Gentrification is messy. Gentrification is divisive. Gentrification is a black woman’s dog that’s escaped and is being chased down by a white man through a leafy D.C. suburb in “Precious,” which opens Andrew Wingfield’s first short story collection, Right of Way. Set in a place called Cleave Springs—a stand-in for Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood—the story is just 11 pages long, but like an extended tracking shot it reveals plenty, matter-of-factly taking notice of how new occupants are reshaping the neighborhood the dog scurries through. “Cleave Springs was a real place, a place that rose early last century with the great railyard that spawned it and then declined as the railyard went quiet,” Wingfield writes. “A place that had tasted death and was waiting to be coaxed back to life.” Wingfield isn’t given to moralizing about that coaxing—“Precious” is defined more by the anxious middle-aged restaurateur huffing and puffing down the main drag than his place on the socioeconomic matrix. But “Precious” and the collection’s other seven stories occupy persistently unstable ground—you can sense Wingfield working to balance his skill at characterization and emotional effect with an urge to make a broader statement about what happens after a place gets brunch options. In the book’s best story, “Air Space,” such concerns float away even though the message is clear. Its protagonist, Ward, is a model-plane aficionado who slowly falls for his neighbor Camille, who’s fighting Ward’s friend’s efforts to McMansion-ize his lot. The story’s central tension (love and sex versus planning and zoning) is patiently and thoughtfully deployed; what’s appealing about Ward’s struggle, sublimated into his model-plane flights at the National Building Museum, is that it never wholly resolves itself. Similarly, “Wonders of the World” riffs on rightful claims to property and history by working with little more than an old beer can discovered in an attic. “Beer was community in a can,” Wingfield writes of the Natty Boh-ish brand a woman investigates, her travels revealing the roots of both civic connection and emotional greed. Wingfield is an unaffected stylist, using Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio as his model both tonally and thematically; as in that book, he strives to make each individual story an arch, parable-like statement about the whole community. Occasionally what’s being stated is punishingly unsubtle: “You care about your precious neighborhood and what it’s going to be like one day when every house is beautiful…and junkie women and their alcoholic boyfriends and their freaky kids don’t live next door,” a woman lectures her husband in the title story. But Wingfield, to his credit, is as interested in Cleave Springs’ freaky kids as in its “swelling quaintness brigade,” and his main assertion is that such upheavals force everybody to rethink their assumptions. More to the point, the consequences are a function of who’s doing that rethinking. The white restaurant owner in “The Hank Williams Dialogues” is worried only about opening a restaurant that finds “a sweet spot between funky and fine.” For Darnell, the protagonist of the closing “Goodbye,” the spot’s been eliminated entirely—the local black church’s congregation has largely decamped to Prince George’s County, and he’s hearing louder suggestions to move along himself. Everybody in Right of Way is getting pushed out of their comfort zone. What Wingfield clarifies is how some get pushed harder than others.