Life can be stranger than fiction on any given day, so of course, the hedgehog is depressed, not the human who has focused her energies onto the small creature’s well-being—that only makes sense. The collection of stories in Einstein’s Beach House by Jacob M. Appel is an amusing, yet horrifying exploration of personalities and human flaws that is darkly humorous—in order to have light, you must have dark. These eight bite-sized human documents are light-hearted at their core. Populated by characters who have the best intentions that have gone awry; tail-chasing frustration; anxiety, depression, gullibility, family secrets, colossal failures, maddening second-guessing, nigh irreparable damage, on the verge of suicidal moments, and the moments in time that are barely saved—and amidst the flawed individuals seeking acceptance, there is still hope and generosity in spite of misgivings. We all know (and expect) the past has a knack for haunting the present, and it’s certain that the future will be full of that bothersome shit later, coming back up like a regretful meal—or a bad penny. It’s only logical that the neighborhood sex offender only liked boys, so two girls snooping around in his house should be safe; the tortoise would desire freedom; the imaginary friend would most certainly have parents; and the rightful ownership of a house that had been in the family for generations can be usurped by a misprint in a travel guide. In Strings, there is that extraordinarily familiar gut feeling when it comes to facing the “takers” who worm their way into your life because they know how to press your buttons—you know the ones, kindness and guilty conscience. They always demand more from you than you should give, and every time you give in to their pitiable self-inflicted dramas, you’re enabling them to continue to be the chaotic clinging vines they are—seriously, get an axe, start cutting, and don’t look back, you’re not going to be canonized for your patience (but of course, there wouldn’t be a story if you did.) These stories possess a palpable psychological tension—enough to make me grit my teeth while reading along at a steady heart-breaking clip—admirable squirm-factor, yet so nattily hi-lar-i-ous that the “squirm” is forgivable. Good show, I say, good show.