Scott Blackwood, “See How Small: An excerpt from the novel”

asf54-cover-210x338A group of teenage girls are murdered in an ice cream shop in Austin, Texas.

(from American Short Fiction Vol. 15, Issue 54, Spring 2012)

Near the dumped-over register drawer, a bed-wetting nine-year-old boy we’d all babysat at one time or another appeared. Nicholas. He smelled like sandalwood soap and pee. He would lie to us about brushing his teeth. He would walk in on us in the bathroom where there wasn’t a lock. What are you doing here? we demanded. His stealthy blue eyes gazed back. You must be cold, he said to us on the floor. Where are your clothes? He pretended not to know they were burning. Nicholas. Some things never change.

I’ve never read anything by Blackwood before, but this story (for lack of a better way to say it) blew my mind. Described by Jill Meyers as “a ghost story based on historical events,” it is riveting and ambitious, told from multiple points of view and capturing each of them exactly. The historical event refers to the murder of four teenage girls in an Austin yogurt shop in 1991, after which the shop was set on fire. It’s a crime that has never been solved, and more than 50 people have made false confessions over the years, a fact that I find astounding. Perhaps I’m more interested in the story because the crime occurred in my city? I don’t know. Maybe. But mostly I just think it’s a damn good story and I can’t wait to get my hands on the novel. American Short Fiction is currently on hiatus, but you should try to get a copy of this issue.

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