For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“An Irrevocable Diameter”

Grace Paley


On the first floor the system was in working order, absolutely perfect and guaranteed. Upstairs, under a low unfinished ceiling, that Cindy lay in the deadest center of an August day. Her forehead was damp, mouth slightly open between drags, a furious and sweaty face, hardly made up except around the eyes, but certainly cared for, cheeks scrubbed and eyebrows brushed, a lifetime's deposit of vitamins, the shiny daughter of cash in the bank.

“Aren't you hot?” I inquired.

“Boiling,” she said.

“Why stay up here?” I asked like a good joe.

“That's my business,” she said.

“Ah come on, little one,” I said, “don't be grouchy.”

“What's it to you?” she asked.

I took her cigarette and killed it between forefinger and thumb. Then she looked at me and saw me for what I was, not an ordinary union brother but a perfectly comfortable way to spend five minutes.

We read it in The Collected Stories.