Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Johnston. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Johnston. Show all posts

17 January, 2017

Bret Anthony Johnston, "Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows About Horses"

The story covers about fifty-four years of Atlee Rouse's life with horses. While he is married and has a daughter, Tammy, his life revolves around horses. "Then she was gone, and the horses surely were, too, so then it was his and his alone. A passing moment, scattering and shapeless, a story that wasn't a story at all, just something stuck in his head about horses, a memory without beginning or middle or end." Memories, even if shared, are only ours and after some time has passed, our memories are reorganized and restructured to give new meanings to our memories.

The story is divided into nearly thirty sections even though the story is only about fourteen pages long. Some of the sections are about horse history or myth or legend. The other sections move back and forth in time. It's quite a thoughtful story. I like the efficient, streamlined approach to telling of a man's life. While we don't necessarily learn every little bit there is to learn about Atlee Rouse's biography, we've learned what's in his heart and what mattered to him.

"Half of What Atlee Rouse Knows About Horses" is in the fall 2016 issue of American Short Fiction.

02 March, 2014

Bret Anthony Johnston, "Encounters with Unexpected Animals"

A great short story that has as one of its themes, for me, how easily it can be for a person to do something after which their life is completely different.

Lambright gives his son's older and more experienced girlfriend a ride and asks her to stop seeing his son. The story is only four pages long. It is precise, concise and wonderfully written.

And, I love short stories that end with a cliffhanger of sorts. I continue to worry and fret about the main character and I wonder which direction he followed. I don't think it is so much the task of a short story to explain everything that happens but more to show us how we get ourselves into situations, how easily lives can change, improve or fall apart as well as how we relate to each other and that ever impossible task of really understanding another person and what someone else really thinks or feels.

"Encounters with Unexpected Animals" was first published in Esquire magazine and then published in the 2013 issue of The Best American Short Stories.

21 May, 2013

Bret Anthony Johnston, "Caiman"

This four-page story shows the love and fears a father and mother have for their son, seven year old Danny. It's a sweet story that takes place in a few minutes in the kitchen while the mom prepares dinner and the father has just arrived home with a "pet" Caiman for Danny. I love the way Johnston uses the ancient creature to illustrate the animal-ness of people. The story is told in first-person to an older Danny. The dialogue between the parents about the alligator pet feels spot on.

"Caiman" was first published in AGNI Magazine and later included in the anthology, New Stories from the South: 2010, The Year's Best.

FAVORITE LINE: "The flour was on her neck--it looked like snow, like a smeared galaxy--and she was smiling a little."

25 February, 2012

Bret Anthony Johnston, "Soldier of Fortune"

The story is told from Josh's first-person POV nearly twenty years later. He's reviewing the story because Holly--the girl for whom he has a huge crush--has just been killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. We learn about Josh through his actions and reactions to Holly and her so-called situation. The details are revealed

slowly throughout the telling of the story but Holly had given birth to a child when she was just fifteen and her parents tried to pass Sam off as their late-in-life child. Then there was a terrible accident with little Sam that threatened to tear apart the Hensley family yet again. Josh's family seemed stable and this family with trials and tribulations next door fascinated and frightened Josh. And, when the death of Holly is told to him, Josh recalls those events from 1986. Some historical details are nicely woven into the story as well.

"Soldier of Fortune" was first published in the winter 2011 issue of Glimmer Train and subsequently included in the Best American Short Stories 2011.

Favorite line: "The edges of her curtains were again framed in moonlight, and in the shallow glow, our skin looked new and smooth and unblemished, ready for the scars that were lying, somewhere, in ambush."

Johnston's website
The Short Review, a nice interview
an excellent essay about NOT "writing what you know" published in The Atlantic Monthly
Harvard's Creative Writing faculty page