For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 19: February 18, 2013

The funny thing is, the sex I write about and the sex depicted in “Girls” is never meaningless.

Author of short story collection, Death Is Not an Option, and winner of the Pushcart Prize.

Sam Lipsyte in an interview with Gigantic:

I'm often keeping my ears peeled for some kind of language incident. To hear something wrong, to hear it anew, to hear it in a different way than I ever had before. I have a recent example. I was in the supermarket just buying supermarket things and it was really crowded and there were a whole bunch of cashiers in a row and my cashier mistyped the item or something and anyway the whole thing needed to be erased and we needed to start again. And she called out that phrase I've heard a million times in the supermarket—and there is always one guy there with a key who can help with this—but the phrase was, “I need a void!” At that moment I was receptive to other meanings of that phrase, not just the need to void the cash register but rather the idea of somebody saying, “I'm in need of a void in my life or my spiritual existence at this moment.”

Our recommendations this week

The Smallest Woman in the World

His mother was setting her hair in front of the bathroom mirror at the moment, and she remembered what a cook had told her about life in an orphanage. The orphans had no dolls, and, with terrible maternity already throbbing in their hearts, the little girls had hidden the death of one of the children from the nun. They kept the body in a cupboard and when the nun went out they played with the dead child, giving her baths and things to eat, punishing her only to be able to kiss and console her. In the bathroom, the mother remembered this, and let fall her thoughtful hands, full of curlers. She considered the cruel necessity of loving. And she considered the malignity of our desire for happiness. She considered how ferociously we need to play. How many times we will kill for love. Then she looked at her clever child as if she were looking at a dangerous stranger. And she had a horror of her own soul that, more than her body, had engendered that being, adept at life and happiness. She looked at him atentively and with uncomfortable pride, that child who had already lost two front teeth, evolution evolving itself, teeth falling out to give place to those that could bite better. “I’m going to buy him a new suit,” she decided, looking at him, absorbed.

We read it in Family Ties.

Oh, Little So-And-SO

“That's not how you hitch a ride,” he says. “You hitch a ride like this.”

The man stretches out an arm, stretches out the thumb at the end of it, but he's standing in the middle of an intersection, and even if a driver were inclined to pick up a hitchhiker while driving smoothly if slowly through, the driver wouldn't know which direction the man hoped to go, and probably wouldn't take the trouble to find out.

Who knows what their inclinations are. No one is taking the trouble to find out.

“That's not how I hitch a ride,” says the little girl. “I hitch a ride like this.”

She puts the whistle back into her mouth, blows it at him, and begins to flap her arms like a marionette.

“Good luck,” says the man.

But he doesn't turn to leave.

The girl speaks around her whistle: “You got a car?” she says.


We read it in The Awful Possibilities.

Executors of Important Energies

My father’s troubles had started ten years or so ago when his memory started to erode. He lost wallets and sets of keys in increasingly quick succession. He lost his job, after repeatedly stranding his clients alone at the defense table while he wandered the streets, trying to recall which car was his. He’d more or less forgotten me two years ago, and then last month, he woke up from a two-day nap and couldn’t recognize my stepmother. He called the police. She’d had to show two forms of ID not to get arrested for trespassing in her own house.

Nobody had a clear answer for what to do. We had looked into assisted-living places, but it was a ten-year waiting list if you weren’t looking for a shrieking bedlam multiply indicted for filth and abuse. Other than putting up with my father, Lucy didn’t work. She survived on his savings. My father was only sixty years old and otherwise in good health. He could go on absorbing cash and worry for another twenty-five years at least.

The sound of women screaming came in through my window. This was Thursday, and dance night at the lesbian bar up the block. Afterward, it was a regular thing for the women to stop by and use the west wall of my building to beat each other up against. They broke each other’s hearts on schedule, always in the same indigo half hour of the morning. Sometimes, I’d look out the window and do them the favor of calling to them, so they could unite against me, a common enemy. But I cranked the pane shut and got back into bed.

We read it in Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned.

Originally published in McSweeney's Issue 14.