Tobias Wolff, "Awaiting Orders"

Sergeant Morse meets with the family of a soldier who shipped out without telling them.

(from Best American Short Stories 2006)

Morse didn’t know Billy Hart well, but he’d had his eye on him. Hart was from the mountains near Asheville and liked to play the hick for the cover it gave him. He was always running a hustle, Hart, engaged elsewhere when there was work to be done but on hand to fleece the new guys at poker or sell rides to town in his Mustang convertible. He was said to be dealing but hadn’t got caught at it. Thought everyone else was dumb—you could see him thinking it, that little smile. He would trip himself up someday, but he’d do fine for now. Plenty of easy pickings over there for the likes of Billy Hart.

This is sort of a subtle thing. Pretty much all the conflict occurs within the brain of its main character, which makes sense: As gay man in the military, he’s used to repressing parts of himself. His thoughtful, contemplative subconcious is an interesting place to be. Read the story here.

Okay, let’s talk about BASS. I’m a big fan of this series because reading good stories is way better than reading bad ones and, from my experience, the Best Americans know how to pick ‘em. Now, I’ve been doing this site for a while, so, in theory, I had a chance to read all of the stories in this anthology when they were first published. Looks like I’ve read five of the 20 reprinted here. Let’s see, there was:
Donna Tartt, “The Ambush” (Jan. 24, 2006): Liked it except for the ending.
Patrick Ryan, “So Much for Artemis” (March 28, 2005): Thought it was “fun.”
Yiyun Li, “After a Life” (Sept. 5, 2005): Liked it.
Nathan Englander, “How We Avenged the Blums” (July 11, 2005): Liked it a lot.
David Bezmozgis, “A New Gravestone for an Old Grave” (Sept. 6, 2006): Thought it was mostly sharp.

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