Joy Williams, “The Skater”

Screen-Shot-2012-02-13-at-8.39.04-PMAnnie and Tom and Molly are looking at boarding schools. Molly’s sister, Martha, has recently died after choking on a piece of bread.

(from Escapes)

Molly can’t see her parents’ faces. She can’t remember the way they looked when she was little. She can’t remember what she and Martha last argued about. She wants to ask them about Martha. She wants to ask them if they are sending her so far away so that they can imagine Martha is just far away too. But she knows she will never ask such questions. There are secrets now. The dead have their secrets and the living have their secrets with the dead. This is the way it must be.

This paragraph really affected me. It made me think of all of the people I’ve known whose parents have lost children–siblings they never knew, babies born dead or that lived for only a short time. And these living children find out via overheard telephone conversations or when their parents are dying (or think they are dying). Stemming from this first secret, other secrets begin to infect all parts of their lives. They are often saying things like, ‘but don’t say anything because my brother doesn’t know.’ I find these families curious. My siblings and I are big mouths. My parents, too. My mother can be secretive but she’s the type that never had anything much to keep secret.

Anyhow, this is another great story by Williams in an amazing collection. I can’t find it online, but here’s a Bookslut interview with the author.

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