This weekend’s short story is Adam Haslett’s dark, powerful effort “The Beginnings of Grief“. Its gripping opening paragraphs:
A year after my mother’s suicide I broke a promise to myself not to burden my father with worries of my own. I told him how unhappy I was at school, how lonely I felt. From the wing chair where he crouched in the evenings he asked, “What can I do?” The following afternoon, coming home from work the back way, he missed a stop sign. A van full of sheet glass going forty miles an hour hit the driver’s side of the Taurus. According to the policeman who knocked on the front door in tears, my father died with the first shattering impact. An aunt from Little Rock stayed for a week, cooking stews and Danish pastry. She said I could come and live with her in Arkansas. I told her I didn’t want to. As I had only a year and a half left of high school, we decided I could finish up where I was, and she arranged for me to live with a neighbor.
Mrs. Polk was sixty, her mother, eighty-five. They had between them a closet of fourteen blue flowered dresses, which the maid laundered on Tuesdays. They watched a considerable amount of public television and spoke in hushed tones of relatives in Pittsburgh. I was given dead Mr. Polk’s study with a cot bed in the corner. The ladies paid no attention to my coming and going and I spent as little time at their house as I could.