Laura Hendrix, “A Record of Our Debts”

mcsweeneys29A young girl gets blamed for a plague on her  town.

(from McSweeney’s Quarterly 29)

“And girls,” he says, bending over to examine a line of ants. “Look down here. Closer.” We three crouch, the line of ants weaving between us. They are carting away their dead. One of the ants, unmoving, rests upturned on the back of another, and the other ants follow.

“How come they do that, Daddy?” I ask. “Is it like a funeral?”

“Nobody knows. What do you think?”

“I think maybe they don’t want to leave the other ant behind,” I say. “Maybe he’s important.”

Selma chews on her thumb for a moment, her head cocked. “That ain’t it,” she huffs, spitting out a bit of fingernail. “They’re taking his body home, so’s the rest of them can eat it.”

Daddy stares at her.

I don’t say so, but I was just trying to be pleasant before. Of course they’re going to eat it.

I really liked this story, about a sickness that takes over a town and the towns’ need to blame someone. The voice is clear and engaging, and the dialect, which I tend not to like, works really well. I’m a sucker for a child narrator. I’m also a sucker for plagues and apocalypses.

This story isn’t available online and Hendrix seems to be largely unpublished. Where are you, Laura Hendrix? Find your old copy of McSweeney’s 29. It’s lovely.

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