The enigmatic characters of Jim Shepard’s second short story collection, Love and Hydrogen, are a large part of what makes this book so compelling. In “Runway,” the narrator, Jay, engages in a near-suicidal night ritual. He visits the local airport on his late-night walks, lying down at the edge of the runway close to where approaching aircraft land. Each time, Jay lies closer and closer to the numbers painted on the concrete, the point designated for touchdown. No overt personal drama drives this man to repeat this nocturnal stunt. Jay relates a warm family life without a hint of irony, but Shepard allows an attentive reader to sense the narrator’s emotional isolation. This isolation is dramatically broken when Jay’s family intervenes, yet the root cause of his angst remains a mystery.
(Fiction; Vintage, 2004)