I enjoyed all the fiction stories from Humor Me for their terrible sense of reality. Each story was grounded in an all too real social conflict. The threat of a failing marriage, the emptiness of untried potential and ambition, the fulfillment of pseudo-Oedipal desires, all pulsing under the surface with racial, sex-related, and class prejudices that make each character feel the pressure of their particular situation all the more. Nelson's Run is fascinating because of the conflict that never arrises. If the father had realized what his son was up to, you can easily imagine him flying off the handle and disowning Nelson or grinning broadly and giving Nelson a slap on the back. Deciding which reaction was more likely put the story in two lights after I read it.
Despite the "realness" of each piece, they tend to end in a rather happy ending or at least an ending that ties everything neatly into a knot of satisfaction. Nelson never has to deal with his father's discovery, Mary Lynn and Jerimiah forgive each other without really needing to confess, Art sets off in the direction of a new life with his memories in tow, and Juan gets the best deal out of all of them. You'd think he'd be engaged in constant self-conflict with the lie he is living with such a kind family and the betrayal he commits towards the family he left behind. However, Juan does exactly what everyone would proclaim to do in his situation. When watching a movie or reading a book and the character comes to these sort of crossroads where he can have considerable comfort with the sacrifice of shame or self-loathing, most audiences chide the character for his decision to behave honorably and go through hell to keep the esteem of the family still in Mexico. Juan does not disappoint the audience with yet another show of chivalry--he lives the double life to the fullest and supposedly lives "happily ever after."
Now, of course, there are few pieces that don't portray any sort of standard. Ray Gonzalez's 5 short fictions are all very symbolic. When taken at face value, they're all darkly humorous, but when looking deeper you get a meaning behind the madness--which is the case with most madness. Jalepeno Contest's events and outcome can be easily applied to any competitive situation, especially pointless ones that gain nothing but fleeting fame or glory.