“Clowns, Charlatans and Colorful Characters, Vol. 2” is a more typical Stinky collection than Vol. 1. The first volume has a lot of weighty tales that introduce the world the characters live in, and now we begin to meet the outrageous guest stars who bedevil the boys throughout the rest of their lives.
The collection begins and ends with family trouble. In the first story, “Stinky’s Snail Male Delivers,” Eddie learns that in Stinky’s world something as innocuous as opening a door can lead to adventure. Specifically, he’s wearing only boxers when he opens the door and Stinky’s grandparents are on the other side holding suitcases. After the initial surprise wears off, the awkwardness doesn’t go away.
The collection ends with Stinky’s mother in a tizzy. The action in “A Stinky Accusation” begins when she reads a women’s magazine article and decides that her husband is cheating. To Eddie’s dismay she tells him, “You’re a detective. Solve the case.”
The nine stories in between feature an assortment of problematic guest stars. One of Stinky’s major clients talks him into judging a prep school essay contest in “The Stinky Prize” and Stinky discovers that more is amiss at the venerable school than the alleged Loch Ness Monster in an abandoned quarry. In “Stinky and the Coq d’Or” his client’s arch rival twists his arm into awarding a prize for the “Most Inappropriate” work in a summer arts festival. There’s no limit to bad taste when an artist goes off his meds and Stinky feels he has to choose between losing his career or Eddie’s esteem.
He’s up against an audience-challenged director in two stories, “Stinky and the Impresario” and “A Stinky Night at the Opera.” Hamlin Storrs has a boundless imagination, but his ideas inspire his performers to ask their lawyers to find them a way out the stage door before opening night. Thanks to Stinky the lights stay on and the fat lady sings, even if the audience isn’t sure why Carmen is dressed as a czarina.
Several of the stories concern old college pals, including the two bonus stories not otherwise available. A guy who lived down the hall during Stinky’s senior year comes back to town and asks Stinky to help him find rekindle a college romance in “Stinky and the Artrepreneur.” Asking Stinky to play cupid is like handing an arsonist a box of matches and a gallon of gasoline and asking him to “play nicely,” but true love will find a way, even with Stinky helping.
Another college chum, Button James appears in “Stinky and the Artrepreneur” and also in the two bonus stories, “Stinky at the Lake” and “Stinky Underwear.” Button runs into Stinky at a bar association lunch and invites Stinky and Eddie to his lake cottage for dinner. Eddie has to deal with drunken teenagers and technologically advanced undies.
In fact, in Vol. 2 Eddie learns that there is a dark side to living with the best looking man on the planet. He gets shot in “Eddie’s Painful Decision” and has to deal with an unintentionally besotted Stinky in “’Tis the Season to be Stinky.” Throughout it all Stinky remains supportive, wonders how his family managed to survive before Eddie was there to pull them out of their many scrapes and serenades Eddie with truly terrible song parodies.
As Stinky’s sister reminds him, “If anyone is up for sainthood, it’s Eddie.” For once, the two siblings agree.