoxical event: expected to be both genuine and reflecting real life, while also being perfectly planned and meticulously executed.
In between the dialogue and prose are Harper’s philosophical musings on the passage of time, what it might mean to marry someone for the rest of her life. But these philosophical moments are few and not drawn out to the point that they become overwrought and cumbersome. Bertocci’s story is most true to Harper’s nervousness as she considers whether or not she and Sean are rushing into the wedding, and ends with a delicious ambiguity true to the tone of pre-wedding anxiety.
Final verdict: ✮✮✮✮✮
Side note: this is from the guy who brought us Two Gentlemen of Lebowski: A Most Excellent Comedie and Tragical Romance, the mash-up of The Big Lebowski and Shakespeare. What!?