For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

Week n° 52: December 09, 2013

Best Stories We Read this Year: Pete's Picks.

Chips didn't have a watch and generally marked the passage of time by the number of pints he'd drunk.

From Paul Murray's “That's My Bike!”

We look back on the stories we read this year and pick our favorites. Part 1: Pete's picks. 

Richard Price on motivating himself to write, from his interview in The Believer:

I have to be a little intimidated by what I’m writing about. I have to feel a little bit like I don’t think I can do this, I don’t think I can master this, I don’t think I can get under the skin of this, because when you’re a little scared, you’re bringing everything to the table because you’re not sure you can do it unless you bust your balls and really, really get into it. Terror keeps you slender. I need a sense of awe. Oh, shit! I can’t believe I just saw that! But then what do you do with what you saw? That’s the bottom line.

Our recommendations this week

Cockroaches
Excerpt

Refusing all food and drink, with fever patches on his cheeks, with a grimace of revulsion permanently fixed around his mouth, my father had grown completely wild. It was clear that no human body could bear for long such a pitch of hatred. A terrible loathing had transformed his face into a petrified tragic mask, in which the pupils, hidden behind the lower lids, lay in wait, tense as bows, in a frenzy of permanent suspicion. With a wild scream he would suddenly jump up from his seat, run blindly to a corner of the room and stab downward with the javelin, then lift it, having impaled an enormous cockroach that desperately wiggled its tangle of legs.

Girls, at Play
Excerpt

This is how we play the game: pink means kissing, read means tongue. Green means up your shirt; blue means down his pants. Purple means in your mouth. Black means all the way.

We play the game at recess, and the teachers don't notice.  We stand on the playground by the flagpole, arms ringed with colored bracelets from the drugstore, waiting. The boys come past us, in a bunch, all elbows, laughing. They pretend not to look. We pretend not to see them. One of them reaches out and snaps a bracelet off one of us, breaking it like a rubber band, fast and sharp as plucking a guitar string. He won't look back. He'll walk back the way he came, along the edge of the football field. And whoever is picked, Angie or Carrie or Mandy, will watch him go. After a minute she'll follow him and meet him under the bleachers, far down the field, where the teachers can't see. 

The Secret Miracle
Excerpt

Hladik's first emotion was simple terror. He refelected that he wouldn't have quailed at being hanged, or decapitated, or having his throat slit, but being shot by a firing squad was unbearable. In vain he told himself a thousand times that the pure and universal act of dying was what ought to strike fear, not the concrete circumstances of it, and yet Hladik never wearied picturing to himself those circumstances. Absurdly, he tried to forsee every variation. He anticipated the process endlessly, from the sleepless dawn to the mysterious discharge of the rifles. Long before the day that Julius Rothe had set, Hladik died hundres of deaths—standing in courtyards whose shapes and angles ran the entire gamut of geometry, shot down by soldiers of changing faces and varying numbers who sometimes took aim at him from afar, sometimes from quite near. 

We read it in Collected Fictions.