"Cooling" by Julie Eill

In this classic Carve story, we see through the eyes of Michael, a juvenile delinquent arrested for a “ritualistic murder” of a deer at a wildlife sanctuary (a gory scene that burns in your mind). He thinks of himself as a “hood.” His mother cries over him. His probation officer grows weary of his guff. The future seems bleak for our underage narrator.

Author Julie Eill does a great job of conveying Michael’s youth and the gullibility of a teenager due to lack of experience and not knowing better. It’s tricky territory writing through the perspective of someone not yet 18, especially in the first person, but Eill gets it right here.

“Cooling” isn’t so much about Michael’s delinquency as it is about his journey away from it, and how along the way he finds his changing view of the world slowly becoming incompatible with his past.

Particularly interesting are the various relationships Michael has with people in his life and how they change over time. His relationship with his partner in crime, Michael, is almost reminiscent of a cult leader and a naïve follower. His mother and her longstanding devotion to him are painted so fully just by a few paragraphs on how she has cooked dinner for him through the years. And Michael’s initially tense talks with his probation officer yields later on a metaphor right under Michael’s eyes that sums up who he is and his journey.

Cooling” appeared in the fall 2008 issue and won the Editor’s Choice Prize.