Happy Rock by Matthew SimmonsThe delicious economy of good short fiction can give you a character in two sentences, a world in a paragraph, or in five words deliver one exquisite detail that captures the gist of an entire story. In his new collection Happy Rock, Matthew Simmons gives us all of these, and over the course of fifteen stories set mostly in rural Michigan, a picture of an author whose loyalties are clearly located among the misfits and mistreated of the upper peninsula of the mainstream.

The stars were packed so close that night
They seemed to press and stare
And gather in like hurdles bright
The liberties of air.

—Gerard Manley Hopkins

I will tell you this story, but only if you promise never to tell anyone else. I’m certain of much of it, and where I am not certain, I am comfortable making up the rest. This inaccuracy is only one of the reasons why I ask for your confidence. The other reason will become plain as you listen.

You work in a bookstore and have had the opportunity to attend a lot of author readings, right?

Yes. Lots and lots. Thousands, I imagine.