A Fillipino maid takes care of a white woman’s kid in the U.S. to pay for her own children’s educations back home.
(from The Best American Short Stories, 2003)
At first I found the lack of consistent punctuation and occasionally inverted words distracting — it’s meant to bring to mind the speech patterns of someone for whom English is a second language — but I ended up finding the rhythm in it. And I liked the way this story mixed humor with warmth and the occasional sting of harsh reality.
Turns out the author will include this story in a larger piece called My Hollywood, or perhaps she already has. Sometimes when I find out that what I have just read is merely one lion from a much larger Voltron, I feel cheated, or tricked, or sleepy. Today I feel like saying, hey, do what you want to do. There are issues and hopes and plans not yet fulfilled at the end of “Coins.” If you want to see all that come to fruition, that’s fine by me. I won’t read it. I only read short stories. Except when I’m tricked.
Recently, I have been pondering whether “plot” is necessary to make a short story worthwhile. “Coins” has a plot, of a sort. Not David Mamet/Dashiell Hammett twists and turns, but some events which mark the end of the story as a place different from the beginning. I wonder how much plot is necessary. Would anybody want to read a still life?
Hah, look at this: On something called the World Socialist Web Site, somebody named Sandy English wrote an article entitled “Best” short stories of 2003 could do better. Here’s what the writer had to say about today’s story: “A Philippine maid in LA has a generally hard time in Mona Simpson’s ‘Coins’. Simpson’s story is little more than a smart workshop-piece, somewhat condescending.” Ah, condescension. Whoever smelt it, dealt it.