For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“Midnight Mass”

Joakim Marie Machado de Assis


“I'm very fond of novels, but I don't have much time for them. Which ones have you read?”

I began to name some. Conceição listened, with her head resting on the back of her chair, looking at me past half-shut eyelids. From time to time she wet her lips with her tongue. When I stopped speaking she said nothing. Thus we remained for several seconds. Then she raised her head; she clasped her hands and rested her chin on them, with her elbows on the arms of her chair, all without taking from me her large, perspective eyes.

“Maybe she's bored with me,” I thought. And then, aloud: “Madame Conceição, I think it's getting late and I...”

“No, it's still early. I just looked at the clock; it's half-past eleven. There's time yet. When you lose a night's sleep, can you stay awake the next day?”

“I did once.”

“I can't. If I lose a night, the next day I just have to take a nap, if only for half an hour. But of course I'm getting on in years.”