For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 4: October 22, 2012

I love the power of the form, how so much can be expressed in so small a space. 

Author of Ayiti, and co-editor at PANK Magazine.

Frank O'Connor in epilogue to The Lonely Voice:

The story, like the play, must have the element of immediacy, the theme must plummet to the bottom of the mind. A character is not enough to make a play; an atmosphere is not enough to make a play, for the audience falls asleep. It must have a coherent action. When the curtain falls everything must be changed. An iron bar must have been bent and been seen to be bent. 

Our recommendations this week

The Yellow Sugar

Death naturally screens itself with superstition. I remember being taken to see Fort Ticonderoga by my parents when I was eight, and my sister Angela was five, and discovering a glass case containing two children's skeletons, with the legend Twelve-Year-Old Grave. For a long time after this I dreaded becoming twelve. But there was nothing that I could do about it. I kept getting older. In point of fact, I lived past becoming twelve, and Angela died at six, so there had been nothing to worry about.

We read it in The Rainbow Stories.

Rubiaux Rising

Rubiaux awakes out of time. In pitch darkness. He scratches his leg where it isn't with his hand that is not there. The water level is now up over the stacked supports, soaking him a good inch. But it has stopped. Prayer has worked, if only partly. But there is something new in the darkness now — breathing, movement. Others. He keeps his own breath steady, feigning slumber, waiting for light to grow in the east.

When he slowly opens his eyes again an hour later he sees them — the unholy menagerie. All down the ledge, crowded near him in awkward proximity, are: a large king snake; two smaller water snakes; four fat nutria; a half-drowned feral cat and two shivering kittens; three pitiful brown rabbits; a soggy raccoon; a dozen Norwegian rats; a clot of huddled mice; along with a teeming mess of spiders, beetles, centipedes, and such. His eyes dart. Theirs do too. All seem to breathe in some strange unison. Waiting a move. Nobody is eating anybody this morning. They share the same fear and confusion — orphan brothers in the storm. 

We read it in The Best American Stories 2009.

Originally published in Santa Monica Review, Spring 2008.

The Inn

He was sure of it, the way you're sure that you're alive or eating bread. Old Gaspard Hari had agonized for two days and three nights, somewhere, in some hole, in one of those deep and immaculate ravines whose whiteness is more sinister than subterranean darkness. He had agonized for two days and three nights, and now he had just died while thinking about his companion. And his soul, barely liberated, had flown to the inn, where Ulrich had been sleeping, and it had called to him by that mysterious and horrible power with which the souls of the dead haunt the living. Hari's soul had cried out, that voiceless soul, cried out inside the sleeper's worn-out soul; it had cried out its final farewell -- its rebuke or its curse on the man who hadn't searched long enough.