The next short story up for review is Abraham Merritt's The Woman in the Wood. I read Merritt's The Moon Pearl several years ago and highly enjoyed it. The Woman in the Wood was a welcome return to Merritt's weird world of pagan peril. The central image, a shell-shocked World War I vet who finds healing in a chivalric grove of sentient trees is worthy of Tolkien (indeed, I wonder if he read it -the time period would be right). The eerie tone, however, is all Merritt's own as is the unnerving moral ambiguity of the ending. Tolkien wouldn't have put much stock in such trees, even if the men who opposed them were as orc-like as those of The Woman in the Wood. I won't say too much more in case you want to go out and read this one. Sufficient to say that Abraham Merritt now has my attention and I will look forward to my next encounter with any work that comes from his pen.
After the creepiness of the first two selections, a little levity is in order and that is exactly what the editors give us in Trouble With Water by H.L. Gold. Trouble With Water reminds me very much of another story in this collection, Yesterday Was Monday by Theodore Sturgeon. Both stories have that strange and surreal whimsy that one finds in particularly ridiculous bad dreams. Trouble With Water takes a particularly vexed and harried New York concession stand operator and punishes him ruthlessly for his one callous and cruel outburst. Specifically, Mr. Greenberg is cursed with an inability to touch water. That most necessary element runs from him and anything belonging to him for seventeen hilarious pages. There isn't any deep meaning to the story, but if you think you might enjoy the irksome (but ultimately resolved) torments of a proto-Homer Simpson then Trouble With Water by H.L. Gold is definitely worth your time.
That's it for now. Up next is C.M. Kornbluth's pulp sci-fi-fantasy mash-up Thirteen O'Clock.