Is SSM really almost over?!
Thankfully we can read stories year round, but I still feel the urge (while they’re center stage) to list two recommendations this week. They both come from Narrative magazine, which does require (free) registration. But I promise, these stories are so good, it’s worth filling out a quick form to read them. And Narrative offers a huge, inspiring, and ever-growing archive of fiction from emerging writers to authors as well known as Margaret Atwood and T. C. Boyle; if I weren’t headed to a wedding this afternoon, I might curl up with this site all day.
When May came, tiny fissures cleaving the steel gray sky, Ty packed the duffel his father had left him long ago and drove west. Every year was the same. The harvest began in Texas, and there he joined the others, running the combines day and night in staggered lines that left wide swaths in the open fields like fingers through sand. By June they had passed through Oklahoma and on into Kansas, where the world seemed flatter still and the wheat moved atop the earth like the shimmer of heat over a fire. Across into Colorado and back through Nebraska following the grain, they slept and ate in trailers too small for comfort and worked till the great sky bruised at its edges, pinks and reds and violets Ty had seen nowhere else. They spoke of little besides the harvest and knew each other by their jobs. They traded day wages for rolls of quarters and washed their clothes in empty Laundromats. If they drank they did so quickly and with purpose, filling the corner booths of taverns, where they were nameless. With August came the Dakotas, where they moved East River until they reached Redfield, where Ty knew a woman. They worked two full days and half of another before the rain they’d left in Tyndall caught up with them. When it did, Ty went to see her.
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Here are the first two paragraphs. [Editor’s Note: Do not read this without a box of tissues within reach.]
She and her sister work together silently. They no longer need to speak. They focus on the dog, moving him as they would a mattress. Half collie, half German shepherd, he weighs a good eighty pounds. Together they prop his forelegs on the stairs that lead to the second floor of the house. He whines softly as they raise his legs so that his body stretches toward the sky.
She holds the dog’s bowl to his mouth. Seven. This is the seventh day that he has not been able to eat properly, that his esophagus has refused to function, that she and her sister have needed to hold him in such a way that gravity pulls the food from his throat to his stomach, so that he starves more slowly than he would otherwise. A rich, meaty smell rises from the dish she holds to his nose. The dog laps weakly, pants, grins at her.
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If these stories inspire you to get typing, visit this page to learn more about Narrative‘s Spring 2011 Short Story Contest. The deadline is July 31.