For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 28: April 22, 2013

I thought about the stories in terms of beats, and images, and how one story fades into the next, from the first page to the last.

Author of story collection, Tell Everyone I Said Hi, winner of 2012 John Simmons Short Fiction Award.

Charles Baxter in an essay about Italian writer Dino Buzzati:

In A Streetcar Named Desire, Blanche DuBois shrieks, “I want magic!” and so do ordinary readers. Fiction began its life in magic and fables and in efforts to instruct, and let’s remember that Borges pointed out that realism is merely a brief episode in the history of literature. Realism is bracketed on both sides by myths and fantasies and monsters of every variety.

Our recommendations this week

That Baby

Levis grew at night and plenty of mornings I'd wake up to see him lying there with his diaper busted open. Other ladies I've known who have given birth had always chittered on about their babies' growth spurts, but here Levis was 40 pounds within a week and 60 midway through the next, hair on his knuckles and three block teeth scattered amongst his jaws, then when he was one month old he called me Honey, his first word, fisted my breast, his nails leaving little half-moons in my flesh when I pried his hand from me, his grinning mouth showing a fourth tooth, a molar like a wad of gum wedged way back.

Daddy and I had heard of ugly babies, of unnaturally big babies. We'd seen a show once where what looked like a 12-year-old boy was in a giant diaper his mother had fashioned out of her front-room curtain, sitting there with his legs straight out in front of him like he was pleased to meet them, his eyes pushed into his face like dull buttons, and the mother claiming he wasn't yet a year. But Levis wasn't on the TV, he was right there, his eyes following Daddy across the room, those eyes like gray milk ringed with spiders' legs, and at two months Levis had chewed through a wooden bar in his crib, splinters in his gums, him crying while I plucked them with a tweezer, me feeling that nail in my gut, me feeling something less than love.

We read it in Daddy's.

Originally published in Everyday Genius.

The One-Eyed TV

We learned this in the second year of war when “Mr. President” gave each family that did not own one a TV. That was after he visited a Kurdish village where people ran away and hid when his helicopters landed in the village square. When his bodyguards brought him some of these escapees he asked them in surprise, “I am Mr. President, don’t you recognize me?!” Their eyes darted about in fear and they shook their heads. Right there and then he issued his decree so that all of the homeland’s offspring could see and know him. TV sets arrived with silver-colored aluminum frames inscribed with a statement indicating that this was a present from Mr. President the Leader, along with his name, his picture, the Iraqi flag, the motto of the Republic, and pamphlets of his speeches instead of the operation manual that had originally accompanied the TV sets. In order for the TV sets to function, he decreed that electricity be extended to reach every village, even the tents of the Bedouins in the desert that we used to see far away on the horizon behind the opposite riverbank. Because they were nomadic, he gave them portable power generators that they could carry on the backs of their camels along with the TV sets wherever they went.

Murphy Bed

What Jay didn't know at the time was that the whole romance was a set up thing from the start. He found out later on, after his arrest, that Val Corda had been following him for something like three weeks, trying to effect a chance encounter. She had read about Jay in the paper. She knew he had been brought in and questioned about the six dogs that had been killed in Ampersand that summer.

When she put the plan to Jay–burn the kennel where the inherited dogs were boarded and collect on the insurance policy her father had taken out on the dogs–he didn't consider saying no.

“I can't afford to keep these dogs,” she said. “There's all kinds of fees and registrations and racing certifications, not to mention the vet bills.”

“But when they win you get all that money,” Jay said.

“They're losers, these dogs.” She began crying. Jay hadn't seen tears in her eyes before. He told her he'd take care of it for her.

We read it in Ampersand, Mass..