Short Stories All the Time

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

06 April, 2013

Angela Pneuman, "Occupational Hazard"

This 3rd person, limited POV story annoyed me the first read. I felt like there were too many words and
useless paragraphs but upon a second reading, I disagreed with my earlier thoughts. I appreciate the nuances of character development through physical movements and setting. The story is subtle in its exploration of a man's occupational hazard, not his job but his life and marriage. Now, with a third reading, I'm really loving this story.

Calvin goes to sewage treatment plants hoping to catch them not following the rules / laws. It is alluded to that his childhood was religiously strict, Calvinistic even, and his children watch cartoon versions of The Ten Commandments. When Calvin goes for an aimless ride after Dave Lott has died, he questions his strength as a man, or a person with a strong sense of self. It seems he's somewhat lost / gone / invisible to himself, "weak and pushed around."

On my third read, I realized that Calvin states exactly what his problem is but I think he is unaware of the extent that it is affecting his life and happiness. "This and everything else seemed to Calvin to boil down to resistance--to giving in or not giving in, even when you couldn't say exactly what there was to be resisted or what made you want to."

"Occupational Hazard" was first published in Ploughshares then selected to be included in The Best American Short Stories, 2012.

"You okay, honey?" Pat kept asking her between guests, keeping one square hand on the girl's back. "She hasn't said much since last week," said Pat to Jill. "Have you, honey."

"I've said stuff."

"Right," Pat said. "She's in that phase right now. You know, where everything I say is wrong?"

"I'm not in a phase," Jennifer said. "I just don't have anything to say."

"Last night you had something to say," said Pat. "That you hated me. Remember that?" To Jill, Pat said, "That's part of the phase too."

Jennifer rolled her eyes.

Ploughshares author profile
Believer magazine, interview with Lorrie Moore