Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.

22 June, 2017

Leonard Michaels, "Manikin"

What an odd story structure. Melanie Green, young college student, is date raped. She tells her closest friends but not the authorities. Her boyfriend is away at another school working on his dissertation and can't be bothered with her too much except for the time he "let" her masturbate him. She finally tells him and he dumps her. "He sat up with words about the impossibility of confidence, the betrayal of expectations, the end of things."

Then the next scene opens with a character not mentioned yet, Wanda Chung. Wanda sets up a silly pretense of returning a lost pen because she has been wanting to meet Melanie. Wanda lives downstairs in the dormitory. Wanda knocks on the door and it slides open and she finds Melanie hanging by the neck. Wanda rushes back to her room and "She ate candy until she puked in her lap and fell asleep..."

Then there's a scene of the rapist shocked that Melanie is dead. He tries to get into fights and then hallucinates that he's with Melanie in the woods but "she was dead."

"Manikin" was first published in 1968 or 1969.

Charles D'Ambrosio, "The Dead Fish Museum"

The story is composed of fifteen scenes told from the viewpoint of Ramage. He's just been released after a two month stay from the mental hospital because he's suicidal. He checks into a seedy motel, $75 for three days, and is the construction crew leader for building sets for the filming of pornography. RB, Rigoberto are his helpers and they have some repartee about race, immigration, and sex.

The story opens with Ramage (one letter different from Damage) checking into a motel and telling about the gun he keeps in his canvas tool bag. The story ends with him checking out of the motel and realizing that his gun has been stolen. "Over time the gun had become a talisman with the power and primitive comfort of a child's blanket."

There's little backstory sprinkled throughout the story. There's a couple with a baby staying in the room next to his. They abandon the baby to go to the bar. He hates children and at one point thought he might stab a baby in a restaurant. "Something wildly uncentered in his mind had told him he was going to stab the baby in the eye.

There's an ongoing acknowledgment of the scent in the air of this town, never named exactly. There's a spice factory nearby and every day there are different scents, sage, basil, oregano, clove, cinnamon that waft over to the warehouse where they're filming.

Rigoberto has escaped El Salvador where his brother was killed, the bullet meant for Rigo. He works hard and sends money to his brother in Honduras. He fishes to feed him and his wife. He sleeps on the beach during filming to save the meager per diem. RB gives him a hard time about always eating baloney sandwiches. I'm not sure what the theme of the story is but it's a glimpse into the hard life of three guys, and a blonde porn star, Desiree.

19 June, 2017

Guy de Maupassant, "The Piece of String"

Maître Hauchecome picks up a piece of string found in the street unbeknownst at the time that a rival shopkeep watches him. Later when a wallet comes up missing, Maître Malandain lies and tells the mayor that he saw Hauchecome pick up the wallet. Feeling such betrayal and the sting of the unjust suspicion put upon him, he tells and explains to everyone he comes into contact with that he had picked up a mere piece of string being the frugal chap that he was. Of course, no one believes him and the more he attempts to explain his innocence, the more people do not believe him and it kills him.

"He felt it, consumed his heart over it and wore himself out with useless efforts. He wasted away before their very eyes.

The wags now made him tell about the string to amuse them, as they make a soldier who has been on a campaign tell about his battles. His mind, touched to the depth, began to weaken.

Toward the end of December he took to his bed.

He died in the first days of January, and in the delirium of his death struggles he kept claiming his innocence, reiterating:

'A piece of string, a piece of string--look--here it is, M'sieu the Mayor.'"