Short Stories All the Time

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

24 July, 2017

Sharon Solwitz, "Gifted"

The story is an exploration of a one-sided competition and rivalry between two sisters. One sister is prettier and smarter, but the other sister is well balanced and happy. The prettier sister’s son gets cancer.

Their relationship is explored as is the marriage and infidelity of the prettier sister. 

“Despite his crisp consonants and former marriage he seemed not quite formed, a lad.”

“Thea described the event to Gaby, who visited frequently and kept all dire predictions to herself. ‘It was nice going to Children’s for something they could fix,’ Thea said. ‘I felt like an ordinary mother.’”

“Gifted” is included in the 2016 edition of The Best American Short Stories. The story was first published in the New England Review.

17 July, 2017

Sarah Hulyk Maxwell, "Clown Brain Tea"

Mae has a phobia of kids she tells her boyfriend, Leo. And, we're given an example when she brings a young boy who lost a T-ball game to tears. After having lived in their house for six months, Mae and Leo find a mysterious and creepy ceramic clown head in their yard and for some reason Mae decides to take it to her four-year old niece's birthday party. Well, Becky wants to make "clown brain tea." The theme of the story, for me, has nothing to do with clowns but has to do with being a parent. Mae has no children, her sister, Jill, has one. Mae is trying to retain all parts of herself while her sister has, perhaps, lost some part of herself and the clown incident illustrates it to Mae but doesn't solve anything. Isn't that so much of life. Something can be illustrated or finally understood but there's no fixing it.

"I think it's more likely something important that made Jill Jill was killed by this mom-part in the process of giving birth, and at some point in her life when she least expects it, she'll realize what part that was and finally ask herself if it was worth it."

"Clown Brain Tea" is the opening story and the prize winner in the 2017 Mississippi Review. 

Link to an interview with Sarah Hulyk Maxwell at NANO Fiction

15 July, 2017

Yuko Sakata, "On This Side"

The story is divided into thirteen sections and in simple past tense. There are some shifts in POV. The setting is Japan with a present day time frame. Toru returned home from work one day to find a former classmate waiting for him. First of all Toru was surprised Masato, now Saki, found him. There's some backstory about their relationship in high school. Saki is trans and asks if she can stay with Toru because she's been abused brutally by her boyfriend when he found out she's trans.

The story seems to be about whether or not there is an afterlife of some sort. And, also, guilt and justice, faith and faithfulness, suicide, depression, friendship, and kindness. Saki had been bullied and abused and later tells Toru that he was her only friend. Toru has two jobs, one is refilling vending machines and the second one is cleaning the grave sites for people who are too busy to do it themselves. When Saki leaves, after several months, Toru wishes that he could reach out to her on some other plane of reality. Saki had a recurring dream and it is through that that Toru wishes he could reach her.

"On This Side" was first published in the Iowa Review  and then included in the 2016 edition of The Best American Short Stories. 
"The evening air outside the open window smelled vibrant, as though the intensity of the heat had been skimmed off its surface and all the living things underneath were finally allowed to breathe. Occasionally trains went by just a few blocks away, but they sounded strangely muted and distant."