Kevin Canty, “Red Dress”

9780385491617A teenage boy wants to be seen by his mother.

(from Honeymoon and other stories)

In everyday life, she was vague, sometimes absentminded, wandering the house while my father was at work while she was half asleep. In my dreams, I see her standing in an almost dowdy, unrevealing floral dress, an I-Love-Lucy dress, standing just inside the doorway of her bedroom, pausing, with one hand on the dresser, and trying to remember–you could see it in her face–what she had wanted from there.

I love “Red Dress.” The writing is clean and direct, and I put the book down several times to admire it. It’s the kind of story that feels like the writer needed to tell it, like he had felt what this boy had felt, and seen what this boy had seen. It’s the kind of story that makes me want to copy it, steal it. That makes me glad to be a writer.

I was slightly disappointed in the end because I knew it was coming and I’ve seen it done in other stories; it was the one thing I didn’t quite believe. This story is online and you can read it, and you should. You should also, immediately, go pick up Canty’s first collection, A Stranger in this World, which is amazing. It’s one of my top-five collections of all time.

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