For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 45: September 09, 2013

Outsiders have influence. We change the norm. As a Nigerian writer, I change how English is written.

Nigerian-born author of three novels and a short story collection, News from Home.

Deb Olin Unferth on flash fiction:

The most satisfying way to write and read shorts is to deal with bookfuls of the things. Just a handful won't help. A successful collection of shorts creates not only a set of stories but a worldview, a philosophy of removal and absence. It becomes a reflection of the writer's mind. You can almost see the rhythm of the writer's thoughts on the page, each story turning into a single painting in a series. 

Our recommendations this week

Girls in Their Summer Dresses

They walked between the crowded benches, under the scrubby citypark trees.

“I try not to notice it,” Frances said, as though she were talking to herself. “I try to make believe it doesn't mean anything. Some men're like that, I tell myself, they have to see what they're missing.”

“Some women're like that, too,” Michael said. “In my time I've seen a couple of ladies.”

“I haven't even looked at another man,” Frances said, walking straight ahead, “since the second time I went out with you.”

“There's no law,” Michael said.

“I feel rotten inside, in my stomach, when we pass a woman and you look at her and I see that look in your eye and that's the way you looked at me the first time, in Alice Maxwell's house. Standing there in the living room, next to the radio, with a green hat on and all those people.”

“I remember the hat,” Michael said.

“The same look,” Frances said. “And it makes me feel bad. It makes me feel terrible.”

“Sssh, please, darling, sssh. . . .”

“I think I would like a drink now," Frances said.


Marriage and the Family

I never yelled back at one of the sisters to say I buy a lot in her shop, and that I could just go somewhere else. I never said I have my whole life in my hands when I come in there. I never got myself into a rage. I never looked at a sister and thought, You frighten me more than anyone I could ever look at—take a look at you—and your whole attitude is wrong.

Your attitude is abysmal. Your attitude is as if you have been stung, or are stinging, or are getting ready to be bitten, or to bite.

Get Some Young

The boys had been to Florida two years ago in the 1954 Bel Air owned by the brother of Arden Pal. They were stopped in Perry by a kind patrolman who thought they looked like runaway youth. But his phone call to Pal’s home put it right. They went rightly on their way to the sea but for a while everybody but Swanly was depressed they were taken for children. It took them many cigarettes and filthy songs to get their confidence back. Uh found your high school ring in muh baby’s twat, sang Walthall with the radio. You are muh cuntshine, muh only cuntshine, they sang to another tune. From shore to shore AM teenage castrati sang about this angel or that, chapels and heaven. It was a most spiritual time. But Swanly stared fixedly out the window at the encroaching palms, disputing the sunset with his beauty, his blond hair a crown over his forehead. He felt bred out of a golden mare with a saber in his hand, hair shocked back in stride with the wind. Other days he felt ugly, out of an ass, and the loud and vulgar world too soon pinched his face.

The little river rushed between the milky bluffs like cola. Pal dug into a clay bank for a sleeping grotto, his tarp over it. He placed three pictures of draped bohemian women from the magazine Esquire on the hard clay walls and under them he placed his flute case, pistol, and Mossberg carbine with telescope mounted there beside two candles in holes, depicting high adventure and desire, the grave necessities of men.

The short one called Lester Silk was newly arrived to the group. He was the veteran army brat of several far-flung bases. Now his retired father was going to seed through smoke and ceaseless hoisting on his own petard of Falstaff beers. Silk knew much of weapons and spoke often of those of the strange sex, men and women, who had preyed the perimeters of his youth. These stories were vile and wonderful to the others yet all the while they felt that Silk carried death in him in some old way. He was not nice. Others recalled him as only the short boy, big nose and fixed leer—nothing else. His beard was well on and he seemed ten years beyond the rest.

We read it in High Lonesome.