"Country Miles" is the second story in Colin Fleming's collection, Between Cloud and Horizon. The subtitle of the collection is "A Relationship Casebook in Stories," and each story takes a look at a different type of relationship--where the first story was that of a father and son, this story looks at the relationship of classmates. In particular, two kids in the last year of middle school whose last names are close enough to each other that the girl, Summer, sat just in front of the boy, known as Hutch, the protagonist of the story, in a few of their classes.
Once again, Fleming captures specific aspects of this story perfectly, especially the internal dealings of Hutch as he tries to work up the nerve to act upon his crush on Summer. His interactions with the slightly older next door neighbor boy, who he uses as his "expert" to bounce things off or just listen to (who it is pretty clear has ZERO experiences to be sharing or giving pointers) are both perfectly, and sadly hilarious.
Fleming uses this inept relationship between Hutch and the neighbor, Snocker, to help push along another narrative--the idea that Hutch is losing out on any chance with Summer because of her relationship with his father. And he pushes this idea slowly, and expertly in a manner that allows the reader to hold onto just enough of it being possible to allow the idea to rumble around in their head.
It's interesting to see another Father/Son relationship in a story that isn't specifically about that relationship, and the differences in how Fleming approaches that with this second story. While in the first story there is some usage of an outsider to the relationship to help it move forward from a pretty big incident to their lives---and in this story, the relationship between Hutch and his father has an effect on how Hutch progresses with his feelings toward Summer.
Two stories in and the combination of accuracy with smaller details, and the deftness with how certain things are explored are making this a collection that is difficult to put down.