The sun didn’t come up.
(from Zoetrope All-Story,Vol. 11, number 2)
And in these memories, of course, they would always later place one more object in the scene. Ridiculous to have thought of then; almost like remembering that your lungs filled and emptied themselves of air each moment, or that your heart dutifully pumped its ration of blood. Glowing dimly in every memory: the sun.
You could call the two characters at the center of this story star-crossed lovers, in that the sun’s sudden disappearance is their primary antagonist. Why has the world been plunged into darkness? We don’t know and, frankly, I would only want to know if this story was merely the opening chapter in a novel, which maybe it should be. But as it stands, Helen and Louise don’t know they’re bit players in a post-apocalyptic adventure story. Some hero scientist or hero intern or something is working on the problem. These two are only heroes to each other. They just want to ride out into the darkness together. This story is magnificent.
You can read the beginning of it here.
This poem by Byron, also called “Darkness” and quoted in the story, seems to have been the primary inspiration.
A father and son travel around killing animals to stem off a epizootic sweeping the area.
(from Zoetrope All-Story, Vol. 11, no. 2)
You can figure it out just by reading the story, but I looked it afterward just to be sure:
Epizootic: An epidemic outbreak of disease in an animal population, often with the implication that it may extend to humans. (from Medical Dictionary)
This story is gold wrapped in diamonds and dipped in brown sugar. So good. The son is one of the most intriguing unreliable narrators I’ve ever read, for one thing. And the sentences are tightly crafted, always seeming to save some information for the next one. Oh, I don’t know. It’s tough to talk about the really effective stories. How about: It’s awesome.
Forty women attend a romance workshop.
(from No One Belongs Here More Than You)
Romance is right in front of your face, the instructor says. Not, like, it’s right there and you don’t recognize it — more like that’s where romance exists, or could exist if it exists. Near our cheeks and noses and eyes. It’s a metaphysical power, or possession or invention, that sets us apart from the animals, if we are apart from the animals, if romance exists.
So what if this doesn’t make sense? It’s a short short story. To tell you much would be to tell you too much. Read it yourself.
A young husband leaves his wife to walk with a stranger in the woods.
(from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tales)
“It was strange to see that the good shrank not from the wicked, nor were the sinners abashed by the saints.”
I’ve got some old standby fears: the devil, the woods, the unknown, the darkness. This story had ’em all. And so it gave me that cloudy, falling feeling I felt when I heard Black Sabbath the first time. Part of me kinda reveled in the eeriness, the evil of it. The bad guys are always cooler, of course, but this goes deeper, to an understanding that everybody’s evil, we’re all in the woods swearing allegiance to the devil, just like witches at black masses.
Much props to R.G. for lending me this collection and getting me back on the short story horse. There are lots of places to read this online, including here.
Remember that year I didn’t tell you about, well I spent it teaching old people to swim.
(from No One Belongs Here More Than You)
And the way she taught them is hilarious. Lacking a pool, she had them kick at the floor, flail their arms and put their faces into bowls of water. Diving practice called for belly flopping onto a bed. Our narrator didn’t tell her ex this story because it wasn’t as sexy as he guessed it would be, and might, somehow, dissolve the relationship. Now that they’re not together, and she saw him with another woman, she wants to get it off her chest but also maybe wants to be attractive or attractively honest to her ex. Like its narrator, this story is complicated and attractively honest.
Her parents want her to make friends with the other black girl in her class.
(from Get Down)
It’s been a few days since I read this, but I remember getting sucked right in by this delicate/occasionally quite indelicate story of a kid’s understanding of race. An awesome, unique, awesome story. Philly author, too.
While I’ve got your ear, I’ll direct your attention to a recent Book Quarterly I headed up for Philadelphia City Paper. I reviewed a few books readers of this site will recognize.