Simultaneously taut and expansive in its prose, David Darmstaedter's 'One Last Prayer' deftly manages to compress the experience of an entire life - hopes, regrets, love possessed and lost - into the span of a meandering, late afternoon walking of a man's dog through the lush decay of a Los Angeles neighborhood. Darmstaedter paints a viscerally complex portrait of Joe, the wistful landscape of his inner monologue punctuated with rage and wickedly funny cynicism made all the more powerful by his ability to choke back all external expression of even the slightest hint of the storm raging in his mind through a series of seemingly meaningless encounters with other dog walking neighbors. In stark contrast to everything he's thinking or imagining at any given moment, Joe's tranquil exterior manifests as a sense of profoundly human compassion. Or maybe it's the self-preservation instinct of knowing he'd be instantly jailed or institutionalized for the crimes occurring in his mind.
I found 'One Last Prayer' far more moving and lyrically beautiful than dark or harrowing, chuckle out loud funny at times, and even as I began to grasp where this story might be headed, the sudden and powerful arrival of its ultimate destination still managed to take me by surprise. Like a good cup of black coffee, 'One Last Prayer' provides the jolt of that makes us see things just a bit more clearly.