For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“A Celebrity”

Joakim Marie Machado de Assis


Soon the polka was finished. He did correct a number of minor points when he returned for dinner, but he was already humming it in the streets, on his way home. He liked it. The blood of his paternity and his true vocation circulated in the recent, unpublished composition. Two days later, he took it to the publisher of his other polkas, which already numbered some thirty pieces. His publisher thought it was “cute.”

“It's going to be a big success.”

The matter of a title was brought up. In 1871, when Pestana composed his first polka, he had wanted to give it a poetic title and chose Sundrops. The publisher shook his head, telling him that titles had to be designed with their future popularity in mind and selected for their allusion to some important event or for the catchy effect of their words. He had two ideas: The Law of September 28 and Sweethearts Aren't for Fondling.

“But what's the meaning of Sweethearts Aren't for Fondling?” asked the author.

“It doesn't mean anything, but it'll become popular right away.”