Thursday, October 25, 2007

Two stories



... while I was at a Girl Scout meeting and my father was at work, she had gone through the house, gathering up all the safety pins that lurked in drawers and tins, and adding them to the few fastened to her bracelets. When she’d found enough, she pinned them to her sari one by one, attaching the front piece to the layer of material underneath, so that no one would be able to pull the garment off her body. Then she took a can of lighter fluid and a box of kitchen matches and stepped outside, into our chilly back yard, which was full of leaves needing to be raked. Over her sari she was wearing a knee-length lilac trenchcoat, and to any neighbor she must have looked as though she’d simply stepped out for some fresh air. She opened up the coat and removed the tip from the can of lighter fluid and doused herself, then buttoned and belted the coat. She walked over to the garbage barrel behind our house and disposed of the fluid, then returned to the middle of the yard with the box of matches in her coat pocket. For nearly an hour she stood there, looking at our house, trying to work up the courage to strike a match. It was not I who saved her, or my father, but our next-door neighbor, Mrs. Holcomb, with whom my mother had never been particularly friendly. She came out to rake the leaves in her yard, calling out to my mother and remarking how beautiful the sunset was. “I see you’ve been admiring it for a while now,” she said. My mother agreed, and then she went back into the house. By the time my father and I came home in the early evening, she was in the kitchen boiling rice for our dinner, as if it were any other day.

My mother told Deborah none of this. It was to me that she confessed, after my own heart was broken by a man I’d hoped to marry.

Once in a lifetime.


~SuCh~ said...

Liked both of them for different reasons.
Hell-Heaven for its layered narration. Once in a lifetime for the structured storyline, that had a seamless flow.

But both, somehow lacked the sharpness of a short story. The tug at the heart, that stories of such genre would tend to leave, was somewhat absent in hell-heaven, although it was a reading pleasure.

Would probably call them mid-length-stories :)

musafir said...


I guess with Once in a lifetime, there needed to be a little bit of drama to highlight the heightened emotion, to drive home the pain of a forbidden love. I found Hell-heaven to be so-so and quite predictable, to be honest; couldn't quite empathize with the situation. I mean, yeah, so you have cancer; doesn't mean you can't be a nice guest.

Hmm short story ... is there a definition? I think there are all types of short stories with someone like O Henry (a few pages long with a clever clever twist) on one side and someone like Murakami on the other (what the hell is this guy trying to say types), if we must indulge in a simplistic classification, with others like Kafka, RKN, SAki and PGW thrown in somewhere. What matters, if one were to take away how well something is written, is not whether a piece conforms to a genre but whether it leaves you thinking/feeling something.

musafir said...

PS: Not forgetting all the other writers I've not even read.

krupa said...

beautiful read!