Crocodile Tears Didn’t Cause the Flood: Stories

By Bradley Sides

Montag Press, Feb. 2024

Paper: $14.95; eBook: $2.99

Genre: Short Fiction

Reviewed by Edward Journey

cover of Crocodile Tears Didn't Cause the Flood by Bradley Sides five cartoon style crocodiles against a green background

Something is always falling from the sky in Bradley Sides’s audacious collection of short stories, Crocodile Tears Didn’t Cause the Flood. Stars fall, ashes fall, snow falls, kites fall, robotic body parts fall, while gases sometimes leak into closed spaces. People disappear, or transform, and mythically proportioned monsters become proxies for those who are lost, abandoned – or never show up in the first place. Early in the story, “To Take, to Leave,” we read that “… the apocalypse is your fault.” I felt personally indicted.

Apocalyptic visions prevail in Bradley Sides’s new collection, a follow-up to his first book of short stories, Those Fantastic Lives (Blacklight Press, 2021). He has been a nominee for “Year’s Best Weird Fiction” and his work has been featured on the podcast “LeVar Burton Reads.” Sides lives in Huntsville and teaches writing at Calhoun Community College.

Circumstances vary in Crocodile Tears Didn’t Cause the Flood, but the consistency of the narrative vision is startling. Sides’s work is sometimes classified in the “horror” category, but these environs are too calm – even controlled – to fit comfortably there; even so, I caught myself gasping at times at shocking turns of plot. “Magical realism” is at play, “surrealism” maybe. Occasionally a sense of absurdity comes to mind. I found myself thinking of the plays of Edward Albee – that looming sense of what’s out there? Strangely, I sometimes flashed on the fiction of William Gay – those hopeless, helpless, bleak environments.

Despite sharing a frightening worldview and being tricky to label, the stories have a clear through-line. In each story, there is a search for connection and community of some sort. A shark-child, trying to console its human mother after trauma at the beach, inadvertently causes her physical harm. A group of people, huddled together and awaiting a mysterious doom, begin to make patches for quilts, leaving their stories for when they are gone. In “From 1973,” a devoted married couple demonstrates the true meaning of never-ending love. In the title story, a couple leaves everything behind to achieve their wish of a child of their own. Be warned, though, that sought-after community might morph into a mob, as in the allegorical story, “The Monsters Atop Our Hill,” in which one delusional person incites panic and a mass movement to exterminate a group of dragons, harmlessly coexisting nearby. Hate and fear render the dragons helpless

One story stands out for its humor. Teenage vampire angst is front and center in “Dying at Allium Farm” as rebellious vampire Anna fancies herself an intellectual among the clueless inhabitants of a “little Tennessee hellhole.” Anna has restless teenage vampire dreams of life beyond her family’s garlic farm. She looks forward to a life in academia “full of peer-reviewed essays.” She cringes at the spectacle of a villager’s “full-on embracement of the embarrassment that is postmodern dance.” “Dying at Allium Farm” provides a welcome reprieve from the darker tones of the stories around it.

Monsters and misfits abound in the stories of Crocodile Tears Didn’t Cause the Flood, as do recognizable humans, entrapped in ominous settings that are oddly familiar. These stories amplify and savor an inexplicable, inevitable doom. In the world Sides creates, it is never far away.

Edward Journey, a retired university professor and theatre professional living in Birmingham, regularly shares his essays in the online journal “Professional Southerner” (